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Michael Patrick Shiels
Michael Patrick Shiels

MPS’ Book Excerpt: President Bush Asks, “Is it Appropriate to Show Tears?”

September 15, 2017

Does America’s 45th Commander in Chief conduct himself in a “presidential manner?”  Having posed that question many times during the first eight months of Donald Trump’s administration, media pundits also criticized him for not showing enough emotion when he initially visited Texas in the wake of Hurricane Harvey.

The 41st President, George H.W. Bush, wondered privately about a “leader of the free world” showing emotion – as revealed in my new book about him.

I Call Him ‘Mr. President’ – Stories of Golf, Fishing and Life with my Friend George HW Bush,” by Ken Raynor with Michael Patrick Shiels, was released on September 4.  With a foreword by former first lady Barbara Bush, the book features inside accounts and anecdotes from Raynor revealing what it’s like to be friends with a U.S. president – in this case, fun-loving Bush.  Raynor, a PGA professional at Cape Arundel Golf Club—near the Bush family compound in Kennebunkport, Maine for nearly 40 years—became the president’s trusted golf and fishing buddy.

In “I Call Him ‘Mr. President,’” Raynor recounts an evening in which he was visiting the former president and first lady during the winter at their home in Houston.  The three of them had settled in for a cocktail in front of the fire before dinner and Bush recounted his day.  “The Make a Wish Foundation invited me to the hospital today to meet a 10-year-old boy,” he explained.  “He is terminally ill…and his wish was to meet…a President.  He has cancer, and the little guy was in his hospital bed with tubes and wires.  His entire extended family was there in that hospital room and I met each of them during the half-hour I was there.”   Raynor remembers that he and Mrs. Bush nodded silently and listened.

“That little boy is truly the courageous one.  I tried to be as positive and ‘Presidential’ as I could,” he explained.  “After I said goodbye to everyone I was walking to the door when I thought I heard the boy say something to me.  So I stopped and went back to his bedside and bent down to try to hear him…and he just gave me a big, long hug.”  A long minute passed before Bush could continue recounting his story.  “I barely got out of that room without letting the tears flow.”

Raynor imagined the combination of honor and responsibility former President Bush must have felt to bring some measure of happiness to the boy and everyone in the hospital room, while at the same time understanding the pain of the situation.

Then Bush continued.  “I’d like to ask you two a question.  How do you feel about a former President showing emotion? Would it be appropriate to show tears?”

Barbara put her hand on his.  “George, emotion shows compassion,” Mrs. Bush assured him.  “Emotion is real, and your heart is large.  People have always been genuinely important to you and I think it’s a wonderful thing.  Whether you were a President or a father or a brother or a sister, you were part of a very moving moment.”  His eyes glistened as the president nodded his head.

Interestingly, Bush—now 93—seems less emotional about his own ailments and eventual passing, according to Raynor.  “President Bush, somewhere on a river or a golf course, broached the subject once with me,” Raynor writes.  “He told me he is not afraid of death in any way shape or form.”  Raynor even writes about a little-known incident during which former President Bush nearly lost his life on one of their wilderness fishing expeditions in Newfoundland. 

I Call Him Mr. President” also includes personally intimate anecdotes and memories from well-known leaders and celebrities who have visited Bush in Kennebunkport, including HRH Prince Andrew; former U.S. Vice-President Dan Quayle; Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jon Meacham; Jack Nicklaus, and Bass Pro Shops founder Johnny Morris. 

CBS Sportscaster Jim Nantz recounts time he spent with both former Presidents Bush and Clinton together.  “President Bush called my cell phone while I was working the NCAA Final Four and asked me for what he described as a ‘favor:’ He wanted to know when I might be available to spend a weekend with him and former President Clinton,” Nantz recalls in the book.  “President Bush insisted, ‘We’re just a couple of old, retired Presidents.  Your schedule is much busier than ours.  We need to work this around you’ (which I thought was truly comical.)  The ‘favor’ President Bush asked me for was an opportunity for me, at dates of my choosing, to spend a couple of days with two former Presidents playing golf, taking boat rides and eating lobster in beautiful seaside Kennebunkport, Maine.”

In the pages of  I Call Him Mr. President,” readers will experience, vicariously, what it’s like to pitch horseshoes at Walker’s Point in Kennebunkport, climb aboard President Bush’s speedboat, take a dip in the White House swimming pool and play Wallyball with the Secret Service agents at Camp David–after arriving via the Marine One helicopter, of course.  Throughout our book Raynor beautifully reveals how President Bush automatically tries to make people he encounters feel special–and provides examples of the President’s playful wit. 

I witnessed this in action on a number of times I saw President Bush, mainly at small afternoon gatherings in Kennebunkport.  I’d found a small, vintage “Bush for President” campaign button from his 1988 Presidential run, so for fun I wore the button on my lapel.  President Bush entered the living room on his motorized wheelchair.  I greeted him, and without missing a beat, the 93-year old former President noticed the little campaign button and exclaimed, “You’re the best dressed man here!”

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Michael Patrick Shiels will be giving talks and signing copies of “I Call Him Mr. President” at Schuler Books and Music in Grand Rapids on 28th Street on Monday, September 18 at 7 p.m., then at McLean and Eakin Booksellers in Petoskey on Lake Street on Saturday, September 23 from 3-5- p.m.  Copies are available wherever books are sold nationwide or at Amazon.com

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Michael Patrick Shiels hosts a capital-based, award-winning, syndicated morning radio program broadcast across Michigan. For a list of affiliate stations or podcasts see MiBigShow.com. He may be contacted at MShiels@aol.com

September 14, 2017 · Filed under Shiels

1 response so far ↓

  • 1 Anagnorisis // Sep 20, 2017 at 10:13 am

    In respect for DOME I perused this article. A Readers Digest type euphemistic memoir at best, my takeaway is “out of touch”. Bush I was lucky enough to have been officeholder as the USSR disintegrated, otherwise kept a cool head and caused no ripples which is to his credit. As we know the best leaders are those who do nothing, otherwise they’re as reviled as revered. The CIA, not mentioned of course, grandfather Prescott, Joe Kennedy Sr et al neither, all considered, probably best to have gone fishing and golfing with that legacy to deal with. Moreover, with what followed, this former president looks benign and even grandfatherly.


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