Opinion: Aboard that return flight to Texas with George W. Bush

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This is a wee bit late, but worth the wait.

Everybody saw the new President Obama and his wife Michelle graciously see suddenly ex-President Bush and his wife Laura back off to Texas immediately after Tuesday’s inauguration ceremonies. Obama and Bush even spontaneously hugged, which will no doubt annoy some Obama folks but makes many more Americans feel pretty good about the machine-gun-free change of parties and power that most of us take for granted.

But not the world.

Then, in effect, the Bushes disappeared. Out to Andrews Air Force Base by a helicopter that took one final goodbye tour over the crammed National Mall, to a private farewell with many staff and friends in a hangar, in contrast to what seemed like a victory rally for the departing Clintons in 2001. (See some amateur pointless videos of the Bush gathering here that somehow managed to capture the Bushes in a single frame).


There was a brief broadcast by Fox News only of Bush’s returning remarks to longtime supporters in Midland that went on so long even Fox switched away at some point. (See a brief professional video version on the jump; scroll down or click on the ‘Read more’ line below).

But the Daily Beast got Mark McKinnon, the native Democrat, eternally genial longtime Texas political strategist and media man, to write a lengthy, fascinating article about the long flight back to Texas on what is Air Force One when Obama is on it, but otherwise is that giant blue 747 that says United States of America on the side.

We won’t spoil McKinnon’s generous account other than to say it captures a spirit of both welcome relief and sentimental retirement after a long struggle together, a spirit that not many of us saw in the post-inaugural media coverage.

You can read it here with pictures of people many have come to know and admire and hate over the last 80% of a decade. McKinnon was the media architect for the late Texas Democratic Gov. Ann Richards and for George Bush in Texas and without through the 1999-2000 primary and general election campaigns.

He worked for John McCain in the primaries but reduced himself to casual adviser in the general election. Too bad for McCain.

-- Andrew Malcolm

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Top photo: The Bushes departing Andrews Air Force Base for Texas after Obama’s inauguration. Credit: Mark McKinnon /

Inset: Mark McKinnon, who wrote the article. Credit: