Bush’s Letter to Clinton Cemented a Presidential Tradition, Historians Advise

Bush’s Letter to Clinton Cemented a Presidential Tradition, Historians Advise

From left, Presidents George Bush, Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter in the Oval Place of work in 2009. George Bush, who died on Friday, left a letter for his successor, Mr. Clinton, in the Oval Place of work.CreditCreditDoug Mills/The Original York Times

No doubt one of George Bush’s lesser-known legacies modified into as soon as the feature he performed in cementing a latest presidential custom: leaving a letter of enhance for the incoming commander in chief on Inauguration Day.

All the intention in which through the 2016 presidential election, an image of President Bush’s letter to the man who defeated him, Bill Clinton, modified into as soon as widely publicized, with many commenting that it modified into as soon as a refreshing reminder of the aptitude for bipartisanship at some level of a bitterly divisive advertising campaign. Mr. Bush, a Republican, left the letter for his Democratic successor on the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway desk in the Oval Place of work on Inauguration Day in 1993.

“Your success now would possibly well be our nation’s success,” he wrote. “I am rooting laborious for you.”

Mr. Bush left his message of cohesion no subject his contentious advertising campaign in opposition to Mr. Clinton that denied him a second timeframe.

Imprint K. Updegrove, a presidential historian who wrote a e book relating to the Bush family, acknowledged Mr. Bush, who died on Friday night at age ninety four, continued the customized after Ronald Reagan left him a lighthearted expose at some level of their White Condominium transition in 1989.

Reagan archaic stationery bearing the phrase, “Don’t let the turkeys decide up you down.” On the underside, a drawing depicted an elephant — the emblem of the Republican Occasion — with turkeys mountaineering on high of it.

Reagan’s letter modified into as soon as a funny gesture to welcome an archaic buddy to the White Condominium, Mr. Updegrove acknowledged, nonetheless Mr. Bush’s decision to give an olive branch to a political foe in his letter modified into as soon as profound. “It showed to me that he modified into as soon as a citizen — no longer a partisan,” Mr. Updegrove acknowledged.

Future White Condominium occupants made it a custom. Every departing president after Reagan has delivered a letter with words of data and enhance on Inauguration Day.

In Mr. Bush’s autobiographical e book, he described sitting on my own in the Oval Place of work with an empty desk on the day he modified into as soon as scheduled to vacate it.

“I’m going away a expose on the desk for Bill Clinton,” he wrote. “It looks a microscopic bit lonely sitting there. I don’t desire it to be overly dramatic, nonetheless I did desire him to know that I would possibly well be rooting for him.”

A expose written by the elder Mr. Bush to Mr. Clinton that modified into as soon as delivered at some level of their White Condominium transition.CreditGeorge H.W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum, by job of Associated Press

In a column printed on Saturday in The Washington Submit, Mr. Clinton wrote that Mr. Bush’s 1993 letter revealed him to be an “obedient, obedient and first charge man who believed in the usa, our Constitution, our institutions and our shared future.”

In turn, Mr. Clinton left a letter on Inauguration Day in 2001 for George W. Bush, writing, “This present day you embark on the ideal project, with the ideal honor, that can come to an American citizen.”


A letter from Mr. Clinton to the younger Mr. Bush.Creditby job of George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum

Then, on Jan. 20, 2009, the day Barack Obama modified into as soon as sworn in, George W. Bush left him a expose.

“There’ll be making an attempt moments. The critics will rage,” his letter be taught. “But, you’d have an Almighty God to consolation you, a family who loves you, and a nation that is pulling for you, in conjunction with me.”


A letter from the younger Mr. Bush to Mr. Obama.Creditby job of George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum

Barbara A. Perry, the director of presidential research on the College of Virginia’s Miller Heart, acknowledged it is miles honorable that this presidential customized has ideal been consistent at some level of the closing three a protracted time. For one, the Oval Place of work, which presents a symbolic repository for the transition letter, did no longer exist until the beginning of the Twentieth century.

“The letter is fraction of an even bigger location, a sacred dwelling of that location of enterprise,” she acknowledged. “That letter, when they write it, is their exit from the Oval Place of work into their submit-presidency.”

Professor Perry added that eight presidents have died moderately than enterprise, making them unable to disappear away in the support of the kind of letter. Other presidents — Richard Nixon, for instance — did no longer have a serene departure.

When Donald J. Trump modified into as soon as inaugurated in January 2017, Mr. Obama left him a letter in the desk drawer of the Oval Place of work. At the time, Mr. Trump known as it a “thoughtful” and “gorgeous” letter.

As CNN reported months later, Mr. Obama had written, in fraction, that “no subject the bustle and pull of day-to-day politics, it’s up to us to disappear away those instruments of our democracy no longer less than as sturdy as we came upon them.”

Ensuing from Mr. Trump is no longer precisely known for inserting forward presidential norms, historians will be carefully observing whether or no longer he continues the custom when he transitions out of location of enterprise.


An earlier model of this article misidentified the desk that modified into as soon as in the Oval Place of work when President Bush left a letter for the incoming president, Bill Clinton. It modified into as soon as the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway desk, no longer the Resolute.

Apply Julia Jacobs on Twitter: @juliarebeccaj.