Dana Perino, former White House Press Secretary and co-host of Fox News' The Five, is out with a new book, entitled, 'And the Good News Is,' which Katie wrote about here. It's a delightful blend of autobiographical anecdotes, political observations, and morsels of sound advice gathered over an extraordinary career in public life. I taped a radio interview about the book with Dana last evening, and thought I'd relay one of the stories she shared about President Bush's very personal role in helping to mend an important relationship in her life:
PERINO: One of the reasons I wrote this book is that historians and political analysts will be writing and talking about and studying the Bush administration for many years to come, but they'll only be looking at public policy decisions and the political decisions. My book provides a personal look because the president became much more than my boss; he was like a second father to me. And what I write about is this one scenario where President Bush gave me back my relationship with my dad, and it meant so much to me. My dad had not come to visit [me] in Washington DC. My parents had divorced. It wasn't that we were estranged, so much as that I hadn't seen him. People are busy, and it was hard, and you sort of grow apart because I was so busy those years. We were coming to the end of the administration, and there was one big dinner left for [Italian] Prime Minister Berlusconi, and I come from an Italian-American family, so I got invited to the dinner. My husband loves anything American, any event, he will go -- he loves it. But I told him that I wanted to invite my dad. If he declined, I would understand; but to my surprise, he said yes. So my husband, Peter, arranged for him to get a flight, and then he rented my dad a tux, which was the first time my dad had ever worn a tux..."
DP: The president knew about my relationship with my dad...he knew about how I'd felt sort of abandoned after my parents divorced, even though I was 28. So one day after the invitations had gone out, I'm on Marine One waiting for the president to board so we could go to Andrews Air Force Base. He gets on the chopper and he's looking out the window, and he says, 'so, I see you invited your dad to the White House.' And I said, 'yes sir, I did.' He's still looking out the window, waving at everyone down below, and he said, 'that's a big deal.' [I responded] 'Yes sir, it is.' Just then, we were passing by the Washington monument, and I'll never forget it because he looked right up into my eyes, and he said, 'I am so proud of you.' And that meant so much to me because he knew how big of a deal this was.
So my dad comes to the White House. It's Italian-American fest, okay? You've got Giuliani, and Alito, and Scalia, and Peter Pace, and I could go on. They all know me, and they're giving me hugs, and they're so excited to see me, and I think it was kind of overwhelming for my dad. He wasn't saying much. He was just observing and smiling -- trying to play it cool. We get into the line to be announced by the military aides to see the president for a photograph, and before they could say our names, the president stops them and says, 'I know who this is! Leo Perino, we have been waiting for you for years. We are so excited that you're here. Have you met Condi Rice? Do you want to meet her?' He takes my dad off my hands, and I never saw him again 'til the end of the night. The president took him to meet the Cheneys, (he sat next to them for the dinner), and [Bush] took him around to see some of the paintings and historical artifacts.
As we were leaving, my dad and I were walking on [West Executive Drive] to get to my Jeep. And I said, 'it sure is something, isn't it?' My dad said, 'yeah, it's really cool.'
DP: It was great, and it meant so much to me because that restarted my relationship with my dad.
And the Good News Is... is available online and in bookstores everywhere; my full interview with Dana airs this weekend on my radio program in Chicago and Washington, DC.