Bill McNutt: the George H. W. Bush I knew

By Bill McNutt

December 4, 2018

All of us are molded by the people we work for, especially when we are young in our careers.  I was blessed to work for George Herbert Walker Bush on three occasions; in the Reagan-Bush White House, on the National Campaign Staff during the 1988 Presidential battle with Michael Dukakis and Texan Loyd Bentsen, and during the Presidential Transition in 1988-89.  A left handed man, who was right politically, was our fellow Texan and a great public servant.

The thing I liked best about working with our 41st President and Barbara Bush was the same thing I liked best about working for our 40th President, Ronald Reagan and his wife Nancy.  Namely, that all four were the same kind of genuinely nice people to lowly young staffers like me as they were to the public.  I witnessed no “two faced” behavior, especially with Barbara Bush.  It was “what you saw was what you got.”

My friends in the White House fell the same.  Being from Corsicana and a baking family, I got to know the White House Pastry Chef Roland Mesiner.  His creations during his twenty-five years as Executive Pastry Chef at the White House earned him the reputation of a creative genius.  He once told me:  “Barbara Bush made me a better baker.  Like Nancy Reagan, she was stern at times, but always fair.”  He pointed out  that President Bush was a true gourmet, sometimes ordering things like bone marrow.  But, he also loved his pork rinds and Tex Mex.

My father, L. William McNutt Jr. had a party for the former President at his Corsicana home near Bowie Elementary School.  The fancy Tex Mex restaurant from Dallas, Mi Cocina catered the event.  I happened to be sitting with Dad and President 41 at a backyard table when the two of them sat down side by side to eat.  Like magic, two different looking Tex Mex plates of food appeared in front of the two men.  Oh my gosh, my Dad had pulled a “switch-a-roo” on the Dallas Cater!  They both dug into a plate of tamales and enchiladas from the Old Mexican Inn Restaurant in Corsicana!

President Bush had a great sense of humor.  During the Presidential Transition, I helped arrange an event for him with a few Labor Leaders who had supported him during the Presidential election,  They were mostly from police and fire fighters unions.  As we got into the elevator in the Old Executive Office building to go up to the Indian Treaty Room for the event, he asked “how long do I have to be in this room?”  After a long pause, my boss, the Director of White House Communications, said in a low voice, “about 40 minutes, Sir”.  He spun around and shouted: “Dammit, I only had to be with Mikhail Gorbachev for 20!”

President Bush was on the world stage a long time.  President Richard Nixon’s Memoirs mention him six different times.  The Yale graduate was the only man in American history to go to work for 12 years in a row in the West Wing of the White House, 8 as Vice President and 4 as Commander in Chief.

With the exception of Richard Nixon, George H. W. Bush was probably the best prepared person we ever had in the Oval Office.  Both Bush and Nixon had been Vice President for 8 years under very successful Presidents, Eisenhower and Reagan.  But Nixon had served in both the House of Representatives and the United States Senate from California.

Most of us who worked for him were most proud of his determination and success in ejecting Iraq and Saddam Hussein from Kuwait.  It was the first big American military conflict since the Vietnam war and the first since the fall of the Soviet Union.  If this first regional aggression went unchecked, the world would have seen many more such incursions in the 1990’s.  (Like Russia taking Crimea 24 years later during the Obama Presidency.)

He knew when to push and when to hold back.  He knew when to prod and when to console.  George Herbert Walker Bush, at his core, was like Eisenhower, Kennedy, Ford, and Reagan, a product of the American Military in the Second World War.

In September 1944, his Navy plane was hit by Japanese fore during the last moments of an attack.  He maintained control, he finished his mission, he took out the target.  This was my boss, the same man who used these lessons and engineered a soft landing for the Cold War.

Bill McNutt, a 1973 Graduate of Corsicana High School, worked for George H. W. Bush from 1988 till 1991 in different capacities.  Today, McNutt and his wife Susana reside in Dallas.  His two sons, Thomas and Will McNutt and their families, live in Corsicana.

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