In the room were Brent Scowcroft, his old friend and former national-security adviser–and the 43rd president, his son George W. Bush. For some, the shadows of the family psychodrama were alive in the room. When W., whose controversial presidency had been a kind of rebuttal to his father’s, was asked to give an impromptu toast honoring the man he had both worshipped and sought to overcome his entire life, witnesses say he appeared pinched and unhappy, his toast perfunctory. “It was highly unemotional,” says an attendee.
For all his legendary swagger, W. shrank in the presence of his father, either out of deference or something else. Perhaps he merely resented the presence of the eastern elite he detested, people like Time Warner chief Jeff Bewkes and HBO CEO Richard Plepler. “It was a weird evening,” says the attendee. “He knew that the Time Warner executives were not his base, and so here he is in his house with the Hollywood ‘a-leet,’ as he calls them.
“He’s become increasingly agoraphobic,” this person adds of the former president. “He looked startled by the whole thing. But he doesn’t like people, he never did, he doesn’t now.”
Indeed, George W. Bush, now 66, has spent the past few years living as invisibly as possible, working diligently on his golf game at the Brook Hollow Golf Club in Dallas, showing up at a Rangers baseball game, or being spotted eating a steak in one of his favorite restaurants. While the rest of the world judges his years in office, he’s taken up painting, making portraits of dogs and arid Texas landscapes. “I find it stunning that he has the patience to sit and take instruction and paint,” says a former aide.