An Iowan who served in George W. Bush’s White House had a role in ensuring an iconic object from Bush’s first year in office is on display at the new Bush Presidential Library in Dallas.
Mary Ann Hanusa of Council Bluffs served as director of personal presidential correspondence. Her office soon became a repository for items that are being used to tell the story of his presidency, including the now-famous bull horn.
“That was used on September 14th when President Bush went to New York City for the first time after the tragedies of September 11th,” Hanusa says. “…I went to my boss at the time and I said, ‘We need to be collecting these things, these very unique things, for his library because if we don’t, they won’t be there.'”
The baseball Bush used when he threw out the first pitch for game three of the 2001 World Series — the first game at Yankee Stadium in New York City — also wound up in Hanusa’s office, as did the FDNY jacket Bush wore that evening.
Hanusa was in Dallas last weekend for the opening of President Bush’s library. Mary Cownie of Des Moines was there, too. Cownie worked on Bush’s campaign, helped organize the inauguration and then served on the White House advance staff. It means she was among those responsible for where and how presidential events were staged.
“We actually discussed this when we were down there with other former colleagues that when you look at all the photographs, that’s a big part of what we did in terms of working with the press — not only the press charter, but the local press and the travel pool — in terms of what the shot looked like and so seeing a lot of those photographs brought back a lot of memories from those trips,” Cownie says.
Cownie, who is now director of the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs, says she senses the general public perception of Bush is changing because of the way he’s conducted himself after he left the Oval Office.
“He stepped out of the limelight and that’s been that’s very purposeful. He doesn’t need to be on the news shows and chiming in, trying to critique or give his opinion about President Obama,” Cownie says. “…I respect that and I think a lot of people do (too) and it I think it says a lot about him as a person.”
Hanusa, who is a member of the Iowa House of Representatives now, says Bush’s popularity is rising because the passage of time provides more perspective.
“Many people could disagree with decisions that President Bush made, but you knew where he stood. He was a man of principle. He stood on his principle. You knew what you saw was what you got and I think, yes, with the passage of time his reputation will be enhanced and I think people will really admire more the decisions that he did make while he was in office,” Hanusa says.
Hanusa and Cownie talked about their experiences in the Bush White House during an appearance on Iowa Public Television’s “Iowa Press” program that airs this evening at 7:30.