Politics

08.29.12

Mark McKinnon: Backstage at the Bush Movie

As the Republican National Committee pays tribute to 41 and 43, former George W. Bush aide Mark McKinnon reflects on the men he knows—and the film he made in their honor.

The greatest privilege I've had working with President George W. Bush is spending time with him, Laura, and his parents at the family home in Kennebunkport.

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Of course, the compound at Kennebunkport against the rocks and the sea is breathtaking. But it's the people who populate the place who make it special.

Individually, they are distinct and very different. Forty-one is gentle and sweet. Forty-three is jocular and funny. Barbara is candid and feisty. And Laura is composed and perceptive.

But together, and with many other members of the vast family coming in and out, they are a seamless and harmonious orchestra of familial love the likes of which I have never seen.

I remember a dinner there years ago. Barbara was chastising George W. for eating so quickly (he does everything fast). So as he stuck around the table, W. and his dad started interacting in a way that was strikingly compassionate and loving between a father and son. It was overt. They weren't shy about expressing their love for each other. It was touching in a way that made me sad that I didn't share that kind of love with my own father. And as soon as dinner was over and I was excused, I called my own pop. I told him how much I loved him and wished that we spent more time together.

So, I was happy to have a chance to put together a film for the GOP convention. All I really wanted to do was to capture some of that feeling from around the dinner table. It wasn't meant to make any profound statements or to be a biography of their presidencies. Just some poignant and funny moments shared between them about their time in the public spotlight.

Forty-one is gentle and sweet. Forty-three is jocular and funny. Barbara is candid and feisty.And Laura is composed and perceptive.

History will decide the legacies of both father and son. And it's clear they don't spend much time thinking about such things. They spend a lot more time thinking about each other and the people close to them. That's a legacy for which they will be fondly remembered by almost all. As they deserve to be.