By Jean Song CBS News December 4, 2018, 11:21 AM Robert Gates recounts George H.W. Bush's "award" for colleagues who fell asleep in meetings
Former President George H.W. Bush is being remembered not only for his compassion, restraint, and devotion to public service, but also his humor. Secretary Robert Gates, who served as deputy national security adviser and CIA director under the 41st president of the United States, revealed Mr. Bush was "clearly" his "favorite" of the eight presidents he's worked with.
"He was just a lot of fun to work for," Gates said Tuesday on "CBS This Morning." "He's the only president I ever worked for who actually created an award for the person who most obviously fell asleep in a meeting with the president of the United States. This wasn't frivolous. He evaluated you in terms of the depth of your sleep, snoring always got you points, the duration, and then the quality of the recovery. Did you just kind of return to consciousness, or was it a jolt that knocked the coffee over?"
But that sense of humor, Gates recalled, "went underground for the entire period of the Gulf War."
"He knew the responsibility he was taking on. He knew that he was sending hundreds of thousands of young Americans into peril, into harm's way. And a lot of the joking around went away, frankly, until after the war was over," Gates said.
Mr. Bush died late Friday at 94 years old.
Gates, who most recently served as secretary of defense under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, recounted Mr. Bush's restraint in crucial moments in history like the fall of the Berlin Wall.
"What he understood that very few of his critics understood was that [Soviet leader Mikhail] Gorbachev's position in Moscow was relatively parlous at that time. And the concern that he had was that if he celebrated too much, it could serve as a provocation to the conservatives in the Soviet Union who were still powerful, the KGB, the army, and the party," Gates said.
Mr. Bush was also known to reach across the aisle, cultivating relationships, despite the political risks.
"He always put the best interests of the country first. The decision that he made to compromise on no new taxes was really putting – he felt that was really necessary to put the country on a sound fiscal basis going forward. He was willing to work with the Democrats to do it, knowing full well what the political cost would be," Gates said. His approach in making a partisan agenda secondary appealed to many Democrats on Capitol Hill, he added.