The Late Bloomer
CLAY JOHNSON, High School and College Friend: He was not a politically
active person at Yale. There were Young Republicans and Young Democrats and
Young Communists and Young Martians, and there were lots of different political
groups there. George was not involved in any of them. I don't know that he
went to hear any of the political people that came on campus to speak. I don't
know that he went to any of those. He just exhibited no interest at all in
politics at that time.
MARY MATALIN, Republican Political Advisor: Well, it's hard for me, or
people of the campaign mentality, to look at him as a black sheep. Let's say
he was a late bloomer. He tried a lot of different things. A lot of people
think that's the better way, the preferable way to go through life. The other
kids were a tad more traditional, settled down earlier and what not. But the
connotation of black sheep is a negative one, I tend to think of it as, and I
think he lived his life, not sadly or gropingly, but adventurously. He didn't
miss anything he wanted to do. He wanted to be in baseball in a serious way,
and he did. He wanted to do business. I mean, his early loss at Congress
didn't set him back. Again, he's not a navel gazer. He's a fighter, he's a
doer. He moves on. He learns and he moves on.
DR. CHARLES YOUNGER, Midland Family Friend: I think he enjoyed, you
know, drinking a little bit and getting a little boisterous and having a good
time. But I think he started reflecting on it and said it was interfering with
his energy. That maybe he wasn't as alert as he needed to be in the evening
hours and could be more productive if he was more alert.
JOHN ELLIS, Cousin: I think by George's own admission he drank too much.
I don't think he was an every night drinker, but I think he probably partied
too hard. I think he probably said things to people that he wished he hadn't
said. I think he feels, now, that he was young and irresponsible. And, you
know, that's--I mean, I'm of the view of the friends who say, "hey, that was
b-team ball, baby." But George, he's a very sensitive guy, and I think he
feels like he hurt some people along the way and he feels bad about it.
JIM PINKERTON, Advisor, Bush '88 Presidental Campaign: There is no doubt
in my mind that the decisions that George Jr. made to sort of quit drinking,
and so on, and so on, were largely internally driven. I mean, he may have read
a book, and he may have done this, and that, and whatever, but I have no
trouble believing that at some point he simply said, "Look, I'm not going to do
this anymore. I'm going to solve my own problem, I'm not going to
psychobabble, I'm not going to tell everyone about my problems, I'm not going
to go on Phil Donahue, now or ever, or its equivalent, I'm just going to simply
deal with it."
MARY MATALIN: I love this trying to figure him out, in this age where
everybody wants to tell you, all the time, about what makes them tick. His
whole family is, they have an adversity to self-absorption. His grandmother
was like that, his father's like that, and Mrs. Bush. None of them sit around
saying, Oh, me, me, me.
JOHN ELLIS: He will always be underestimated, therefore he will always
be better, because he's disciplined in debate, he's much smarter than he gets
credit for, and he's really, really good at the politics business, he's as good
as it gets at the politics business.
DOUG WEAD, Bush Advisor: I once sent him a memo talking to him about,
"Great people have to do great things," talking about the cure to cancer and
all these other great things. Projects that he should take on to get elected
president. And when he called back he shut that right down. he has no
interest in being great. And I sighed because I love history, you know. And I
hung up afterwards and I told my wife about it and she said, "You know, a
person who isn't driven to be great has a lot better chance of being great than
somebody that that's their sole desire." And that's him. He'll see his
responsibility and he'll go after it, he'll do it.
DOUG WEAD: He's a born natural leader because he's fearless. He's the
sort of guy that you're sitting in the classroom and nobody knows what the
teacher's talking about, and he's the guy who will raise his hands to the
relief of everybody else and say, "What are you talking about?" he's a gutsy
KAREN HUGHES, Bush Presidential Campaign: A lot of times we'll go to
fundraising events with the Governor. And if you go to someone's home,
sometimes you'll come in, and they'll treat the very important person, the
Governor, with great royalty-- you know, they're so glad to have him in his
home; and by the way, the staff can go back here to the back room. And the
Governor will say, "Oh, is this the room for the little people? I want to be
back here..." He'll just immediately confront the uncomfortableness of a
slight. He just has a very winning personality, and a way of instantly
breaking down barriers.
DOUG WEAD: I saw him go right up to Bryant Gumbel, stick his finger in
his chest, and "You said my dad--" and Bryant Gumbel just got up and was so
shocked and G.W. just picks up the phone and calls and he confronts people.
"Why'd you say that, where'd that come from?" And it's very healthy, because
once you understand he's that way, you're very careful about what you say to
who and when and why because you know he's going to close the loop.
TERRY JOHNSON, Yale Roommate: There was one morning we were playing
golf, and it was early in the morning. And he comes out. We're kind of
standing on the first tee. And he said, "Guess what?" I said, "What's that?"
He said, "I've decided to quit smoking." I said, "Oh, that's great. That's a
really good decision. When are you going to start?" And he said, "This
morning." So we get about an hour into it. We're out someplace on the golf
course. And I look over, and he's shaking like a leaf. He could barely hold
the club, and he's obviously going through some kind of withdrawal. I said,
"George, come on, man, you're in agony. Let's quit. Let's walk in." And he
goes, "No, no, no. Absolutely not. No, we're going to finish. We're going to
keep playing golf." And so we keep playing. We finish the round. And
eventually the shaking subsides, and no further smoking. It was no support
group, no patches, no gum, no hypnosis, no any of that stuff. It's, I decide
what I'm going to do. Here's what it is. I'm going to do it.
The Man From Midland
CLAY JOHSON: There's a whole lot of Midland in George Bush. It's a--
It's got a lot of wonderful, small town values. And a lot of close friends and
it's very much on a human scale. It's a human dimension. You can understand
what Midland is and is not. And there's a lot of people creating something out
of nothing, a lot of people taking risks. A lot of people seeing things in
simple terms. Trying to simplify things, not make things more complex.
There's a whole lot of Midland in George.
MARY MATALIN: He cares about--and I say this from these endless
conversations on the road--family, children, stability, home, love--very
traditional things. And at the time we were riding around, I was mid-thirties,
career, kind of overly too ambitious, feminist, crazy person. And he
didn't--without being negative about it--there's nothing more rewarding, as
fulfilling, beautiful in life than having a solid, stable, loving relationship.
And that's what--on a personal level, that's where it all comes home for him,
and for the whole family.
DOUG WEAD: You don't have this layers and layers and layers of deception
and game-playing, anticipation of what the next move is. It's all stripped
away from George W. Bush. It goes right to the heart of it. And you can't
help but be seduced by it, no matter who you are, you're a liberal, you're a
conservative, where you hail in the political spectrum, it's very seductive
because it's real. You sense it's real, and here's a friend.
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