Barbara H. Franklin is mourning the loss of a close friend, but George Bush was not only her friend. He was President of the United States and Franklin’s boss when she served as U.S. Secretary of Commerce.
“I feel a sense of personal loss as well as the loss of a great president and a good man,” said Franklin, who first met Bush in the early 1970’s when he was U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations and she served in the Nixon administration.
She felt an instant connection to George and Barbara Bush.
“I was very struck by his quality of character and his attributes. He also was fun and funny and high energy and I was just very admiring of him. Then I met Barbara Bush and I thought she was perfectly wonderful too. We became friends,” said Franklin.
“I feel very privileged and honored to have known both of them for as long as I have,” said Franklin.
And what kind of boss was Bush?
“He could be tough-minded but he was forever gracious and the combination of being tough-minded and courageous when he needed to be, as well as gracious all the time, was a wonderful example for anyone,” said Franklin.
She remembers a phone conversation with President Bush late in 1992. Bush had just lost the election but wanted Franklin to thaw ties with China, since high-level government contact had been severed since the brutal Chinese crackdown in pro-democracy protesters in Tiananmen Square in 1989.
“I must say that went through my mind at the time was, ‘Well, why China, why me, and why now?’ I didn’t verbalize that to him, though, and then he explained that he wanted this relationship restored on a better footing before he left office so that the new administration could continue to engage in a good, bilateral way,” said Franklin.
Bush lost the election in part because of his failure to keep his “no new taxes” pledge and because the economy hit a recession in 1991. Franklin points out that the GDP was back to a robust growth of three to four percent in late 1992, but many Americans could not feel the improvement yet and it cost Bush at the polls.
Listen to the full podcast to hear Franklin’s explanation of Bush’s top economic priorities, why he raised taxes after promising not to, why he was so successful in managing the end of the Cold War, and what she savored most from her friendship with the Bushes in the 25 years since the end of his administration