Beyond the business plan was a set of basic rules to guide how the White House staff worked and behaved. “This is the only bureaucracy in Washington that can change to fit the personality of the president,” chief of staff Andrew H. Card, Jr. told a reporter. “This president is the first ever to have an MBA.” Bush was determined to impress his style on the White House—and to push out the influences of the Clinton team.
Close observers were astounded at the difference from the Clinton years. In putting together his first budget, Card estimated that Bush invested about five hours in meetings. In contrast, in his initial weeks, Bill Clinton spent 25 hours in formal meetings and twice that amount in casual conversations. Bush quickly worked his way through the basic options and made his strategic decisions. He preferred oral briefings, short background memos, and quick decisions. Clinton wanted to know all the details, to talk about them with a wide circle of advisers, and to explore the implications before deciding.
In fact, Bush and Clinton shared some points of style. Both are strong “people persons.” Clinton was at his best in public settings where he could reach out and touch those attending. Countless members of his audiences talked about how they connected with him, even in very large gatherings. He struck a strong and powerful note on television. Bush hasn’t shown the same magnetism in large crowds. His early television appearances were strained, though he improved with experience. But even his toughest critics point to his warm personal style in meetings. He likes people and connects easily and informally with them.
There’s no better sign of that connection than Bush’s famous habit of bestowing nicknames on friends and staffers. Virtually anyone he encounters is fair game. The president might say, “Get me Knuckles on the line,” or “Where’s the Eskimo?” or “Let Bones and Uptown handle this.” The problem is, sometimes nobody has a clue as to who he’s talking about.
Along the way, Bush has collected his own nicknames: “Georgie,” “Little George,” “Bushtail,” “Tweeds,” “Lip,” “Temporary,” “Bombastic Bushkin,” and of course, “Dubya” (the Texas version of his middle initial, W). Sources report that First Lady Laura calls him “Bushie.”