As VP, George HW Bush Enjoyed A Rare Relationship With President Ronald Reagan

Former U.S. President Ronald Reagan speaks at a rally for Senator Durenberger February 8, 1982./Portrait of the forty-first president of the United States George Bush, circa 1989.
Universal History Archive / Hulton Archive / Getty Images

In the wake of George H.W. Bush’s passing, people are remembering his life and career. While he was eventually elected president, many forget that he first served as vice president to Ronald Reagan. The two had a complicated relationship, as they began as competitors. According to the New York Times, both Reagan and Bush were vying for the Republican party’s presidential nomination. While the two weren’t exactly best friends to begin with, Bush officially was on Reagan’s bad side after he famously referred to the policies Reagan was advocating for as “voodoo economics.” When Gerald Ford ended up declining Reagan’s offer to be vice president, however, Reagan turned to Bush.

A report on the official Senate website states that Reagan thought Bush lacked “spunk” and was unable to handle criticism. Reagan changed his tune when Bush became vice president and appreciated that Bush rarely disagreed with him. His loyalty to Reagan during his presidency never faltered. One instance that displayed Bush’s respect for Reagan was when Reagan was shot. Bush was in Dallas, Texas, at the time and immediately flew back to Washington upon hearing the news.

It was suggested that Bush travel to the White House by helicopter after landing at Andrews Air Force Base in hopes of creating a dramatic scene that would encourage Americans and make for good television. Bush refused to do this and believed that “only the President lands on the south lawn.” Instead, Bush opted to helicopter to his residence at the Naval Observatory and traveled to the White House from there.

“The gesture was not lost on Ronald Reagan, who slowly warmed to his vice president.”

Former U.S. President George H.W. Bush and his wife, Barbara Bush, pay their respects to former U.S. President Ronald Reagan in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda June 10, 2004 in Washington, DC.
Former U.S. President George H.W. Bush and his wife Barbara Bush pay their respects to former U.S. President Ronald Reagan in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda June 10, 2004, in Washington, DC. Brendan Smialowski / Getty Images

The two had lunch together every Thursday and would talk about everything “from affairs of state to small talk,” according to Bush. Reagan learned to trust Bush, and Bush never revealed Reagan’s secrets. Reagan repaid him for his loyalty by helping to campaign for him when Bush ran for president again in 1988. Needless to say, the way Bush spoke of Reagan in public afterward came nothing close to his “voodoo economics” comment.

”He was a wonderful man, a wonderful, warm human being,” Bush once said of Reagan. “He was so darn kind to me, and also to Barbara.”

Once Bush was elected president, Reagan gladly passed the torch to him and left Bush a heartfelt message.

”George, I treasure the memories we share and wish you all the very best,” the note read. ”You’ll be in my prayers. God bless you and Barbara. I’ll miss our Thursday lunches.”