During the recent celebration of President George H.W. Bush’s life, there were repeated references to Bush’s decency, gentleness and all-around good nature, so different from the chaotic atmosphere around President Donald Trump.

Back in August 1974, when the Watergate scandal climaxed with the resignation of embattled President Richard M. Nixon, a young Maine reporter was treated to the easy-going and friendly side of Bush’s character.

I was a reporter for the Portland Press Herald working out of the Biddeford Bureau. My beat included the towns of Kennebunk, Kennebunkport and Old Orchard Beach. After Bush was passed over as President Gerald Ford’s vice presidential nominee, it fell to me to secure an exclusive, two-hour interview with Bush, who was national chairman of the Republican Party during Watergate, at his seaside home near Walker’s Point.

When Nixon left the White House permanently, Ford, vice president at the time, was automatically elevated to president and he had to choose a vice president.

For several weeks, Ford considered two leading candidates. One was former New York Gov. Nelson Rockefeller and the other was George H.W. Bush, who already had served two terms as a Texas congressman and been U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and director of the CIA.

Ford chose Rockefeller over Bush.

Acting on a hunch that Bush might be somewhat bitter and disappointed in a newsworthy way, I called his home on a Thursday night about 7 p.m. Amazingly, Bush answered his own telephone and said, “Sure” to my request for an interview. “I always like to give something to the local papers,” Bush said. He said he still needed a couple of days to bounce back from the snub by Ford and asked me to show up at his home in Kennebunkport about 2 p.m. on the following Monday.

I found Bush to be cordial, candid and easy to talk to. We sat in a big, pillowed window seat, overlooking the ocean and the Walker’s Point compound that was built by Bush’s grandfather, G.H. Walker, an investment banker. Bush later acquired the property and it became his getaway home for the eight years he was vice president under Ronald Reagan and his subsequent four years as president.

Bush didn’t carry any grudges about being passed over in favor of Rockefeller.

“Having got this close and then to miss out, there was a certain disappointment,” Bush told me. “I’m a competitor and I don’t like to miss out. But having been considered overrode the disappointment.

“I have respect for Nelson Rockefeller and I have known him for many years,” Bush said. “I think the president picked an excellent man and I have no hard feelings at all.”

Bush’s low-key, mild-mannered reaction to his rejection by Ford apparently was typical of his approach to any matter, from playing with his granddaughters to organizing the massive international coalition that defeated Saddam Hussein in Iraq.

In his interview with me, Bush endorsed Ford as the Republican nominee for president in the 1976 election.

Bush even had his wife Barbara cook some delicious cheeseburgers that she served to us on a platter in the middle of the circular bay window. I had two of the burgers as the future president answered all of my questions fairly and completely. He gave me his complete attention.

On Watergate, he said, “There was a cloud over both parties, particularly the GOP.” He accurately speculated that “a new standard” for adversarial journalism and public scrutiny of government would emerge from Watergate.

“The press performed an important function in Watergate,” he said. “I don’t believe there will be the depth of conflict (between reporters and the Ford administration) that we had under the last administration.” He said President Ford was “determined to have openness in government.”

At Kennebunkport, Bush said he enjoyed racing around in his two high-powered “cigarette” speedboats and the whole family enjoyed swimming and fishing. Barbara spent whole summers in Maine with the Bush children while George got away to Maine as often as he could.

“I jealously guard my time in Maine,” Bush said. “We’ll always be here. It’s been a very special part of our lives.”

Bush said there was “a great compatibility between Maine and Texas,” his two home states, because the people of both states are honest, hardworking and down to earth.

Before I left, Bush asked me to take a photo of what family was then at Kennebunkport. He and Barbara sat on a porch railing overlooking the sea, with son and future Florida governor Jeb Bush and his wife, Columba, and the Bush’s 15-year-old daughter, Dorothy, or “Doro” as she was known in the family. The family’s cocker spaniel, C. Fred Bush, also got into the picture.

Completing his show of trust in me, Bush asked me to drive Doro down to the local tennis club after our interview.

John Hale was a reporter for the Somerset Reporter in Skowhegan, the Portland Press Herald, the Kennebec Journal, the Bangor Daily News and Capital Weekly. He is now retired.

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