Former aide recalls years with President George H.W. Bush

CHICAGO — A former aide to President George H.W. Bush described the leader Saturday as a gentle soul with steely resolve.

Michael Busch, 51, worked for the president in the 1990s. Now, nearly 30 years later, Chicagoland-based Busch describes the man as his personal hero.

Bush died Friday at age 94, eight months after the death of his wife.

At his home Saturday, Busch dusted off pictures from his time in the White House.

“He was exactly the same guy in front of Gorbachev that he was to an 18-year-old who picked up his bags on Marine One,” Busch said.

Busch traveled to Camp David with the president on weekends. The young aide traveled the world with Bush from 1990 to January 1993. Busch describes Bush as a man of decency who treated everyone with respect — even when the cameras weren’t rolling.

“He would invite us to Kennebunkport [a town in Maine],” Busch said. “We’d go every year with an advisory board that I serve on. He’s just so hospitable and welcoming. Everybody loved George Bush. Even his political enemies.”

In 1992, that political enemy was Bill Clinton, who would go on to become the 42nd president of the United States of America. The two men later forged an unexpected friendship.

When Bush lost to Clinton in 1992, Bush greeted public defeat by showing humility and dignity. He accepted the choice the American people made that year. He left the White House and focused on family.

“This man had a resolve like I’ve never seen,” Busch said. “Especially for someone who got shot down at war, buries a daughter, climbs the highest political mountain — you have to be tough just by definition. Just because he didn’t thump his chest all the time, doesn’t mean there is some sort of weakness.”

Busch valued his years with the president.

“My vantage point as a young man, watching from behind the scenes, is unique,” Busch said. "I’ll treasure it for the rest of my life. It was the honor of a lifetime, and he never let me down.”