As Walt Harrington mentions in his piece, Dubya and Me:
As he talked, I even thought about an old Saturday Night Live skit in which an amiable, bumbling President Ronald Reagan, played by Phil Hartman, goes behind closed doors to suddenly become a masterful operator in total charge at the White House. The transformation in Bush was that stunning to me.As I've written more than once that Dubya's like that good ol' boy who will invite you into his home for a couple of cold ones and some poker, and you'll leave some time later a little drunk and lot lighter in the wallet.
As time has gone by and Obama has been put his stamp on the presidency, George W. Bush's image has been rehabilitated. Those highway billboards picturing a smiling and waving Bush and the tag line “Miss me yet?” may have been a bit of satire, but somehow I think more than a few people, including some Democrats, do indeed miss him.
Though Harrison had known Bush for a number of years, he didn't really understand him until he had the opportunity to have dinner with him at the White House one evening, an informal meal with just Bush, Harrison, and Mark McKinnon, Bush's campaign media adviser. As Harrison described it:
I left the White House in a daze. I even got lost in the pitch-black darkness and had to drive around the small parking lot for a few minutes to find my way to the gate. I called my wife, and she asked how the evening had gone. I couldn’t answer.It wouldn't surprise me in the least to find others have found themselves feeling exactly the same thing after spending time with Bush, even now, despite the fact that he's been out of office for over two-and-a-half years.
“I’ve never known you to be speechless,” she said, genuinely surprised.
I finally said, “It was like sitting and listening to Michael Jordan talk basketball or Pavarotti talk opera, listening to someone at the top of his game share his secrets.”
One of the things that surprised Harrison: Bush is a voracious reader. Most of what he read was historical non-fiction. As Harrison tells us, his understanding of history, particularly those parts made by his predecessors, helped him understand the broader context of what he had to deal with as President. It's a shame the present occupant of the White House lacks even a modicum of that understanding.
Is it any wonder George W. Bush is looking better every day as we look back upon his presidency?