Excerpt: George H. W. Bush remembers John Dingell
George H.W. Bush penned the foreword for former Congressman John Dingell’s biography, to be released on Wednesday. Here are excerpts:
For the most part, when I hear people complain about the gridlock in Washington and their wish to return to “the good old days,” I dismiss them as being whiny and shortsighted. After all, the most popular show on Broadway in a good many years has been the musical version of the story of Vice President Aaron Burr shooting and killing former secretary of the treasury Alexander Hamilton.
So, no, these are not the worst of times. And, yes, life in Washington has always been complicated.
Having said all that, this wonderful book from my great friend John Dingell has made me nostalgic, too, for a time in Washington that was perhaps a bit more civilized and when compromise was not a dirty word.
John was and is a fiercely loyal Democrat, just as I was a Republican. But he based his views, and therefore his votes in Congress, on what he thought was best for the country and for the people he represented from his beloved state of Michigan. That often meant going against the party line, which also meant that, thanks to him and others, some very good bipartisan legislation was passed during my presidency, when both houses of Congress were controlled by the Democrats.
I particularly will always be grateful to John for his support for the Gulf War. I know he was under party pressure to vote otherwise, but as he did so many other times in his long and storied career, he voted his conscience.
John could be a tough negotiator, but he was always fair and always willing to listen, which might be another lost art these days. And no matter what the outcome of our disagreements or agreements, he was always willing to then let me beat him at paddleball. (John asked me to be honest in the assessment of our relationship, so I felt the need to say I won more often than he did. At least that is my recall at age ninety-four.)
The Dingell and Bush families have a lot in common, including our commitment to public service, which both our fathers instilled in us, and which we both are grateful and proud that our children and grandchildren are continuing. I would be remiss in not adding that my respect for Debbie matches that which I have for her husband.
America, especially Michigan, is blessed that John and Debbie Dingell have called her home. They are the best examples of what public servants can and should be.
So, I hope you’ll join John in his “Best Seat in the House,” for a quintessential American journey you will love — and a journey from which, I hope, some of you will learn a thing or two about how to be a great American.
George Herbert Walker Bush was the 41st president of the United States.