George H.W. Bush’s passing has cast a light on the legacy of a president loved by those on both sides of the aisle and has brought new attention to the classy letter he left behind for Bill Clinton when he left the White House.
The 1992 presidential campaign was especially fierce, at least by the standards of the day, as young upstart Bill Clinton looked to unseat one of the most established politicians in Washington history in George H.W. Bush. The race was tight and Clinton’s victory was shocking to many, but Bush still managed to handle his transition out of the White House with grace.
As CNN noted, Bush left Clinton a hand-written note giving some insight into the pressures of being president his sincerest wishes that Clinton would find success during his time as president. Though Bush was a rare modern example of a president being denied a second term, he reportedly did all he could to help Clinton with the transition and harbored no ill will toward his onetime opponent.
Dated January 20, 1993, the letter was left on the final day Bush occupied the White House and as Clinton moved in. Bush described the feeling he got from walking into the Oval Office and wished Clinton would feel the same, while also offering some advice for when Clinton encountered tough times.
“When I walked into this office just now I felt the same sense of wonder and respect that I felt four years ago. I know you will feel that, too.
“I wish you great happiness here. I never felt the loneliness some Presidents have described.
“There will be very tough times, made even more difficult by criticism you may not think is fair. I’m not a very good one to give advice; but just don’t let the critics discourage you or push you off course.
“You will be our President when you read this note. I wish you well. I wish your family well.
“Your success now is our country’s success. I am rooting hard for you.”
After George H.W. Bush’s passing this week, many have taken to social media to share the letter and champion it as an example of the elder Bush’s political graces. To many, the letter demonstrated the contrast with modern politics, where opposing sides can often struggle to find any common ground.
George HW Bush to Bill Clinton. A fine letter to be remembered by. pic.twitter.com/H5GzLQp4O4
— Stig Abell (@StigAbell) December 1, 2018
Bill Clinton maintained a close relationship with both George H.W. Bush and his son, George W. Bush, long after all of them had left the White House. Clinton even sat together with the Bush family at the funeral for Barbara Bush earlier this year.