First, I won’t apologize for getting a little misty-eyed when George W. choked up at the conclusion of his speech. Especially the wink at the very end that, to me, said, “Hell, yes, I’m gettin’ a little teary up in here. It’s my party.” I’m writing this post from City Tavern, where I just ran into a lunching Jonathan Neerman, who told me, “The Bushes are criers, man.” Fact. Print it.
They also like to wear flashy socks, as evidenced by George H.W.’s sartorial splendor today. When it came time for him to speak, H.W. did not leave his wheelchair and said about 50 words, the thrust of which was: “Thanks for coming, folks.” Then, urged on by an appreciative, applauding crowd and aided by wife Barbara and son W., he stood, briefly, unsteadily, to yet louder applause. I might have teared up then, too. Still not apologizing. He won’t be with us much longer.
But clearly Clinton won the battle of the X-Presidents. I mean, getting up there and firing off Comedy Central-ready jokes about how he was going to ask W. to paint his portrait until he saw W.’s work in the bathtub and then learned that Bush family emails are susceptible to hacking? Bubba killed it.
That’s probably what I’ll remember most about today’s ceremony. Really, only four presidents spoke. But, shoot, call it all five. And still no bullshit. No politics, no pulling for party, no twisting data and ginning up fear to swing votes and raise dollars. Just five guys with a bond that no one else can fully understand, each of them hugging the other, trying to tell an audience in five minutes why the other fellow is a good American. Why can’t presidents behave like this when they’re in office and running for it? There are many reasons. The five in Dallas today know them all.
My other memories will be more fleeting. Like when W. looked at his dad and said, “Forty-one, it’s awesome that you are here today,” which leads me to believe that the Bushes are not only criers but actually do refer to each other at family gatherings by their presidential number, a fun little thing that surely Jeb, who was there, wants to get in on. Sharpshooters on the roof, peering over our heads through cartoonishly large binoculars. Guests using programs to shade their faces from the sun on a glorious April day that, in Dallas, could have brought either deluge or underwear-soaking heat (not to raise the divisive issue of global warming, no not on this day). Hearing W. speak and having to remind myself that it was not Will Ferrell at the podium. A shaky-voiced Condi Rice, clearly overwhelmed by the moment, letting those in attendance know that “Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson” was present. Wondering whether Dan Branch was a little pissed that his presence was not similarly acknowledged (even Tom Leppert got a mention, for God’s sake).
And then, of course, standing at the elbow of the indefatigable Jeanne Prejean, our Scene columnist, getting a lesson in Dallas society as she photographed the “W”-branded dandies upon their arrival; the lady knows everyone. (ICYMI, I nabbed Troy Aikman and date Capa Mooty, chicken peddler Bo Pilgrim, Geico pitchman and big-time shot-blocker Dikembe Mutombo, funnyman Ted Cruz (even Ray Washburne and Neerman would agree), and this amazing guy.)
Finally, there’s this: everyone got home safe. Every guy and gal with a badge or gun or badass yellow-lettered windbreaker did a great job today. I don’t want to overreach here, but after recent events, it would be tempting to say, “Too soon. Too many presidents. Let’s play it safe.” And there I’ll conclude, because I’m in a bar, and now I’m crying again.