They interacted with the President in two very different ways. One helped George Herbert Walker Bush govern the country; the other fielded his phone calls from the White House switchboard.

But both Bill Thomas, the former 14-term congressman from Bakersfield, and Tina Miller, the local businesswoman and webcast host, saw some of the same noble characteristics in the 41st President, who died Friday at 94 and will be laid to rest Thursday.

They saw humility and decency, even if those qualities played out in different ways.

Thomas, a former Bakersfield College political science professor elected to Congress in 1978, saw Bush's kinder, gentler side foster an environment of across-the-aisle trust and respect. In that way, the President created an atmosphere of cooperation that the country might find pleasantly jarring today.

"He was everything you would want in terms of personality," said Thomas, who left Congress in 2007. "He knew how to develop working relationships. He was always willing to meet someone halfway.

"I saw him work well with the chairman of Ways and Means, (Illinois Democrat) Dan Rostenkowski — an excellent working model we could use today," said Thomas, who followed Rostenkowski as Ways and Means chairman by seven years.

"If you hold out for everything you want, nothing is going to get done on either side," Thomas said. "The working relationship (between Bush and Capitol Hill) was totally different than what you see today."

Miller, a South Carolina native, was hired as one of the White House's 15 to 18 switchboard operators in early 1992, and she stayed on for several months in a different capacity under President Bill Clinton.

She found Bush disarmingly charming.

"President Bush had his own (dedicated telephone) line, but one day, when he was in New York, he called in on the general line, and I answered," she said. "I didn't recognize his voice at first. He had called to talk to his secretary, and he could tell I was hesitating. 'You all miss me down there?,' he said. 'Yes!,' I shouted, because I'd realized who he was. 'Well, I'll find out when I get there,' he said."

"He was like a real person," said Miller, who is now the co-host of "Open Up," a weekly webcast.

Miller, who moved to California a few years later, met the President face to face a few times. "He was so caring, he would invite the White House operators to functions in the West Wing," she said. "I remember being in line between (cabinet member and future vice-presidential nominee) Jack Kemp and Larry King, the talk show host."

And yes, there was actual interaction. One White House operator, Georgette Paulsin, eventually married Robert Mosbacher, who was Bush Sr.'s Secretary of Commerce. 

"President Bush welcomed us and put us all at ease," Miller said.

Thomas saw Bush in less formal settings as well: Not just State of the Union addresses but White House picnics and other casual events as well.

"Of all of the people that I met and actually got to work with during my time in Congress, (Bush) stood out," Thomas said. "The (one-time) manager of the (New York) Giants, Leo Durocher, was famous for saying, 'Nice guys finish last.' Well, this is one of those situations where the nice guy finished first."

(1) comment


41 was a good man and certainly a much better POTUS than 42 or 44. Just wish he had overcome his personal and "mistakenly-stated bias" against 45 to favor OUR America in MAGA!
"Read My Lips . . . "! ("I shoulda gone to Baghdad . . . STAYED and then raised THEIR OILTAXES, not ours")
Semper Fortis . . . !

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