The funeral for Barbara Bush reminded me of my one personal experience with the politeness and decency of the George H.W. Bushes. I was deputy director of the State Department office dealing with “green” environmental issues — animals, plants, and health — while George H.W. Bush was President. Somehow, I got word that President Bush wanted to encourage tree planting; one of Bush’s personal secretaries in the White House asked me to take care of it.
The difference between dealing with Bush’s personal staff and the National Security Council was like night and day. In my previous job working on missile proliferation, I had frequently dealt with the NSC, and I always had trouble with them. They would never take my calls, would never keep me informed about where decisions stood, etc. President Bush’s personal secretary could not have been nicer.
At their request, I drafted a cable to all the embassies in the world, asking them to do a public tree planting with an official of the host government, at the request of President Bush. As usual, some embassies ignored it, but some took it to heart and the ambassador planted a tree with a high official of the host government, the foreign minister or the president. President Bush was apparently pleased with the result, and I ended up getting a White House Christmas card, probably the lowest, most impersonal type, but still the only one I ever got.
It was my personal experience with the decency and kindness of the Bush family. I wish them the best. I was particularly impressed with Barbara Bush’s funeral service because of its upbeat tone, and lack of feeling sorry for themselves. It was an example of the old British “stiff upper lip” that saw them through the Blitz and World War II. The American news media today love weepy, sorrowful victims feeling sorry for themselves and sobbing on TV. Cowardness sells ads, and then the anchors call it heroism, because they have no idea what true heroism is. The Bushes know. Barbara taught them.