The late Barbara Bush woke up the morning after Election Day 2016 and was horrified to learn Donald Trump would be president. But as a former first lady she extended a warm hand to Melania Trump – even though she had expected Hillary Clinton to win.
In a warm letter that appears in ‘The Matriarch,’ a book that goes on sale April 2, Bush wrote two weeks later that Mrs. Trump would have to balance the demands of her new role with the needs of her family.
And she said she was ‘glad’ Bill Clinton wasn’t about to fill her former shoes, USA Today reporter Susan Page writes.
‘The world thought I was writing this note to Bill Clinton. I am glad that I am not,’ Mrs. Bush wrote.
She had already drafted a funny note of congratulations to the former president.
Author Susan Page writes that Bush told her: ‘It said, “Welcome to the First Ladies Club. We can’t wait to initiate you”.’
She never mailed that one.
Her letter to Mrs. Trump came at a time when newspapers speculated about whether Melania would stay in New York until Barron, then 10 years old, finished the school year. Some reports suggested she wouldn’t move to Washington at all.
‘My children were older and there fore I did not have the problems you do. Whatever you decide to do is your business and yours alone,’ Mrs. Bush wrote.
‘If you decide to stay in NYC,’ she advised, ‘that will be fine also.’
And the former first lady offered one piece of unsolicited advice in the event she chose to continue living in Trump Tower: ‘When you come to the White House let your son bring a friend.’
Mrs. Bush also wrote to Mike and Karen Pence, telling them ‘how much fun I had as the wife of the VP,’ and saying what a ‘lovely house’ they would be living in.
She was second lady for eight years when George H.W. Bush was vice president under President Ronald Reagan.
WHAT BARBARA BUSH WROTE TO MELANIA TRUMP AFTER THE 2016 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION
‘Dear Mrs. Trump,
‘The world thought I was writing this note to Bill Clinton. I am glad that I am not. I wanted to welcome you to the First Ladies very exclusive club. My children were older and there fore I did not have the problems you do. Whatever you decide to do is your business and yours alone.
‘Living in the White House is a joy and their only job is to make you happy.
‘If you decide to stay in NYC that will be fine also. When you come to the White House let your son bring a friend. That is my unasked for advice.
‘God Bless you,
Nearly a quarter-century after she left the White House, Mrs. Bush found herself contemplating the presidency of a flamboyant billionaire real estate tycoon who had blasted her son Jeb as a ‘low-energy’ loser during the Republican primary season.
‘I woke up and discovered, to my horror, that Trump had won,’ she told Page.
Bush came to hate Donald Trump so much that she kept a ‘countdown clock’ in her bedroom, ticking off the seconds until he would leave office.
The former first lady died in April 2018 at the age of 92. Her husband, former President George H.W. Bush, passed away seven months later.
Mrs. Bush also blamed the current president for a flare-up of her congenital cardiac condition, a moment she thought was a heart attack at the time. And she was so bothered by the brand of Republicanism Trump brought to the house where she once lived for four years that she had a hard time identifying with the GOP.
Asked last year if she still considered herself a Republican, she replied: ‘I’d probably say no today.’
She couldn’t bring herself to vote for either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton in 2016. She wrote in Jeb’s name instead.
And that countdown clock was by her bedside when she died.
‘After Trump was elected, a friend in Kennebunkport gave her a Trump countdown clock as a joke,’ Page writes in ‘The Matriarch,’ which goes on sale April 2. ‘The red, white, and blue digital clock displayed how many days, hours, minutes and seconds remained in Trump’s term.’
‘She liked the countdown clock so much that when the Bushes returned to Houston that October, she brought it with her. It sat on her bedside table, where she could see it every day. It was there to the day she died. ‘
But ultimately, Mrs. Bush was hopeful that the U.S. would survive what she saw as a painfully disruptive episode that turned the presidency on its ear.
‘I’m trying not to think about it,’ she said, nearly a year after Trump took office.
‘We’re a strong country, and I think it will all work out.’
Page recalled her 2016 pronouncement after Trump ridiculed Jeb for deploying her to campaign for him during the New Hampshire Primary season.
‘Just watched Jeb’s ad where he desperately needed mommy to help him,’ Trump had tweeted. ‘Jeb—mom cannot help you with ISIS, the Chinese or with Putin.’
‘Putin endorsed him, for heaven’s sake,’ Mrs. Bush erupted. ‘Putin the killer! Putin the worst! He endorsed Trump! That’s an endorsement you don’t want.’
After her death, the thrice-married Trump took a moment during a press conference with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to quip: ‘Melania and I send our prayers to Barbara’s husband of 73 years. I’ll never beat that record.’