tv Jean Becker The Man I Knew CSPAN November 22, 2021 1:36pm-2:27pm EST
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get c-span on the go. watch political events live or on-demand anytime anywhere on our new mobile video app. access top highlights and discover new podcasts all for free. download c-span now today. >> greetings from the national archives in washington dc which sits on and ancestral lands of the letter koch tank peoples. i'm archivist of the united states and is my pleasure to welcome you to our author lecture with eugene victor, author of a man i knew a new memoir of more about george hw bush. before we begin i like to tell you about two upcoming programs that you can view on our youtube channel. on wednesday, june 9 at 1 pm we will present a program in partnership with the us association of former members of congress called congress can perform itself again, our moderator will be carla
hayden and panelists will include current and former members of congress. and on tuesday, june 15 at noon historian michael burlingame will be here to talk about his new book and an american merit based on 30 years of research he describes and analyzes the marriage between abraham lincoln and mary todd. the presidential libraries and the national archives preserves the records of our presidents factors, the stories told in the library's cover thousands of entire lives not just their time in the highest office of the nation. after returning to private life and number of them turned to humanitarian causes and advisory roles and you will find those activities committed in the libraries as well. after leaving office in 1993 george remain engaged in public service and continue to encourage others to make a difference in large and small ways. he shared his decades of experience with the successors and work
ceaselessly for a kinder gentler america. today author jean baptiste point du sable was with president bush for nearly all of his postpresidential years. in her new book a man i knew she brings the reader into the room with george bush that gives us a close-up look athis work after leaving the oval office . jean becker was president george hw bush's chief of staff for 25 years from 1994 until bush's death in 2018. as chief of staff becker had a ringside seat for the never boring story of george walker bush's life after his presidency and including being in his side when he died and facing the challenge of the great honor of being in charge of his funeral. furiously jean served as deputy press secretary for first lady barbara bush in 1989 to 1992. as a former journalist she was also a member of the j william fulbright foreign scholarship award and the
seachange cancer board as well as an ad hoc member of the advisory board of the george bush presidential library george bush school of government and public service. our moderator for tonight's discussion islauren finch director of the george hw bush residential library and museum . lauren has 30 years of experience in the national archives and administration, first through the office of presidential libraries here in washington and then with the ronald reagan library in californiaand now the bush library and museum . trained as an archivist he was detailed to the bush white house in 1992 to assist with the bush residential materials moved to texas and has been in consultation ever sense . now let's hear fromjean becker and lauren finch. thank you for joining us today . >> hello, jean. >> that evening warren, great to see you.
>> thanks for the kind introduction. i'd like to shout out our partners in crime the george and barbara bush foundation. my colleague from la laura allows and to also to the dean of the bush school and the staff at the library have been so helpful here in during the and also to the staff of the former president's office. it's a great organization we belong to. we've been very lucky to be part of it and be part of the life of george and barbara bush for all these years. my first question, so you kind of came to the bush office and kind of a curious way. can you just talk a little bit about you work for usa today and you were, you did the hiring so can you talk about how that led to barbara
bush hiring you to work on her staff. >> it is sort of a interesting road to the white house and to the bushes life. i was a new favorite reporter at usa today in 1988 in the elections and barbara bush and and katie dukakis agreed to write a weekly column for usa today. it was called their campaign diary i think, it ran every monday morning and i was there editor . i was given the assignment but i was grumpy about it, i didn't want to the editor but instead i got to know both of those amazing women really well. and after that the election i was very surprised when mismatches chief of staff offered me a job at the first lady's press office. i took a couple weeks to think about it, i love being a reporter and it was my dad,
a farmer in missouri who said what is wrong with you mark you've been offered a job by the incoming first lady of the united states and you're still thinking about. but he was right and i said yes and the rest ishistory . then i quickly warned tom in houston when he lost the election and mrs. bush was her memoir. i was a researcher and her editor. she wrote the book yourself. she would want me to say that. and then the book was done and some bush said to me will you stay a couple more months . i need to hire a chief of staff. his chief of staff retired and he said just stay until labor day. this was march 94and i'll hire someone . we never talk about it again. which i think 25 years later i said to him sir, you come in my office and tell me you hired a chief of staff and i'm unemployed.
he thought i was a little crazy. >> so 25 years of us working for president bush and you've written this great book and what i love about the book is it's a book of stories. so tell us a little bit about the book, why you wrote it and why people should read it . >> i've first of all wrote the book and my beginning idea was president bush left me so many great stories. it was a wild roller coaster ride for 25 years. he did a lot, he was funny. there's the whole story of the odd couple of he and bill clinton. that's iwo jima where he was shot down. he raised hundreds of millions of dollars for disaster relief and then there was just funny stories like when he called prince
vanguard to ask him if he was dead or alive. that's the day i knew i had to write a book. i started writing the book because i thought the american people need to know by heart and soul of this amazing man and in the middle of writing the book it occurred to me there was something a lotmore important at work here .pouring out of my heart onto my computer, talking about him. president bush really left us a blueprint on how to live right. when somebody dies and they often would say it was a life well lived? you want that to be said about you when you die, you need to read this book. president bush taught us how to live life . >> he did. jumping out of airplanes, perfectly good planes. it was a great way to go one way or another so. >> she was glad because on
his 90th birthday he jumped at saint and church in kennebunkport maine and she said if it doesn't go well will just carry him inside and have the funeral. >> so today is mrs. bush's birthday. we put a bouquet of roses at her gravesite today. but just an amazing love story. between the two of them and mrs. bush and her scrapbooks hundreds of scrapbooks i think there might hundred 2550 of these scrapbooks, some of the library and take it back because mrs. bush if she did them, you can imagine what she said. >> of course she did but she started these scrapbookswhen they first got married .>> i have to explain that. ihate to interrupt you . that is a photo of the texas
a&m and bush bushes are pretending thatthere the right . they just know how to have fun. i'm sorry i interrupted you. >> available the wranglers. >> almost every event. for those of you not in any land, the wranglers are a precision dance team and they look like they're going to knock themselves out but somehow they do it in and bushes love them. we had a lot of them. so today is mrs. bush's 96th birthday. she's actually here along with her husband and their daughter and at the presidential library. talk a little bitabout , i need you talk about our life well served. that was a great partnership. they were both, i'm 60 years old now and i think i can say they wereboth kids when they gotmarried . although he had been in the war . >> they were 19 when they got
married. they were married 73 years. i'm wearing barbara bush on her birthday today, april hearing. also were a pearl necklace but i whenever i wear pearls i would play with them, twirled them and she would say quit twirling your pearls. so in her honor i actually did not wear pearls today. but i just i guess i would like to read a letter that's in the book that president bush wrote her. would say everything you need to know can be as how he felt about his wife of 73 years. he wrote this january 6 1994. her 49th wedding anniversary, where barbara appeared from hwb. you marry me? i forgot. you did at 49 years ago today. i was very happy that day in 1945 when even happier today.
you have given me joy that human know. you made our boys into men by calling them out and then right away by loving them . you helped sorrow be the greatest daughter in the whole wideworld . i have climbed perhaps the highest mountain in the world but even that could not hold a candle to be in barbara's husband. mom used to tell me now george, don't walk ahead? little did she know i was only trying to keep up with barbara from onondaga street. i love you. >> a great letter. >> it's such a great letter andlauren, before i'm going to jump right in . and then i promise i'll let you suck again. i know that right now are weaving across america with
that letter. so now i'm going to make them laugh. so are going to wipe away the tears quickly. mrs. bush was a good sport. president bush teased her unmercifully. he had a wonderful sense of humor. i think she was the target of both of her practical jokes. this is the worst thing he ever did to her. so i'mgoing to read this to . mrs. bush often told people one of the many reasons she married george bush is that he made her laugh . he was the master of practical jokes with his wife often is target. one of his more famous success stories had to be the day he managed to convince her that she might be going to jail for trafficking porn. during the summer of 1998 there were a lot of surprises in this book. everyone needs to read this
during the summer of 1998 it seems like someone in the house was looking up and putting porn off mrs. bush's computer. several unnamed teenage grandsons were the immediate suspects and they quickly acknowledged their crime. putting some photos in the printer led to their downfall . a few days after the unfortunate incident barbara was found in her stack of mail a letter from the office of inspector general and the federal trade commission. it read in part, in doing a routine check it appears you have recently been engaged in downloading pornographic material. we respectfully request that you report to our regional office in portland maine for a hearing on august 17, 1998 at 8:30 a.m. as she was reading her mail she blurted out to him that she might be
going tojail . i was not there when all this transpired but i was told that president bush managed to keep ittogether for a few minutes before dissolving in laughter . yet yes, he had written the letter that help of a staffer . that was sort of the secret to their wonderful marriage. they knew how to laugh and they knew how to teach each other. >> can you tell the story in the hospital, and he comes, she comes to visit his room and his hair is all messy. you know that story. >> a week before she died, they had both been in the hospital. she had she and mrs. smith and we get word. i'm at houston's great methodist hospital and we get
word she's headed back and she's headed back to the hospital in an ambulance. she had started taking a turn for the worse so i toldthem she was on her way back . they had adjoining rooms the last couple of years i think they figured out that if one was in the hospital eventually the other onewould end up there to . i think it was sort of by design. so theyget her settled in our room so they go in and see her . he was not in a coma but she was somewhere else. she was pretty much out of it. she was in a very deep sleep. and i hate to be critical of the 41st president of the united states he looked awful. his hair was standing straight up. he had on an oxygen mask. he was in the hospital gown. he looked like if we been in the hospital for five days. but they get him in his wheelchair and they take him into a room .
and he's just sitting there holding her hand. now, all of a sudden her eyes flew open and she looked at him. and she said my god george, you are devastatingly good-looking. >> i had to say it but he was not at that moment. and then she just goes to rise. it's the love of her life was holding her hand and it caught my eye and he looked at me and sort of shrugged as if to say well, it is what it is, tina. >> i can't help it. >> anyways she died about a week later and the bushes lived in a four-story townhouse and their bedroom was on the second floor and the power went out that day, out for three hours and he was downstairs when he was told that time was near.
and the secret service, god love them carried him down the stairsbecause the elevator wasn't working . so they died holding hands. and you know more and, i would love right now to give a huge shout out to the bushes granddaughter, a beautiful and wonderful ellie sosa. a couple of years ago wrote a book about her grandparents love story. it's called george and barbara bush, the great american love story i think. it's just a sweet wonderful book and i know i think you have a story to share with them. >> kelly and chase who helped with the book, they came to the bush library did a lot of research. and these scrapbooks they were amazing. when we did the museum on the
10th anniversary, one of the reasons we wanted to read through the exhibit was because we had discovered these scrapbooks . the amazing stuff they sent in the and there are 2500, 50 of them so we apparently have been through them all in great detail so there's one from 1945 and kelly and kelly are going for the scrapbook trying to benchmark this and the open a page and there's an envelope just a letter envelope sealed up and it's got the names of people who attended the dinner so they open the envelope inside the envelope is the wishbone from the first thanksgiving turkey george and barbara bush. had in 1945 and mrs. bush was always great about this. the guests all came. and just i mean, just lovely. everyone kind of went all all at once. so after you read the man i
knew, read that book. >> it's ellie did a great job. i love that story. and you are talking about ellie doing a lot of research and in the library. i would like to point out the library was closed the entire time i was writing this book. because of the pandemic. and working from home lauren and his team debbie wheeler, had archivist there, your deputy director, all of whom are amazing. i know it was hard to help the fact check and research this book. and also lauren has the best wife ever. she's the audiovisual director. these guys are rock stars so they just take a moment to thank you . this book wouldn't have happened without you. and you did it, you helped me despite the fact you were home. that you managed to stand
out, mainly fact checking. i didn't email george clooney directly fact checking him. so that's the whole story. where not want to talk about him tonight. >> it's amazing, the staff the amount of what they could do working from home. it's just amazing, the great staff here so they did some great work. so let's see, let's talk about this relationship to president bush and president clinton. i'm president bush one time and he said i kind of likehim when he was governor . i didn't like him so much when he ran against me but i kind of like him again after he left office. and of course there's adams and jefferson. they were good friends, not good friends and then
realized they were good friends again but i think resident bush and bill clinton at this special relationship and talk about a life well served, they did some amazing work. >> they really did and you and i talked about this a couple of days ago because this event hosted by the national archive. we did have a talk about that relationship that happened between former presidents. they really are the presidents club. there's a great book written by the great michael dunphy about called the presidents club and things they really do have a special relationship with each other. here's a picture of them all the former presidents at that time. i confess that i am photo bombing. their backstage. they're about ready to do a huge fundraiser forhurricane party relief . their backstage and that's my
great friend therese burch was helping out and she and iphoto bombed the president. but they're just telling stories and catching up with each other. with hurricane re: devastated houston of course, but june george bush is immediately wanted toleave and go to work . i just hope former presidents my fellow staff said fyi, we're going to be doing this. they are, they all showed up. and it is just a really special relationship. president bush and president clinton became great friends. >> ..
the tsunami in south asia began going to ask everyone to read the book, you're going to love the story but i thought tonight i would tell a few stories that might surprise people that are well known in one involved in vice president al gore. it demonstrates this and hopefully one day soon the women who occupy the highest office in the land, they do have a connection no matter their politics or background, they had a shared experience not many of us really can understand. december 2000, the supreme court ruled george w. bush did win the election, the recount is over
and vice president gore, confession speech to the nation. president bush calls me before to speak and he says as soon as the speech is done, i'd like to call al gore and talk to them. it is in the evening, i was at home and as respectfully as i could i said i'm not sure where the first president vice president need to hear from tonight. anyone named bush as a father, a man, are you sure you want to call him? he said jean, i've been where al gore is. i know he's about ready, i know what he's feeling. i'd like to call and talk to him when he is done. i said i will call the white house operators, the best way to
reach the white house and that made him very happy he cut me out of the middle. he said i will call the operator when the speech is done, you have to worry about it so i watch the speech and was gracious and i'm watching him come out of the eisenhower office building complex and get in the car sure enough, i see him pick up the phone and i'm thinking no, no, no. that can't possibly be my boss. five minutes later my phone rings and it's president bush i got off the phone with encore. i think he's through i called, we had a great conversation, i told him his speech was wonderful and perfect and i think he understood why i called. he understood i was where he was
so i did the right thing. i know he did. i was wrong and he was right. fast-forward to 2008, it's a wide-open election year, it's the morning after the first democratic debate in president bush comes in and he says get joe biden on the phone. i don't like how they retreated the debate last night and i said what are you talking about? he said look, they were standing and hardly got any questions, they sent all the questions to hillary clinton, barack obama and the guy john edward, they are all the questions. joe biden and chris are upstanding u.s. senators deserve to be treated better, this was
how i was treated in 1980, the man on the edge never got any questions so once again i said don't you think senator biden done with think it's art you're calling a republican president, calling them and he said get them on the phone. so we did it he had a great conversation with him. i only tell those two stories because it gives people a little insight, camaraderie that happens behind the scenes between these people who have this shared experience. go ahead. >> he operated well on the telephone and his letters were amazing. not always a great speech maker but you get him in a room with ten people, i think he liked the
state dinner so much because with ten people he was amazing. >> that is great. i'm sorry, he was very personable. i do want to go back to the photo of the presidents backstage of hurricane harvey. it's a great archive to pull back up. i have to tell a funny story about that night. this was a saturday evening, we didn't even invite the other -- i just sort of told him as an fyi, and they all came. president obama, president clinton, president carter when i told the bushes they were coming, i'll never forget this missus bush said we need to get them dinner, we're going to have to feed them.
i thought, fact such a normal reaction, that's what any wife in america would react with, her husband comes home and says honey, i've invited the people over for dinner tonight, so we did give them before the event. the funny thing is, i'm going to tattletale on two people i love to get a call from secretary baker and he says jean, i'm coming to that event, andrew said all the presidents are coming, i hear there is a dinner beforehand, i would like in on the dinner, can i get into that dinner left president bush set had to call you. i'm like i'm going to tell secretary baker, you can't come to get a. i said there's plenty of room for you susan, they would like to see her so he called me back and says jean, janie is coming and he would like to be at the dinner he says everyone wants to be at this dinner and i said
call it invite him? he said well, maybe because i thought he would want to be there. i said fine, but you cannot invite anybody else because the table is now you may not have one more time to think anyone else is coming so it was funny and a great example of robbery among these people and we need a woman to do part of this, be part of the scrub. >> that was a great evening from a fantastic evening. there is this camaraderie between these men and maybe a woman one day but so far justman who have been former president with shared experience run for office, one and loss president bush was able to do so much
good. >> there such a great resource for the country, i know january 20 this past year when they were in washington for the inauguration, or vaccine encouraging americans to get vaccinated, right now they've all agreed to be honorary chairs. in september honoring president bush, george bush award, so nice of them to do that. they really do come together when the country needs them integrate resource. i'm a fan of the presidents club. they do more, i think you have a picture of the funeral, president bush used to laugh and say we come together at funerals and library openings not exactly
true, they do a lot more than that. where they all are the funeral from international president bush and i might add what you don't see is the 43rd president, he's on the other side of the aisle but he did manage before the service began, president george w. bush came over and shook their hands and came think thank them for coming and he did get michelle obama, is started during john mccain's funeral, this inside thing. >> and they were breaking at the opening of the african-american museum, i think you're sitting next to each other. >> they were misbehaving. they have a great friendship which is wonderful. >> it is nice. if you've got a question from you can type it in the chat and
at the end of our program their questions and i'll be happy to ask a few questions. one more thing, we've got this 4141, it was given to us by union pacific, we did about ten or 15 years ago, briefly tell the story president bush that it would be a grand idea after the funeral in houston everyone could write up on the train so talk how you had to explain maybe he wouldn't be having a sandwich. >> i'm embarrassed i'm put this in the book but it was a funny moment, president bush, we plan his funeral off and on over the years, every once in a while we would get out particularly after president ford and reagan died, he think changes to his funeral
plans but president bush loved trains and he said to me i'd like to take a train from houston, there would be a church service in houston and burials at the library he said let's take a train, it would be perfect because we can all be on the train and we'll have lunch. it will be relaxed and everybody can put their feet up and relax before the ariel and he kept talking about it in the first person. i hope you all don't think i'm disrespectful but i listened and i said sir, i think it's a great idea and i'll work on that train but you're not going to be on the train. he looked at me, he was always right, i should have learned he was always right, he said oh yes i will. [laughter] of course he was on the train.
>> might not be eating a sandwich but he would be on the train. >> i wasn't on the train because ours going back to the college station to beat the train back so we could meet there along with officials from the university but it was amazing the highway parallels, there were people all along the railroad tracks with signs that say god bless you, mr. president, thank you, america loves you. it was amazing, a rainy somber day and everyone was down and the band played and everyone gave a cheer and it was like a big cut. >> here is a question if you don't mind and we can beer off
after questions. someone wants to know from missus bush, he referred to president bush as george bush. in my experience, he often times used is nickname so people who knew george bush when he was young knew he had a nickname and i have heard missus bush on that. >> she called him pops or poppy, usually pop. let me see if i can get this straight. president bush's name was george herbert walker bush. he was named for his grandfather because his name was george herbert walker, how is his name. when he was growing up, george herbert walker's children all
called their dad pops. so when little george herbert walker bush comes along, they nicknamed him copy. started playoff what they call their father. so president bush was called poppy. i think almost until he went into the navy at age 18 after pearl harbor and he wrote somewhere, it predates this book, he went off to the navy, he found out poppy was not a good name for a young man in the navy who wants to be a navy pilot, he really tries to drop the name, i'm thinking of him writing about no one in texas called poppy but she called him pops until the very end, it was sweet.
this was a problem for you, too. president bush's name was george herbert walker bush, he went by george bush his entire life. he does not like having more names. florida and man named george walker bush was elected president of united states in 2000 and all of a sudden you had to president george bush's. lord knows this is a problem because there's a lot of confusion about who you were talking about and recommendations to number 41 that he start using his initial because the 33rd president already went by george w. bush, he distinguished himself from his father. my boss was urged to go by
george h.w. bush and it irritated him because he did not want to start incorporating his middle name. thank heavens for the brilliant man, i cannot remember now who it is but it is in the book, he came up with 41 and 43. oh my gosh, president bush loved being called 41 and it was perfect. >> great story, there is this portrait of george h.w. bush and his son george w. bush and the artist who painted that portrait. 41 and 43 because it was the way to distinguish them. >> president clinton told me once, i think his chief of staff
told me i think it was 43 who called president clinton 42 wants and president clinton, it made his day. he told his staff all my gosh, i'm pretty sure it was 43 he called him, he just called me 42, i am like a member of the family, i thought that was funny. >> so president bush was reagan's vice president for eight years and is a question about, they were adversaries and i'm not sure president bush ever thought he'd be picked for the vp so talk about how that relationship grew between the two of them. >> i should say whoever asked the question, i apologize, it predates my book and predates from when i was in president bush's inner circle, do i know
the answer? i do, it's from being around 25 years, president reagan sort of chose george bush to be his vp candidate in the 11th hour at the reporting convention. it was former president that was his first choice that didn't work out it became george bush from texas and they became best friends. the timing of the question is perfect because i have lunch the other day with secretary baker and a lot of you might remember secretary baker was president reagan's first white house chief of staff which was amazing considering james a baker ran george bush was campaign in 1980 so i was asking about the
relationship, i don't know why we started talking about it. he said ronald reagan was just one of the nicest most genuine people you'd ever want to meet and he and george bush tangled on the campaign trail, they were able to put aside their differences, they figured out they had a lot more in common than not and they had an amazing relationship for eight years. >> has a question, why did missus bush let her husband jump out of airplanes? [laughter] >> is a great letter in the book president bush wrote his five children about his first post-world war ii parachute job. he says i have not said yet but i will tonight after i make her
favorite drink, a manhattan. she was not thrilled, she thought it was crazy but i think she thought it was really crazy but one of the things that i think made their marriage work was she knew she couldn't talk him out of it she could tell it was important to him he went along with it, very unhappy when it was his 90th birthday, i had to be the girl between the two of them, it was interesting and without the weather would call it off and it turned out the weather didn't, i called the 43rd president and asked him to intervene and he said jean, i'll talk to mom, dad wants to jump, we need to let him jump so she was a good sport but it was the 90th birthday parachute jump she said well this goes
wrong, just here him to his funeral. president bush ordered to me that he was going to jump on his birthday and i told him i would not assist him in any way that he said don't worry about it, i can figure it out all by myself but he turned died before he turned 95. >> the last jump was a secret, i was on the train between new york city it already believes, i was doing a podcast from a political show and the guy says you know president bush is jumping out of a plane today? i said no jump right now and i said you just tell me when he lands on the ground? >> i should have called and told you, we kept it a secret and this is why. we wanted him to have the opportunity to change his mind so we didn't tell anyone of the day of because we want him to
have a chance to say i think i should not jump on my 90th birthday. >> apparently it is a hobby, jenna bush is going to jump out of a perfectly good plane. [laughter] >> they left it, they do. >> that's all the questions we've got, it was lovely having you. everybody should get the book, is a great story, george clooney story, it great. there's also a story about how president bush determines whether he's dead or alive, a troop george bush fan, has anybody called him? no, sir. anyway, it's a great book, love having you and we practice each other and have lunch.
>> i'd love to have lunch with you. i am your biggest fan, thank you so much. thank you for the national archive hosting us tonight. read the book, it will help you lead a better life, i really do think that. andy will last. >> i'm supposed to be nonbiased but he was a great man, a wonderful life. could have gone home to houston, he just did all because of good things. there were about three remembered for -- her for literacy, him for points of light foundation and will live long after. thank you. >> thank you, good night everybody. ♪♪
>> until 2015, a national security correspondent for washington post. on the cover of his new book called blown to hell, its subtitle america's debt the betrayal of commercial islanders. it was in those islands that served as a staging ground for over 60 nuclear tests conducted by the u.s. government beginning in 1946. the castle test over bikini in 1954 was where america executed its largest nuclear detonation, 1000 times more powerful than iwo jima. >> author on this episode of book notes plus. ♪♪ >> you can be part of the national conversation by
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