Skip to main content

tv   Jean Becker The Man I Knew  CSPAN  August 12, 2021 10:57pm-11:47pm EDT

10:57 pm
university in london published three books on charles dixon's. the most recent untitled a very short introduction by oxford press. we asked professor to tell about dickens life and accomplishes including his two trips to the united states in 1842 and 1867. >> author jenny on this episode of book note bus. or wherever your get your podcast. ♪♪ >> readings from the national archives building in washington d.c. which sits on the ancestral land. it's my pleasure to welcome you to tonight's virtual author lecture, author of the man i knew, a new member about former george former president george h.w. bush. i like to tell you to upcoming programs you can view on our
10:58 pm
youtube channel. present a program in partnership with u.s. association of former members of congress called in congress reformist african parts panelists will include current and former members of congress. tuesday june 15 at noon, historian michael will be here to talk about you book an american marriage based on 30 years of research and describes and analyzes marriages between abraham lincoln and mary todd. presidential library financial archives preserves the records of our presidents back to herbert herber, his entire life not just their time in the highest office of the nation. after returning to this, a number of them turned to humanitarian causes advisory roles and you will find those activities documented in the libraries as well after leaving
10:59 pm
office 1993, george bush remained engaged to public service and continue to encourage others to make a difference in large and small ways. he shared his decades of experience with successors and worked baselessly are kinder and gentler america. today's guest author was with president bush for nearly all postpresidential years. the man i knew she brings the reader into the room with george bush gives a close-up look at his work week after leaving the oval office jean thacker was president george h.w. bush was chief of staff for nearly 25 years from 1994 -- until his bush inl the 2018. another boring story of george hooper walker including when he died and subsequently facing the challenge and great honor of
11:00 pm
being in charge of his state's funeral. previously jean surged after first lady barbara bush from 1989 -- 92. she is also a member of the scholarship award on the cancer port as well as a member of the advisory board of the george bush presidential library. ... materials to texas and has
11:01 pm
been an station ever since. now let's hear from jean becker and thank you for joining us today. >> jean. good evening. nice to see you. >> thank you for the kind introduction. also, a shout out to our partners in crime the george and barbara bush foundation and my colleague from alabama and then also to the dean of the bush school and the staff at the library have been so helpful and also to the staff of the office it's a great organization that we belong to. very lucky to be a part of it and part of the life of george and barbara bush for all these years.
11:02 pm
my first question, so you kind of came to the bush office in a curious way. can you talk a little bit about you work for usa today and did the diary so can you talk about how that led to barbara bush hiring you to work on her staff? >> it is sort of an interesting road to the white house and the bushes life. i was a newspaper reporter at usa today in 1988 and barbara bush and kenny dukakis both agreed to write a weekly column for usa today. it was called the campaign diary it read every monday morning and i was there editor. when i was given that assignment i was sort of grumpy about it. i didn't want to be there editor but it ended up being a lot of fun. i got to know both of those
11:03 pm
amazing women very well and i was very surprised when missus bushes chief of staff offered me a job at the first lady's press office. it took me a couple weeks to think about it. i loved being a reporter and then it was my dad a farmer in missouri who said what's wrong with you. you've been offered a job by the incoming first lady of the president of the united statesn and you are thinking about it? i said yes and the rest is history. i followed them when he lost in 92 to help missus bush with her memoirs. i was her researcher and editor. she wrote the book herself. she would want me to say that. then the book was done and president bush said to me will you stay a couple of more months? i need to hire a chief of staff. his chief of staff retired. he said stay until labor day. this was march of 94, and i will
11:04 pm
hire someone. we never talked about it again. twenty-five years later i said to l him i'm still waiting for u to come into my office and tell me that you've hired a chief of staff and i'm unemployed. he thought i was a little crazy. >> so, 25 years plus working for president bush and you've written this great book and what i love about the book is it is a book of stories. tell us a little bit about the book, why you wrote it and why people showed read it. >> first of all my beginning idea was president bush left me so many great stories it was suchch a wild roller coaster rie with him for 25 years. he was funny, there was the whole story of the odd couple of
11:05 pm
he and clinton. he went back where he was shot down and raised hundreds of millions of dollars for disaster relief and then there were just funny stories like when he called chris vanguard to ask if he was dead or alive. that's the day that i knew i had to write a a book so i started writing the book just because i thought the american people need to know the heart and soul of this amazing man. in the middle of writing the book it occurred to me there was something a lot more important at work here pouring out of my heart onto my computer talking about him. president bush left us a blueprint on how to live life. you know when someone dies and they often will say it was a life well lived? if you wanted that to be said about you when you die, you need to y read this book.
11:06 pm
president bush taught us how to live life. >> he did. jumping out of airplanes. missus bush said it's a great way to go one way or another. >> she was glad because on his 90th birthday, he jumped at saint ann's church in kennebunkport, maine. she said if it doesn't go well, we will just carry him inside and have the funeral. >> that's right. it won't be far to go. so, today is missus bushes birthday. just an amazing love story the two of them. missus bush and her scrapbooks, hundreds of scrapbooks i think there's like 125 or 150. someone at the library made the mistake of asking missus bush if
11:07 pm
she actually did them herself. you can imagine what she said. >> of course she did. >> she started these scrapbooks when they first got married. that is a photo of the wrangler and the bushes are pretending that they are wranglers in the photo. they knew how to have fun. i'm sorry. i interrupted you. for those of you, the wranglers are a precision dance team and they look like they are going to knock themselves out but somehow -- she's buried here along with her husband and daughter and presidential library.
11:08 pm
it was a great partnership. i'm 60-years-old now and can say they were both kids when they got married although he had been in the war. >> 19 when they got married. married for 73 years. i'm worrying barbara bush blue and i almost wore a pearl necklace but it used to drive her crazy because whenever i would wear pearls i would play with them, twirl them and she would say quit twirling your pearls so in her honor i didn't wear them today. i would like to read a letter that's in the book that president bush wrote that he said everything you need to know, how he felt about his life of 73 years.
11:09 pm
january 6th, 1994, the 49th wedding anniversary from gh wb. will you marry me? i forgot you did that 49 years agos today. i was very happy on that day in 1945 and even happier today. you've given me joy that few men know. you've made our boys into men and then right away by loving them. you helped her be the sweetest daughter in the whole world. i climbed perhaps the highest mountain in the world but evenn that cannot hold a candle to being barbara's husband. mom used to tell me george, don't walk ahead. little did she know i was only trying to keep up with barbara
11:10 pm
pierce in new york. i love you. >> great letter. >> it's such a a great letter. i'm going to jump right in and then i promise i will let you talk again. i know that right now people are weeping across america with that letter, so now i am going to make them laugh. we are going to wipe away the tears quickly. missus bush was a good sport. president bush teased her with a wonderful sense of humor and i think she was the target of most of her practical jokes. this is the worst thing that he ever did to her so i am going to read this. missus bush often told people one of the reasons she married george bush is that he made her laugh. he was the master of practical jokes with his life often is target. one of the more famous success
11:11 pm
stories had to be the day he managed to convince her that she might be going to jail for trafficking. during the summer of 1998, see there's a lot of surprises in this book. everyone needs to read the book. int. the summer of 98, it came o light that someone in the house was looking out printing porn on her computer. grandsons forus the suspects and acknowledged their crime. the photos in the printer led to the downfall. a few days after the unfortunate incident, missus bush found in her stack of mail a letter from the office of the inspector general of the federal trade commission. it read in part in doing a routine checkhe it appears you'e recently been engaged in
11:12 pm
downloading pornographic material. we respectfully request that you report to the regional office is portland maine for a hearing on august 17th, 1998 at age:30 a.m. lying next to her husband while she was going through her mail she blurted out to him she might be going to jail. i wasn't there when all of this transpired but i was told president bush managed to keep it together for a few minutes before dissolving into laughter. he had written the letter with the help of some staff members. that was sort of the secret to their wonderful marriage. they knew how to laugh and how to tease each other. >> can you tell the story president and missus bush are both in the hospital. she comes to visit his room and his hair is all messy. tell that story.
11:13 pm
>> about a week before she died, they had both been in the hospital but she had been dismissed. we get word i'm at the methodist hospital with him and we get word that she is headed back in to the hospital in an ambulance. she has sort of taken a turn for the worst so we told them she was on her way back. they got her settled in a room. they had an adjoining room the last couple of years. i think the hospital figured out if one was in the hospital, eventually the end other one would end up there. i think it was sort of by design. so they are settled in the room and president bush wanted to go in and see her. she wasn't in a coma but she was somewhere else. she was pretty much out of it in a deep sleep. i hate to be critical of the president of the united states,
11:14 pm
but he looked awful. his hair was standing straight up, he was wearing an oxygen mask. he looked like you and i word if we had been in a hospital for five days. they get him in his wheelchair and take him into a room he's just sitting there holding her hand and all of a sudden her eyes flew open and she looked at him and said my god, george, you are devastatingly good looking. i hate to say it but he was not at that moment. the love of her life was holding her hand and he caught my eye and looked at me and shrugged as if to say it is what it is. [laughter] she died about a week later and
11:15 pm
they lived in a three-story townhouse. their bedroom was on the second floor and the power went out that day. he wasta downstairs when he was told that the time was near and the secret service carried him up the stairs because the elevator wasn't working. he said i have to be there so they died holding hands. i would love to give a shout out to the granddaughter, the beautiful and wonderful. they wrote a book about her grandparents love story called george and barbara bush the great american love story. it is a sweet wonderful book and i know i think you have a story to share with us.
11:16 pm
>> they came to the bush library and did a lot of research and these scrapbooks missus bush kept were amazing. on the tenth anniversary one of the reasons we wanted to read through the exhibits is because we had discovered these scrapbooks. there's 125, 150 of them so we've been through them all but apparently we hadn't been through them all in great detail so there's one from 1945 and ellie and kelly are going through the scrapbook. they open a page and there's an envelope sealed up and it's got the names of people that attended the dinner so they open the envelope and inside is the poem from the first thanksgiving
11:17 pm
turkey barbara and georgera bush had in 1945 and missus bush was always great about this and the guests that all came. it's lovely and everyone kind of said all at once. so read that book. >> le did a great job and i love that wishbone the story. talking about doing a lot of research at the library, i would like to point out to the library was closed the entire time i was writing this book because of the pandemic. working from home, the head archivist, the deputy director, i know that it was hard for you all to help me fact check and research the book and also warren has the best wife ever,
11:18 pm
mary finch, the audiovisual director at the library. you guys are rock stars so i would just take a moment to thank t you. the book wouldn't have happened without you and you helped me despite the fact that you were home but you managed to dig out fact checking. i did a little fact checking with george clooney i will throw that out there. >> it's amazing what they could do working from home. it's amazing the great staff here they do some great work. let's see. let's talk about this relationship between president bush and president clinton. i heard president bush say one
11:19 pm
time i liked him when he was governor. he didn't like him so much when he ran against me but i kind of liked him again after he left office and then of course there's adams and jefferson they were good friends, not a good friends and then at the end of their lives they were good friends again. i think president bush and bill clinton had this special relationship and talk about a life well served, they did some amazing work. >> they really did and you and i talked about this a couple of days ago because the event is hosted by the national archives. we did want to talk about that relationship that happened between former presidents. they really are the presidents club. there was a great book written called the presidents club and they do have a special relationship with each other.
11:20 pm
here is a picture of them and the former presidents at that time. i can confess i was photo bombing backstage at texas a end them doing a huge fundraiser for the hurricane harvey relief. that's my great friend who was helping out. she and iphoto bombed the president but they are just telling stories and catching up with each other. of course the two george bushess immediately wanted to roll up theirnd sleeves and go to work d i just sort of told the other three former presidents and my chief of staff this is just sort of fyi we are going to be doing this. here they are they all showed up and u it is just a really specil relationship. president bush andnd president clinton became great friends and there's a whole chapter about
11:21 pm
the disaster relief work. missus bush called them the odd couple and that is the title of the chapter. they raised hundreds of millions of dollars for hurricane katrina, hurricane rita, hurricane ike, the tsunami in south asia which is where it all began. i'm going to ask everyone to read the book. the stories are terrific. you will love the pope john paul ii funeral story but i thought tonight i would tell a few stories that might surprise people that are not well known. one involves the former vice president al gore and it just sort of demonstrates the men and hopefully one day soon the women who occupy the highest offices in the land they do have a connection no matter their politics and background they had a shared experience that not
11:22 pm
many of us can really understand so i'm going to tell you to quick stories. it's december, 2000. the supreme court has ruled that george w. bush did win the election. the recount is over and vice president al gore is scheduled to give a concession speech to the nation. president bush calls me before the speech and says as soon as possible each is done i would like to call al gore and talk to him. it was in the evening. as respectfully as i could i said sir, i'm not sure that you are the person vice president gore needs to hear from tonight. to hear from anyone named bush as a father of the man who just defeated him i said are you sure you want to call him and he said
11:23 pm
i have been where al gore is. i know what he's about ready to do and i know what he's feeling and i would like to call and talk to him when he's done so i told him i said well i will call the white house operators, the best way to reach is through the switchboard and that made him very happy. he said i will call the operator when the speech is done. you don't have to worry about it. so i watched the vice president speech. i'm watching him come out of the building and get in the car. i'm watching this live on tv and sure enough, a i see him pick up the phone and i'm thinking no, 'tno, that can't possibly be my boss. well, five minutes later my phone rings and it's president i justst got off the phone withl
11:24 pm
gore. i think he was thrilled that i called. we had ae great conversation. i told him that his speech was wonderful and perfect and i think he understood why i called. he understood that i was where he was and so i did the right thing and i was wrong and he was right. fast-forward to 2008 it's a wide open year, george w is going to leave office. it's the morning after the first democratic debate and president bush comes into the office and says get joe biden on the phone and chris dodd. i don't like how they were treated at the debate last night. i said what are you talking about and he said they are standing on the end, they hardly got anyon questions. they kept giving all the
11:25 pm
questions to hillary clinton, barack obama and john edwards. they got all the questions and joe biden and chris dodd are upstanding u.s. senators and they deserve to be treated better. this is how i was treated in 1980. i could never get any questions. so once again i said senator biden and senator dodd will think it is odd you are calling them and he said get them on the phone so he did. and he had a great conversation with him. i tell those stories because they are in the book but it gives people a little insight to the sort of camaraderie that happens behind the scenes between these people who have thisd shared experience.
11:26 pm
>> he operated well on the telephone. his letters were amazing. it's funny not always a great speech maker but you get him in the room with ten people. i think that it's what he liked at the state dinner so much because with ten people, he was amazing. >> that's a great point. very personable. i do want to go back to the photo of all the presidents backstage athu hurricane harvey. a great team if the archives could pull that back up. i have to tell a funny story about that night. so this is on a saturday evening. they really didn't even invite the other presidents. i just told them fyi when you come to this event and they all came, president obama, clinton,
11:27 pm
carter. when i told the bushes that they were b all coming, i will never forget this, missus bush said zero dear we need to give them dinner we need to feed them. and i thought that is such a normal reaction. that's whatul any life in ameria would react if they set i've invited to some people over for dinnero tonight. so they did give them dinner and the funny thing is i'm going to tattletale on two t people thati love. i getlo a call from secretary baker, james baker and he says ,i'm going to that harvey event. i understand all the presidents were coming. i hear there is a dinner before hand.ou i would like in on that dinner. president bush said i had to call you. i like i'm going to tell secretary baker you can't come
11:28 pm
to dinner. of course there's plenty of room. they would love to see you. then he calls back and says dick cheney is coming and he would like to be in that dinner. he says everyone wants to be in this dinner and d i said did you call and invite dick cheney and i said maybe because i thought he would want to be there. i said fine, but you cannot invite anybody else to the table it is now full. you may not call one more time to say that anyone else is coming. so it was just sort of funny and a great evening and again a great example of the camaraderie among these people. we need a woman to be part of this club. >> that was a great evening. a fantastic evening. and there is this camaraderie between these men and may be a woman one day but so far just men who've been former
11:29 pm
presidents with a shared experience running for office, won and lost and president bush was able to do so much good. >> they are such a great resource for the country. i know on january 20th this past year w when they were all in washington for the inauguration, they taped a psa for the vaccine encouraging americans to get vaccinated. right now they have all agreed to be honorary chairs. in september honoring president hbush for the award. it's so nice of them to do that. they really do come together when the country needs them and it's just a great resource. i'm a big fan of the presidents club and they do more.
11:30 pm
i think we have a picture of the funeral. president bush used to laugh and say we come together at funerals and library openings. that isn't exactly true. they did a lot more than that but here they are at the funeral of the national cathedral of president bush. i might add of course who you don't see is the 43rd president sitting on the other side of s e aisle with his family. but he did manage to slip across before the service began. president george w. bush came over, shook their hands, thanked them foror coming and then he dd give michelle obama a man to because that started during john mccain's funeral they sort of had this inside thing that was very sweet. >> both of them were breaking up
11:31 pm
at the opening of the african-american museum they were sitting next to each other just giggling. >> they were misbehaving. ethey had a great friendship which is wonderful. >> yeah, it is nice. if you've got a question you can type it into the chat at the end of the program. i will be happy to ask questions. one more thing. so, we've got this 41 locomotive union pacific that was given to us about ten or 15 years ago and just briefly tell the story president bush thought it would be a grand idea after the funeral in houston everyone could ride up on the train and have a sandwich. so talk a little bit about how you had to explain to him maybe he wouldn't be having a
11:32 pm
sandwich. >> i'm sort of embarrassed i put this in the book. president bush we would plan the funeral off and on over the years. every once in a while we would get w out the folder and after president ford and president reagan died, he would make changes to his plans. president bush loved trains and he said to me i would like to take a train from houston. there will be a church service in houston and then a burial of course at the library at texas a&m. he said we will take a train. it will be perfect because we can all be on the train and we will have lunch. it will be relaxed and everyone can put their feet up and relax before the burial. he keptt talking about it in the first person. i hope you don't all think i'm disrespectful but i looked at him and said sir, i think that's a great idea and i will work on
11:33 pm
that train, but you're not going to be on the train. hehe looked at me, he was always right i should have learned. he said oh, yes, i will. [laughter] and of course he was. >> he might not be eating a sandwich but he will be on the train. >> trying to go back to college station so we could meet along with officials from the university but itt was amazing the highway parallels and there were people all along the railroad tracks with signs that say god bless you, mr. president thank you. america loves you. and then the arrival on college station was justs amazing. it was a rainy somber day and everyone was just kind of down
11:34 pm
and everyone gave a cheer. here's a question. let's go to questions if you don't mind. maybe we will veer off after questions. someone wants to know you referred to president bushe as george bush. in my experience, often times he used his nickname so people that knew george bush when he was young knewe him, he had a nickname. i heard missus bush often refer. >> she called him pop or poppy. let me see if i can get this straight. president bush's name was george herbert walker bush.
11:35 pm
he was named for his grandfather whose name was george herbert walker. that was his maternal grandfather. when he was growing up, george herbert walker's children all called their dad pop. so when little george herbert walker bush comes along, they nicknamed him poppy sort of a play off of what they called their father so president bush was called poppy. i think almost until he went into the navy at 18 after pearl harbor. it's not in this book because of course it predates this book. when he went off to the navy, he found out poppy wasn't really a good name for a young man in the navy who wanted to be a navy
11:36 pm
pilot. he tried to drop the name when he moved to texas. missus bush called him pop until the very end. it was very sweet. this was a problem for you president bush's name was george herbert walker bush. he went by george bush his entire life. he didn't like having four names. he sounded a little stuffy. but then a man named george walker bush was elected president of the united states and all of a sudden you had to president bush's and this was a big problem because there was a lot of confusion about who you were talking about. the recommendation to my boss,
11:37 pm
to r number 41, was that he stat using his initials because the 43rd president already went by george w. bush to distinguish himself from his father. my boss was urged to go by george hw bush and it irritated himri because he didn't want to start incorporating his middle name and thank heavens for the brilliant man i cannot remember now who it is. it's in the book, who came up with 41 and 43. president bush loved being called 41, and it was perfect. >> is a great story about that, there's a great portrait about george hw bush and his son and thee artist that painted that portrait. it was kind of confusing george w bush would say you need to pose this way.
11:38 pm
i'm 41, he is 43. finally it got so confusing they would say 41 and 43 because it distinguish them. president clinton told me once i think actually the chief of staff told me i think that it was 43 who called president clinton 42 and president clinton it made his day. he told his staff i'm pretty sure it was 43 who called him that so president bush was the vice president for eight years and they were both adversaries and i'm not sure that president bush ever thought he would be picked but talk about how that
11:39 pm
relationship grew between the two of them. >> i should point out whoever who everasked the question thats the book and predates from when i was in the inner circle. do i know the answer, i do. president reagan sort of charge george bush to be the candidate in the 11th hour. historians among you will remember former president ford was the first choice and that didn't work out so it became instead george bush from texas and the two of them became best friends andg the timing of this question is perfect because i just had lunch the other day with secretary baker and susan
11:40 pm
baker. a lot of you might remember secretary baker was the first white house chief of staff which was amazing, considering the fact james baker ran the campaign in 1980. but about the relationship i don't know why we started talking about it and he said ronald reagan was one of the nicest most genuine people you would ever want to meet and that he and george bush had of course entangled on the campaign trail. they figured out they had a lot more in common and had an amazing relationship for eight years. >> here is a question. why did missus bush let her husband jump out of airplanes, perfectly good planes as missus bush would say.
11:41 pm
>> about the first parachute jump, post world war ii parachute jump and at the beginning of the letter says i haven't told barb yet but i will be telling her tonight after i make her favorite drink, a manhattan. she wasn't thrilled. she thought i was a little crazy. one of the things that i think made their marriage work is she knew she couldn't talk him out of it. she could tell that this was important to him so she went along with it and was very unhappy when he jumped on his 90th birthday. i had been the go between the two of them. without the with weather was going to call it off.
11:42 pm
i a called his oldest son and asked him to intervene. he said i will talk to mom. if dad wants to jump, we need to let him jump. if this goes wrong we will carry him to the church and have the funeral. he swore to me he was going to jump on his 95th birthday. i told him i wouldn't assist him in any way and he said don't worry about it i can figure it out and of course he died before he h turned 95. >> that last jump was a secret i was on a train from albany i believe and i was doing a podcast with a political show and the guy said to do you know president bush is jumping out of a plane today and i said no and whoever interviewed me said he's going to jump right now and i
11:43 pm
said would you tell me when he lands on the ground. >> sorry, i should have called and told you. we kept it a secret because we wanted the opportunity for him to change his mind but we didn't tell anyone until the day of that we wanted him to have the chance to say i think i shouldn't jump on my 90th birthday. >> apparently it is a hobby that has gone down to the grandchildren as i understand jenna bush is going to jump out of a perfectly good plane also.. [laughter] >> they love to jump, they do. >> this all the questions we have got for right now. it was lovely having you. everyone should get the book. it's a great book with great stories. there's also a story about how president bush determines whether vanguard is dead or
11:44 pm
alive in true george bush fan far. reit's a great book. loved having you and we've got to see each other and have lunch. >> i wouldav love to have lunch with you. i'm your biggest fan. thank you so much to the national archives for hosting us tonight. readad the book. it will help you lead a better life. i really do think that. and you will laugh. >> i'm supposed to be nonbiased, but he was a great man, just a wonderful, wonderful life. could have gone home to houston but he did all kinds of things.
11:45 pm
good night, everybody. >> you think this is just a community center? it's more than that. comcast is partnering with community centers to create wi-fi so students from low income families can get the tools they need to be ready for anything.
11:46 pm
we are delighted this evening on the program to welcome michael dobbs who's written a wonderful book that has been well received called king richard. he's also a journalist formerly with of the "washington post" and he has taught at the university of michigan, princeton and georgetown. he is going to speak to us this evening for a little bit about his book and we will answer questions later in the book excuse me, later in the program. i do want to alert you to the fact that this t coming thursday we have anotherff


info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on