For George Bush and His Eldest Son, a Relationship Unique Among American Presidents

Former President George Bush with his son, President George W. Bush in 2008. Photo by Mandel Ngan/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

WASHINGTON, DC — Theirs was a relationship of Shakespearean dimensions, father and son occupants of the Oval Office. A son who grew up struggling to live up to the example of the great man. A father who watched his eldest boy eventually take his place in the seat of power, his love unquestioned but his advice unwelcome.

They always insisted that talk of tension was overblown, that those who tried to analyze their interactions for fracture points or Oedipal motives were engaged in “psychobabble.” But one way or the other, in the last years of the father’s life, according to people close to the family, George Bush and George W. Bush were, at last, at peace with each other.

When the son gives the eulogy for the father on Wednesday at Washington National Cathedral, it will bring to a close an extraordinary relationship unlike any in the annals of the American presidency. At once caring and competitive, fraught with the weight of history and resistant to scrutiny, their bond was unbreakable despite a lifetime of stress that would carry implications not just for the family, but for the nation and the world.

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