The Day Bush Left
Heller, Joseph, The Nation
Politics, they're saying, stops at the water's edge."
"What's it mean, George?"
"I'm not sure I know. Charlie?"
"Maybe it has something to do with our borders, that we try to pretend we are unified in outlook and won't tolerate disagreement when it comes to foreign affairs:'
"That's a funny thought:' said the President, who was persisting to the end in his determination to resign. " But why water? Our borders north and south aren't water, are they? You see, Charlie, I've been learning my history!'
"That's geography, George:'
The three men sat flopped comfortably about the White House office, each looking and feeling looser than at any time since Election Eve. There were the President himself, his Secretary of State and his trusted friend Charlie Stubbs.
"Well, it doesn't really matter now that I'm leaving. Right? How many are there waiting to see me?"
About a dozen. The leaders from both political parties in the House and the Senate, the chairmen and a few others from both national committees!'
"My goodness, I didn't realize they all liked me that much," said President Bush.
"They don't like you at all, George. It's the idea of Quayle that appalls them. We think you should see them."
Aaaaw, shoot. Jim, you talk to them first and prepare them for disappointment. Well, Charlie, what do you think? " George Bush asked when alone with Stubbs. "I have to stick to my decision, don't I?"
"Only if you're sick of the job and truly want to leave it. You've proved your point. You made it to the top and you are your own man. You're not much of a man, we know, but at least you're your own. So go ahead and resign if that's what you want."
"That's the only advice I've been given since I took office that seems to add up:'
And it's the only thing you've done that seems to make sense:'
The President laughed like the good sport he was widely acknowledged to be. "I still have all this packing to finish. Give me a hand with some of these trophies and citations. Golly, there's a mess of them:'
"You're taking them all?"
"I wouldn't want to leave a dirty White House."
"You didn't mind conducting a dirty campaign, did you?"
"Wasn't that a beauty, Charlie?"
"Certainly the filthiest presidential campaign in my recollection, George:'
"I doubt it will ever be surpassed. I think history will celebrate that as my highest achievement."
"What confounds me still, George, is that-you could be the standard-bearer of the vilest, dirtiest, most ugly presidential campaign in modern history and still
9 come out of it looking so squeaky clean. How can it be, George, that people still think you're basically decent, kind and gentle? "
"I have a thousand points of light."
And you did such a magical job between the day you were elected and the day you took office."
"I was good then, wasn't I?"
"You've never been better. Between the election and your inauguration you were dazzling, inspiring, charismatic, irreproachable. Your approval rating hit the top before you even took the oath."
"I should never have taken the oath:'
"You'd be remembered as the most popular President in history if you'd never become one:'
"I have to admit that's true:' George Bush admitted. "Charlie, it's hard work, and tedious too. All that posing around for photographers every day. There are thousands of people who can do the job as well as I can. As far as I can tell, there's not much to it."
"But Dan Quayle isn't one of them. George, there's just no way in the world you're going to get anyone sensible to like him, not even if he turns into Willie Mays."
"It's funny you should say that," George Bush said and laughed. "Because for a time we were thinking of picking Willie Mays as my running mate! …