The man who wrote more speeches for President George H.W. Bush than anyone else says Barbara Bush was a “superstar,” who endeared herself to the American people through her approachable demeanor and her fierce loyalty to her family and her nation.
Mrs. Bush died Tuesday at her home in Houston at age 92. Just two days earlier, she announced she was refusing any further treatment beyond comfort care for her congestive heart failure and other ailments.
Prolific author Curt Smith was a speechwriter for President Bush. He says it was clear in the last month that the end was near.
“I was told she was looking forward in the last few weeks to going to heaven because she was in such pain. The Bushes, I think, were comforted by their deep faith in God. They don’t talk a great deal about it. They don’t have to. They live it. Anyone looking at them can understand where their faith comes from and how they live that faith,” said Smith.
In his first public statement following his wife’s death, President Bush echoed that belief.
“We have faith she is heaven, and we know life will go on — as she would have it. So cross the Bushes off your worry list,” stated Bush.
The Bush family is receiving an outpouring of condolences and well wishes from former presidents and first ladies and millions of American citizens. Smith says there’s a reason people felt a connection with Mrs. Bush.
“I alluded to her as ‘Barbara Bush Superstar,’ and certainly I think that would be verified by her ratings in the Gallup Poll. She was a spectacularly popular First Lady,” said Smith, who believes Bush’s down-to-earth personality was the key.
“She took her role as First Lady with extraordinary severity. She demanded perfection from her staff. She supplied it almost to a T as First Lady,” said Smith.
“Great poise, totally unflappable, totally imperturbable, and yet with a pixie sense of humor, never took herself seriously. I think it was this total lack of pretention that endeared her so to the American public,” said Smith.
Barbara Pierce was born on June 8, 1925. At age 19, she married Bush in January 1945. Their 73 years together is the longest presidential marriage. Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter will mark 72 years in July.
Smith says Mrs. Bush was known to needle her own family, even in public, but was ready to pounce if anyone outside the family took a critical tone.
“But boy, let anyone else say anything rough about them and you paid for it,” said Smith.
Smith described George and Barbara Bush as “married at the hip.”
“They were spectacularly close. It stuns that one is gone. She was George Bush’s best friend, best pal, great protector,” he said.
Mrs. Bush was known as “The Enforcer” in the family, showing a steely resolve that came more naturally to her than the president. Smith says Barbara was an indispensable factor in Bush winning the presidency.
“He never would have been president without her. There’s no question in my mind, nor I think in anyone that knew them. A perfect match in every possible way, which is why they were so close to the end of their time on earth,” said Smith.
Smith says Mrs. Bush and Nancy Reagan were similar in that regard, encouraging their husbands to seek the highest offices in the land. He says world history changed because of how deeply Mrs. Reagan and Mrs. Bush believed in their husbands’ abilities to change the world for the better.
“We would not have had the triumph of democracy and the collapse of Communism and the triumph of freedom throughout the world in the 1980’s and the nineties. That’s how important Nancy Reagan and Barbara Bush were,” said Smith.
While Mrs. Bush was sometimes derided as being old fashioned and out of touch with modern women, Smith says many more saw her as a role model of independence and strength.
“She was a feminist in the best sense of the term. She lived her life exactly as she wanted. She married the great love of her life and she lived with that man every step of the way, enriching that life, being a spectacular success every step of the way,” said Smith.
“She was outspoken, independent yet always dignified, always a woman of great character, of great honor, of great faith. What’s not to like? What’s not to admire?” said Smith.