George H. W. Bush, son talk presidential pals and babysitting before debates

Three generations of Bushs
Jenna Bush Hager talks to her father and grandfather about , "41: A Portrait of my Father."TODAY

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By Eun Kyung Kim

Just before Tuesday’s release of President George W. Bush’s biography of his father, President George H.W. Bush, his daughter Jenna Bush Hager sat down with both men to talk about family memories and how they intersected with key political events in their lives.

The three generations discussed a wide range of events covered in "41: A Portrait of my Father," including:

The unexpected relationship the elder Bush developed with his successor, Bill Clinton, the man who cost him a second term in office.

“Bill Clinton now views Dad as a father figure, which is one of great ironies. Not ironies, one of the great lessons of life,” said President George W. Bush.

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His father said he considers Clinton “a good friend,” which may surprise many in the public, "but Bubba, he's a good man."

Jenna Bush Hager and her father, President George W. BushToday

How the elder Bush prepared for a 1988 debate with Democratic challenger Michael Dukakis in the most unusual way: Looking for the beloved stuffed animal of his distraught granddaughter, Barbara.

“Gampy, rather than, you know, ‘Be quiet, little girl and go to your room,’ leads the search for Spiky, the stuffed dog,” George W. Bush recalled.

“It was pretty remarkable that you were babysitting us the night before the debate, anyway,” Jenna said.

How each president found it difficult to watch the political spotlight shine harshly on loved ones.

President George H.W. Bush said criticism was an accepted part of politics, but it didn't make it easier to hear harsh words directed at his son.

“I knew by then that it goes with the territory, but it's your own son. It's hard to take," he said. 

President George H.W. Bush shows off his lobster socks during his interview with Jenna Bush Hager.Today

The younger Bush felt the same way about his father, "but actually, it helped thicken my hide for when I became president," he said.

George W. Bush also learned a lot by watching his father handle loss.

"It was an unhappy moment. It took an extraordinary series of events to defeat him though. But, we all, of course, fed off of his graciousness in defeat.“

Jenna went to great lengths to help her grandfather campaign.

“I don't know if you remember in 1984, when you came to Midland, Texas, and Jenna came on the stage, and kept lifting up her skirt in front of the crowd,” President George W. Bush said to his dad. 

“I was just trying to get you elected. I was four,” Jenna laughed before pointing out how understanding her grandfather is. “You were tolerant, Gamps. You were a great grandfather. You are a great grandfather.”


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