It was a grace note for the ages. "Dear Bill," George HW Bush scribbled Jan. 20, 1993, to the Democrat about to succeed him as president, the AP reports. "When I walked into this office just now I felt the same sense of wonder and respect that I felt four years ago. I know you will feel that, too." Short yet intimate, the note left in the Oval Office from vanquished to victor seeded a friendship that flowered in the decades since, to a point where Bill Clinton said upon Bush's death Friday: "I just loved him." It is traditional for an outgoing president to leave a letter for his successor—but Bush, who months before writing his letter had warned voters to "watch your wallet" with that Democrat Clinton, was self-effacing and personal in his handoff.
"I wish you great happiness here," Bush wrote. "I never felt the loneliness some Presidents have described. There will be very tough times, made even more difficult by criticism you may not think is fair. I'm not a very good one to give advice; but just don't let the critics discourage you or push you off course. You will be our President when you read this note," he continued (underlining "our"). "I wish you well. I wish your family well. Your success now is our country's success. I am rooting hard for you. Good Luck — George." Writing in the Washington Post on Saturday, Bill Clinton said those words showed a man with "natural humanity." Says Clinton: "His friendship has been one of the great gifts of my life. I cherished every opportunity I had to learn and laugh with him." (Bush served just one term, but the world changed.)