What was George like as a boy? What was his demeanor?
Hannah was a Houston friend of George W. Bush. He provides insight on George's relationship with his family and about life in Houston in the 1970s. He speaks about Bush's "wild days" and reflects on how he was affected by and dealt with his father's celebrity.
My favorite story about George is that, the game didn't end till he was
ahead, so it was hard to beat him, because if you got ahead and stayed ahead,
you just kept on going till he caught up; and then as soon as he got ahead, you
could quit and move onto a new game....Basketball, board games, knock hockey
was a game that we played an awful lot of, and cards. You played till he was
ahead, that was the name of the game.
What were his parents like?
They were more fun to be with than my contemporaries. They were fun
people. Part of what made George so much fun to be with is that when you were
with him, you got to be with his parents. It's not a mystery that they have
been successful and that they have captured the attention of this country.
They're entertaining, intelligent people, and great fun to be with. It was a
reason to be at the Bush's house, you were with good people, thinking people,
fun people, entertaining people.
What was his relationship with the other kids? What did they think of
I think everyone liked George. One of the magnetisms of his personality is
that when you meet him, you like him. And that's a God-given talent. And I
knew very few people who didn't like George. I mean, they just did, they liked
him. He was fun to be with. They gravitated to him. He told good stories.
He was a good listener. And people enjoyed being with him.
Was he political as a kid? Did he have qualities like that?
Any time we had a party, George made it a goal to speak to every person
that came to the party, every single person, and spend a minute or two minutes
or however long he wanted to. He didn't miss anybody. And to me, that's sort
of an early introduction into the skills that it takes to be a truly good
politician.... I'm not telling you I can explain why he did it...but I think it
was natural. And, it was also a Bush trait: every Bush I have ever known was
very good at working a room....It's got to be genetic, or passed down from a
In your conversations with him, did you ever notice that there was a
fear that he would not live up to amazingly high family traditions?
I don't remember him being concerned or worried about that. But I don't
think there was confusion on whether he thought he was capable of doing that.
The Bush family, the Pierce family, the Walker Family, all had amazingly high
expectations of people. But I think George thought he was up to it. And so,
if you think that you're capable of living up to those expectations, then you
don't have to worry about whether you can or not...When he set his goals, there
was no doubt that whatever goal he set for himself he would accomplish. He
wanted to be a captain of the basketball team at Andover--and he was. He
wanted to be the head of his fraternity when he went to Yale--he was. He
wanted to be a cheerleader at Yale--I don't know why--but he was. Most of the
goals that he set for himself he accomplished. And there are not a lot of
teenagers that can say that they've done that.
What is he like during his years with the National Guard?
I think he was on a high at that point. He was a pilot, he was flying...He
was pretty proud of himself. I think he was a good pilot. I remember meeting
with George and some of the more senior pilots that he traveled with. George
was always the lowest commissioned officer that he ever traveled with. I
didn't realize till years later how unusual it was that majors and captains
would associate with a second and first lieutenant, but they were doing
it...People enjoyed being around George. If you came to Houston and spent time
with George, you were going to have a good time, and you were going to have it
at a pretty high scale.
During these years, the early 70s, did he drink too much?
Not that I noticed. The overdrinking that he alludes to, which, he says he
quit drinking by the time that he was 4o, which would have been in 1986--he may
possibly have escalated the drinking that he was doing, prior to the times that
I spent with him. But it was endemic of the group of people that we hung out
with that overdrinking was not a problem. So it may have been when George
started spending an awful lot of time alone, working for ... (inaudible) and
working on ranches in New Mexico, and spending time in Midland, alone, that his
drinking escalated, but it certainly was not like that when I knew him.
Does he have a temper? Did you ever see it?
He's got a short fuse, but there's not a lot of dynamite there. It comes
and goes very quickly. It was there, as a kid, but very brief... Mrs. Bush and
George and I had teed off one Wednesday morning, and she had invited the club
champion to join us, so there was four of us. And the first hole went
swimmingly. The second shot on the second hole, George hit a bad shot and
cursed. And his mom, who regularly told him not to do that, said, George,
don't do that again or I'm going to send you in. And George responded as you
would expect a 2o year old to respond, and she was not amused, and sent him
in--said--You go sit in the car and wait for us. We're going to play golf, and
we'll be back when we get back. And off he went. He marched off, and sat in
the car and waited for us. And it was an eye-opener, to me. If it had been
me, I would have apologized, because I would have preferred to stay out there
and play golf. But the three of us finished the eighteen holes of golf and
came back and George was still sitting in the car. So she made her point...
Did you see him affected by the fact that his father was getting more
Actually, the opposite. When is father went off to be the ambassador, that
didn't seem to impress George very much. When his father went off to be the
liaison in China, that didn't seem to impress him very much. When he came back
and was head of the Republican Party, I don't know that he was impressed by
that. I think he was impressed when his father was the head of the C.I.A. And
I know he was impressed when his father was tapped to be the Vice President.
That brings with it an aura of impressiveness, for sure. It was impressive to
us that ... (inaudible) both of them, the way their lives changed. They
couldn't just walk out to the golf course and play golf anymore. They couldn't
just walk out and play tennis anymore, without an entourage of people carrying
sub machine guns and little black pouches around. It was a different world...
He and his father would golf and tennis regularly, at Christmas time and in the
summertime, and always with an entourage. It was a change. I remember saying
to George, I could not live like this. It would be a very tough way to live.
Because I'd walk into the showers our country club and there would be Secret
Service agents standing there. I mean, it was just insane. Your life becomes
totally different when you reach that high an office.
How did George react to all the security and all the hubub about being
Earlier on, George hadn't enjoyed that so much, but there was a transition,
when you could see that he was enjoying it. And as recently as '92 or '93, I
remember George coming to town, to play tennis, and his dad had said he would
get him a partner and got Pete Sampras for him as a partner, and George enjoyed
the hell out of that. So clearly, there's a transition where you say, I'm
either going to let this overwhelm me or I'm going to sit back and enjoy this
ride as long as it goes. And that happened, I saw that happen. And rather
than being intimidated by it or bothered by the attention or bothered by the
hubbub of moving in little clusters of people, most of whom are wearing hearing
aids, you start saying, Well, I'm going to let this happen, I'm going to enjoy
this, and move on.
Back in the days that you knew him, would you describe him as
Never pick up a check, never spent his dollar when he could spend somebody
else's dollar. If somebody else was treating, he was there. Cheaper to go to
somebody else's house for dinner than to go out to dinner. Cheaper to go to a
deb party than to go out to dinner. Tight. Frugal. Cautious. I think
tight's probably closest to the description.
What does that say about him?
Pragmatic. He's not trying to impress anybody. If he doesn't need to
spend a dollar, he's not going to do it. He's run the state that way. I
presume he'll run the government that way. I certainly approve of that. If
somebody else will pay for something that you don't have to pay for, let them
Is he smart enough to be president?
Well, there's actually two answers to that. One is, clearly, you do not
have to be very smart to be president, that's not a criteria. We have way too
much history of the opposite being true for us to say you have to be smart to
be president. But George is sneaky smart, and I think part of his strength is,
if you choose to think that he's not very smart, so be it. You're not going to
worry about whether you think he's smart or not. But he's plenty smart. And
it could be an absolute ally if your smarter than your opponents think you are.
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