On the occasion of his 88th birthday, former President George H. W.. Bush was old enough to contemplate his own mortality — but young at heart enough to discuss Justin Bieber and plan a skydiving trip when he turns 90.
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Bush sat down with his granddaughter, TODAY’s Jenna Bush Hager, to discuss everything from getting old to “The Bieber” to having an aircraft carrier named after him. The interview came less than two weeks after the 41st president’s return to the White House, where he watched as the presidential portrait of his son (and Jenna’s father), former President George W. Bush, was unveiled.
“It was exciting,’’ Bush said of the ceremony. “Any time you go there, there's a certain sense of awe and wonder about the experience, and a lot of memories come flooding back. It was hard to describe it and the total majesty.”
George W. Bush’s portrait now sits next to his father’s own presidential portrait. “Isn't that sweet?’’ Bush told his granddaughter. “It’s very nice, and we’re pleased. Two presidents in one family, that's pretty good. We're both lucky to have served. He had two terms as president and did a great job. I'm proud to be next to your dad there, very proud.’’
While the younger Bush was a two-term president, the elder Bush was defeated in his 1992 reelection bid by Bill Clinton.
“Terrible feeling, awful feeling,’’ he said about losing. “I really wanted to win and worked hard. Later on, people said, ‘Well, he didn't really care,’ which is crazy. I worked my heart out.”Video: George H. W. Bush: ‘I worked my heart out’ (on this page)
The Bush family celebrated their patriarch’s 88th birthday at their compound in Kennebunkport, Maine. The festivities included a visit to the USS George Herbert Walker Bush aircraft carrier that has come to the coast of Maine.
“For me, it’s very exciting,’’ Bush said. “Imagine a great big thing like this named after me. I mean it’s a thrill, a real thrill, to be out here.’’
Banning the ‘L’ word
Turning 88 has given the former president occasion to consider his own mortality, and the pros and cons of getting older.
“I never thought I’d get this far in chronology,’’ he said. “Aging’s all right: Better than the alternative, which is not being here.’’
However, Bush does not spend time dwelling on the past. Unlike so many presidents, he said he does not agonize over his White House legacy.
“I want somebody else to define the legacy,’’ he said. “I've kind of banned the use of the ‘L’ word. I think history will point out the things I did wrong and perhaps some of the things we did right.”
Bush also made some headlines for his colorful socks, which earned him comparisons to a certain superstar who wasn’t even born when he was president: pop singer Justin Bieber.Video: George H. W. Bush: ‘I’m a sock man!’ (on this page)
“Bieb? Is he a sock man?’’ Bush said. “I don’t know much about the Bieber. I don’t know anything about him. I never see him. I don’t know what he does.’’
Jenna then broke out with a quick, rendition of “Baby, baby, oooohhh baby…”
“I don’t think I’d like it,’’ Bush said, and laughed.
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