The White House: In a Sentimental Mood

Newly aware of his mortality, Bush displays a more emotional and introspective side

George Bush's first brush with death left barely a scratch on him. As a young pilot in 1944, he bailed out of a burning plane and spent several hours bobbing aimlessly in the Pacific before being picked up by a submarine. If, as Bush later claimed, he took time "to talk to God" after his rescue, crew members of the U.S.S. Finback didn't notice: what they most remember about the young man they nicknamed "Elephant" was his thunderous imitation of a pachyderm on a mad stampede.

Scoffing at mortality is normal at 20, but impossible at 66. Bush again came face...

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