Boarding Executive One for his final aerial spin around the city he dominated for eight tumultuous years, George W. Bush, the 43rd president of the United States, looked as relieved to leave Washington as those gathered on the Mall were to see him go. After coming into office with a budget surplus and peace in 2000, he's leaving office with an economy in free fall and two wars (one of necessity, one of choice); I found his impatience for this day to arrive to be off-putting and, dare I say, insulting to a nation enduring the consequences.
Despite all this, I have not been surprised by the extraordinary grace Bush showed the new president and first lady from the moment Barack Obama was elected to the moment he and Mrs. Bush waved goodbye one last time from the helicopter. Mr. Bush is a man of great warmth and humor, of kindness that most didn't get to see. Only history will judge whether the failures of his presidency will permanently obscure the affable man who did what he thought was in the best interests of the people he led.
Bush was enormously impressed with Obama. During the primary season, he understood the power of the man who would eventually succeed him. Since that November day when the nation signed the lease of the White House over to the Democratic candidate, Bush has been a gentleman. True to his patrician roots. And respectful of the office of the president and the man who now occupies it. That's the image of Bush I'll try to remember tomorrow as Obama starts to unravel the mess of problems he inherited today.
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