Page last updated at 15:32 GMT, Saturday, 10 January 2009

I met George Bush, and I liked him

Tuesday, 20 January will mark the end of an era in US politics as President George W Bush hands over to Barack Obama after eight years in the White House.

BBC News website readers have been sharing their stories about meetings with the departing president:

JEFF HAESSLER, 45, FILM MAKER, COLORADO
Jeff Haessler with George and Laura Bush
Jeff Haessler with George and Laura Bush

I know many people don't agree with most of his policies, but I assure you, he's not the monster that so many seem to think he is.

I've met George twice - once while he was governor of Texas and one other time while filming him for a video in 2004.

I first met him in 1996 at the capitol in Austin and he was very charming, funny and friendly.

I was there filming him for a piece about Kelly Air Force Base closing, in San Antonio. If I remember rightly, he was recording a message for the employees, like a morale booster, saying thanks for their hard work.

He spoke with every member of my film crew as equals and he not only helped us re-write the script he was delivering, but asked our opinion on those changes several times before beginning. He was patient and co-operative.

Eight years later I met him at his Crawford ranch just before the 2004 election. He seemed to have aged twenty years since I had seen him last. The job was definitely wearing him out, but once again he was patient and friendly with all the people on my crew.

He was happy when we were finished filming, shook each of our hands and then headed out on his bike for a ride with a secret service agent.

Bush is a decent man who, unlike so many "men" today, does what he says he's going to do, every time.

Personally, I admire him very much and I believe history will vindicate him.

MEGAN GRUBER, 27, LAWYER, SAN FRANCISCO
Megan Gruber, San Francisco, USA
Megan Gruber, San Francisco, USA

I once met President Bush, and it has coloured the way I have thought about him for the majority of the last eight years.

It was in 2000, during the primaries in South Carolina, when he was battling John McCain. Bush visited the College of Charleston, where I was studying. He spoke and then took questions from the students in the audience.

After the visit, a few of us went up to him to ask more questions, get autographs and just say hello.

He shook my hand and was extremely pleasant, if looking a little tired from the South Carolina battle.

As I hung around, another student came up and began asking Bush some honestly tough questions about the economy.

Bush was game - he answered with aplomb. He spoke eloquently and intelligently. A real knowledge of the facts and an ability to articulate those facts.

The student conceded Bush's point (eight years and a current economic disaster later, I can no longer recall the question or response). That incident was a very small thing, but for years I have told people that Bush isn't as dumb as they think, that he just isn't good in front of cameras.

I saw something in him that really impressed me and for years after this little event I gave him the benefit of the doubt.

I disagree with the vast majority of Bush's policies - I voted for Gore, then Kerry and recently Obama.

But to this day I wonder if the handlers, the cameras, the advisors and the pressure have all served to turn Bush into the oft-maligned and made-fun-of character that we know today.

Because my small snippet of Bush showed someone remarkably different.

MARK MOLESWORTH, 53, TV PRODUCER, NEW YORK

George Bush seemed slightly out of his depth when I first met him in April of 2002.

I met him at the White House where I was filming him for a news interview. We walked into the Oval Office - it was all very interesting.

Mark Molesworth, left, with George Bush
Mark Molesworth, left, with George Bush
I actually put the microphone on him to get him ready for the interview, and he helped me out with it.

He was a nice, charming man. I could see he had a mischievous side with a good sense of humour.

I was nervous for him while he tried explaining why he did not trust Arafat and how he was going to deal with Iraq.

He was very personable and looked you in the eye when he talked to you. I liked him instinctively.

I met him again last year at Camp David. He and his wife were very gracious and relaxed.

He didn't gloat about the surge and was more at ease than in 2002. We all had our photo taken with him.

He was very loving to his wife and never spoke ill about his political rivals. I met his dad, and he also seemed like a nice guy.


Have you met him by chance? Has he visited your home town? What is he like away from the public eye?

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