Dubya and Me


They still called him Junior when we first met, in forlorn Midland, Texas, back in July 1986. He was known then for being the son of the vice president of the United States, the agonizingly named George Herbert Walker Bush. As a young staff writer at The Washington Post Magazine, I was trying to persuade Vice President Bush to let me spend several months with him for an in-depth profile I intended to write. But the veep was skeptical, and he left it up to Junior to pass judgment on me and my request. “Come on down and visit,” the man who would eventually be known to the world as President George W. Bush drawled cheerfully to me over the phone. “But I won’t tell you any good stuff until I’m sure you’re not going to do an ax job.” So began a long and fascinating acquaintanceship with the man who would become one of the most admired and, later, reviled presidents in U. S. history. Over the next 25 years, our paths crossed again and again, most recently in his Dallas office last April. I had just read Bush’s 2010 memoir Decision Points, and I was struck by his many references to history. In the back of my mind was an article that Karl Rove had written for The Wall Street Journal in 2008, which revealed (much to the consternation of the president’s derisive critics) that Bush had read 186 books for pleasure in the preceding three years, consisting mostly of serious historical nonfiction. Intrigued, I asked Bush whether he would talk to me about how his passion for reading history had shaped his presidency and perspective, and he agreed.

more from Walt Harrington at The American Scholar here.