The New Civility
Bush adviser Mark McKinnon says the president was actually excited to spend time yesterday with the man taking his job.
Bush adviser Mark McKinnon says the president is making an exceptionally graceful exit—and was actually excited to spend time yesterday with the man taking his job.
I am picturing, yesterday afternoon, a moment when President-elect Obama and first lady Laura Bush stole off to sneak a cigarette on the Truman Balcony.
OK, maybe that’s a smoke too far. But no question, there is permeating the corridors and monuments of our nation’s capitol a new civility.
Few remember now, and who can blame them, that George W. Bush once pledged to change the tone in Washington. It would be an interesting exercise for some journalist to go back and compare the campaign speeches of Bush and Obama on the topic of bipartisanship, working together, a new beginning, putting past differences behind us.
No one will be ripping the O's off the computer keyboards on their last day in office.
And I know, despite what happened, it was heartfelt and genuine on the then-governor’s part. He was an incredibly bipartisan governor in Texas. Alas, the recount poisoned the well from the get-go. Democrats wouldn’t recognize Bush as the legitimate heir to the presidency and everyone divided immediately and from then on for eight years into fiercely partisan camps.
But no matter what you think of George W. Bush, he is a true gentleman. And he reveres and respects the office of the presidency. No late-night pizzas deliveries in this White House. I only own one suit, but I wore it every time I went to the White House (note to Axelrod: get one). And I believe contrary to conventional wisdom, President Bush was actually excited about spending time yesterday with the man who will soon take his job. He loves giving tours of the White House, the Oval Office, and the Residence—none more so, I imagine, than to its future occupant.
The Washington Post writes: “It’s heartening to see how closely and amicably the current White House is working with the incoming one to make sure everything goes as smoothly as possible... Here, President Bush deserves enormous credit.”
Presidential scholar Stephen Hess, in the same article, says: “I’m not sure I’ve ever seen an outgoing administration work as hard at saying the right thing. This is really quite memorable.”
When it comes to decorum, the Bush bunch is first class. Chief of Staff Josh Bolten and Deputy Chief of Staff Blake Gottesman are best in class and America can rest assured that they will make sure that no one will be ripping the Os off the computer keyboards on their last day in office.
Which reminds me of an appropriate Blake Gottesman story, since we are ruminating on comings and goings. On Gottesman’s last day before he left for Harvard Business School (before he came back), the president asked him to come by in the morning for a going-away party with cake and coffee. In typical Gottesman fashion, not inclined to make a fuss, he never showed, but left quietly in the night. But throughout the morning, the president felt like something was different in the Oval Office. Finally, around lunchtime, he figured it out. The bust of Teddy Roosevelt was gone. And in its place was a bust of Blake Gottesman.
Now that is going out in style.
And in style is how President Bush will usher himself out and President Obama in come January.
As vice chairman of Public Strategies and president of Maverick Media, Mark McKinnon has helped meet strategic challenges for candidates, causes, and individuals, including George W. Bush, John McCain, Governor Ann Richards, Charlie Wilson, Lance Armstrong, and Bono. McKinnon is co-chair of Arts & Labs, a collaboration between technology and creative communities that have embraced today’s rich internet environment to deliver innovative and creative digital products to consumers.