It was his decade in the White House and closeness to the Bush family that inspired former Press Secretary Marlin Fitzwater to write Calm Before the Storm: Desert Storm Diaries and Other Stories.
Fitzwater — who served as press secretary to Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush — spoke to a crowd of hundreds in the Annenberg Presidential Conference Center about his book on Monday night. The book, dedicated to George H.W. and Barbara Bush, centers around Desert Storm, but focuses heavily on how Bush approached the situation, not solely the military operations. It also contains writings from some of Bush’s National Security staff and senior officers.
When Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in 1990, Fitzwater knew he wanted to keep a diary of the behind-the-scenes actions from the Persian Gulf Crisis and Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, even if it only stayed in his family.
“I thought if this is the piece of history that makes George Bush a legend, and a great president, I want to write down as much as I can about him,” Ftizwater said. “About his personality, about how he approached the decision and particularly I wanted to leave a record of his words. … What he said in private.”
As one of the longest-serving White House press secretaries, Fitzwater is the only one to serve under two presidents. And this is not Fitzwater’s first time to write; he has experience with fiction, nonfiction and plays. He won the Presidential Citizens Medal in 1992 and is the founder of Marlin Fitzwater Center for Communication at Franklin Pierce University. Fitzwater’s role as press secretary meant he was in the group, which included the vice president and secretaries of state and defense, who discussed the war with Bush on an almost daily basis.
“[I tell] the fun parts of being in the presidency as well as the war and other very serious parts,” Fitzwater said. “It’s mostly about the presidency rather than the military, operational side. I believe it was one of the most successful and most well managed conflicts in American history.”
It begins in Kansas, where Fitzwater was visiting family when he learned of Saddam’s actions. From stories of Bush pulling on a short corded phone as he spoke to the King of Saudi Arabia, to Bush’s desire to have a parade so people knew the war was over, Fitzwater said he aimed to tell details that nobody else previously knew.
“I knew it was going to be worth my memory and I wanted to write it down, even if it is just for my kids and my family,” Fitzwater said. “I want them to remember George Bush the person when all this is over.”
Director of the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum Warren Finch was one of the hundreds to attend the event. He said it was great to hear from a key figure in the Bush administration who could give insight on historical events as well as how Bush ran the presidency.
“Marlin talks about President Bush’s leadership style, and no matter what you do it is a style to be emulated,” Finch said.
President and CEO of the George & Barbara Bush Foundation David B. Jones opened the event by welcoming Fitzwater and saying that the foundation will be hosting a series of special events in honor of Bush throughout the next year.
“[The Bushes’] examples of selfless service with integrity is needed now more than ever,” Jones said. “We could not have a more trusted and known friend of the Bushes to tell the story of the historic and successful Desert Storm.”