George W. Bush, who has taken part in countless events, public and private, for veterans, has also not tried to insulate himself from the suffering that resulted from the war. In her new book, former White House press secretary Dana Perino describes a 2005 visit to Walter Reed Hospital in which Bush met with grievously wounded servicemen and their families. Most expressed support for the war. But not all. “There were exceptions,” Perino writes:
One mom and dad of a dying soldier from the Caribbean were devastated, the mom beside herself with grief. She yelled at the president, wanting to know why it was her child and not his who lay in that hospital bed.
Her husband tried to calm her and I noticed the president wasn’t in a hurry to leave — he tried offering comfort but then just stood and took it, like he expected and needed to hear the anguish, to try to soak up some of her suffering if he could.
Later as we rode back on Marine One to the White House, no one spoke.
But as the helicopter took off, the president looked at me and said, “That mama sure was mad at me.” Then he turned to look out the window of the helicopter. “And I don’t blame her a bit.”
One tear slipped out the side of his eye and down his face. He didn’t wipe it away, and we flew back to the White House.
The war has had a hard legacy. Jeb Bush didn’t start it. But voters, especially the great majority who disapproved of the job George W. Bush was doing in his final White House years, legitimately want to know how a President Jeb Bush will be a different president from his brother. That includes answering the Iraq question — over and over.