An updated edition of George H.W. Bush's letters has just been published, and it contains some unexpected revelations.
The latest release of All The Best, George Bush: My Life in Letters and Other Writings ($35, Scribner) contains letters sent over the past 15 years about various topics, including his son's defeat of John Kerry (in a letter to his friend Hugh Sidey, which he ended with the line "Victory. How sweet it is.")
It also reveals the depth to which he became good friends with the man who defeated him in the 1992 election, President Clinton - at one point he says of an overseas trip with Clinton, "I confess I encouraged him to make the trip as I thought it would be fun to have him along. It was."
He also writes of disgraced Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, "I like Berlusconi a lot. More important the President [George W. Bush] likes him a lot."
However, two particular letters especially caught our eye. First, a bizarre request sent to the chairman of the board and CEO of American insurance company AFLAC:
November 12th, 2002
This will be the most unusual request you have ever received from any President of the United States of America.
The truth is, I need two more of those tiny, furry AFLAC ducks. Why, might you ask? Well, the answer is Sadie, our beloved dog who sleeps in our bed and dominates our lives, loves the AFLAC duck you gave me at that marvelous AFLAC meeting in Las Vegas. It's quiet around our house now because the AFLAC duck is missing. Frankly, I kind of like the quiet but Barbara and Sadie both miss hearing that duck go, "AFLAC! AFLAC!"
So, if you have a couple of those ducks lying around, would you mind sending them to me. I would be willing to pay for the ducks and even pay shipping and handling. I don't want that great company of yours to go in the red because of this.
Here is one of those ducks. We can see why the President was enjoying the silence.
The other letter was sent to Bill Clinton, in reference to a speech made on MLK Day, in which Clinton appears to fall asleep, then wake up several times, apparently nodding in agreement.
January 23, 2008
My heart went out to you when I saw you trying to keep your eyes open during an MLK Day sermon.
I could indeed "feel your pain." I have been there myself, more than once, I might add, and it physically hurt as I tried to keep my eyes open. I don't remember if I ever told you about the prestigious Scowcroft Award, given during my White House days to the person that fell most soundly asleep during a meeting. Points were added for "recovery":
A standard recovery gambit was to awake from a sound sleep, and start by nodding one's head in agreement to something just said in the meeting, something you had not heard at all. Writing something on a pad, anything at all, scored points. Good recoveries were awarded lots of points in determining the Scowcroft winner.
I remember when [Dick] Cheney won the award one time. We presented it to him at a nice dinner in the Rose Garden. Modest fellow that he is, he proclaimed himself unworthy, though his solid sleep in the Cabinet meeting had been witnessed by all assembled.
Scowcroft [Brent Scowcroft, National Security Advisor to George H.W. Bush], of course, was hopeless. He could sleep in any meeting at any time of day. Always pleasant when he woke up, he was a leader without peers in both the sleep itself and the recovery field.
Such was his leadership that the award was named for him. He never fully appreciated that. Anyway having been a Scowcroft Award recipient myself I send you now my total understanding and my warmest personal regards. As I heard that minister droning on I made a challenge for the trophy myself.
Here's the video of Clinton falling asleep during the speech:
Correction: The original version of this article stated that Silvio Berlusconi was the President of Italy, not its Prime Minister. This has now been corrected.