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On Tuesday of the week that this issue arrives on the newsstand, President George W. Bush will rise from his bed on the second floor of the White House for the last time. According to custom, he will receive President-elect Barack Obama for coffee sometime later that morning. The two men will proceed up to Capitol Hill, where at precisely 12 noon, Obama will be sworn into office. When the ceremony concludes, Bush will continue to Andrews Air Force Base and board the plane formerly known as Air Force One (postpresidentially, it will fly under the name Special Air Mission). As Washington, D.C., erupts in the biggest inaugural celebration in the country’s history, Bush will make his exit, flying first to Midland before carrying on to Waco. By late evening he’ll have reached his ranch in Crawford. He will no longer be the leader of the free world and the commander in chief of the most powerful military known to man. He will be a 62-year-old Texan with a lot of time on his hands.
Forty years ago, at the end of the day that Lyndon and Lady Bird Johnson made the same journey from the White House back to a Texas ranch, Lady Bird recorded in her diary that “a little past 9 I went to bed, with a line of poetry reeling through my mind. I think it’s from India’s Love Lyrics. ‘I seek, to celebrate my glad release, the Tents of Silence and the Camp of Peace.’ ”
In the weeks and months ahead, George Bush will undoubtedly enjoy some glad release of his own (John Adams, upon taking over for George Washington, in 1797, imagined that he heard the first president say, “Ay! I am fairly out and you are fairly in! See which of us will be the happiest!”). He will also need to quickly reacquaint himself with Texas, of which he has not been a full-time resident for eight years. For this purpose I humbly suggest that he spend some quality time in his Tent of Silence and his Camp of Peace with the February issue of Texas Monthly.
He might like to begin with Paul Burka’s shrewd analysis of the looming contest between his successor in the Governor’s Mansion, Rick Perry, and Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (“The Thrilla in Vanilla”). After all, the 2010 Republican gubernatorial primary is no less than a battle for the soul of the party that Bush has led for the past eight years. And, as Paul says, “this promises to be the biggest ballot box brawl since George W. Bush wrested the governorship from Ann Richards, in 1994.”
Or he might consider the unsettling revelations about Southern Methodist University in Nate Blakeslee’s piece, “An Isolated Incident”. Nate is one of the best investigative journalists in the country. In 2007 his tenacious reporting on the sexual abuse scandal at the West Texas State School, in Pyote, led to a massive overhaul of the Texas youth prison system. In this case he takes up the story of an SMU sophomore who overdosed and died in 2006, the irresponsible handling of the investigation, and the school’s very real drug problem. All this should be of special interest to the president, since one of the first orders of business of his postpresidency will be to build his library and think tank, the Freedom Institute, on the SMU campus.
For some lighter fare, Bush might flip through Patricia Sharpe’s list of the best new restaurants to open in Texas last year (“Where to Eat Now 2009”). As usual, Pat has put her gullet on the line for this story, unflaggingly eating her way through every new menu she could find. Four of her top ten picks are in Dallas, just minutes away from the Bushes’ new house, on Daria Place, in Preston Hollow. Evan Smith’s interview with Dean Fearing, whose Dallas eatery topped Pat’s list last year, might also catch Bush’s interest, in particular Fearing’s discussion of chicken-fried lobster, a dish that nicely marries Bush’s Texan and northeastern roots.
The president and his wife have long been both readers and subjects of the magazine. When Bush was governor, an issue of Texas Monthly was delivered to his office every month (this courtesy has been bestowed on other governors as well); during his presidency we mailed one to the White House. That gravy train would have ended with this issue, but in the spirit of hospitality and bonhomie, I would like to extend the offer of a free subscription, mailed to the new address, in Preston Hollow. While it’s true that these complimentary copies have often included precious few compliments for the president, I hope he’ll consider this a housewarming gift.
A special issue on Texas style, featuring a list of our thirty greatest style icons, a profile of the craziest Dallas party planner ever, a glimpse inside the quinceañera industry, an architectural tour of our best buildings, and a bit of fashion advice from Kinky Friedman.