When I walked into this office just now I felt the same sense of wonder and respect that I felt four years ago. I know you will feel that, too.
I wish you great happiness here. I never felt the loneliness some Presidents have described.
There will be very tough times, made even more difficult by criticism you may not think is fair. I’m not a very good one to give advice; but just don’t let the critics discourage you or push you off course.
You will be our President when you read this note. I wish you well. I wish your family well.
Your success now is our country’s success. I am rooting hard for you.
This was the note outgoing President George H.W. Bush left for Bill Clinton, the man who had defeated him in the bitter and nasty 1992 presidential election.
“Get rid of the ballots and you’ll have a very peaceful — there won’t be a transfer, frankly. There will be a continuation.”
Those were the words of President Donald Trump in a Wednesday news conference, an apparent reference to mail-in ballots, which he claims are likely to create an illegitimate election result, presumably because they would make Joe Biden the president.
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Today you embark on the greatest venture, with the greatest honor, that can come to an American citizen.
Like me, you are especially fortunate to lead our country in a time of profound and largely positive change, when old questions, not just about the role of government, but about the very nature of our nation, must be answered anew.
You lead a proud, decent, good people. And from this day you are President of all of us. I salute you and wish you success and much happiness.
The burdens you now shoulder are great but often exaggerated. The sheer joy of doing what you believe is right is inexpressible.
My prayers are with you and your family. Godspeed.
This was the note outgoing President Clinton left in 2000 for George W. Bush, the son of the man Clinton had defeated in ’92.
“So, we have to be very careful with the ballots. The ballots — you know, that’s a whole big scam.”
This, from an interview with Trump on Thursday, when he was pressed about his comments the day before. Trump, according to a report in the New York Times, said he was citing news reports about ballots found “in a river” and a trash can.
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Congratulations on becoming our President. You have just begun a fantastic chapter in your life.
Very few have had the honor of knowing the responsibility you now feel. Very few know the excitement of the moment and the challenges you will face.
There will be trying moments. The critics will rage. Your “friends” will disappoint you. But, you will have an Almighty God to comfort you, a family who loves you, and a country that is pulling for you, including me. No matter what comes, you will be inspired by the character and compassion of the people you now lead.
God bless you.
This was a letter George W. Bush left for Barack Obama on the day Obama became president.
“I have to see. Look … I have to see. No, I’m not going to just say yes. I’m not going to say no, and I didn’t last time either.”
Trump to Fox News reporter Chris Wallace during a July interview about whether he would accept the election’s results.
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Not too long ago, I sat in a meeting — not one involving this newspaper — in which a smart, decent and accomplished member of the community outlined the harrowing prospect of a president who would not accept any election result that didn’t end in a second term.
I remember biting my lip, sitting silent, desperate to tell him to lay off the grassy-knoll, conspiracy-theory pills.
If you can apologize for your unspoken thoughts, I am doing so today. When a president challenges the integrity of an election before a single ballot has been cast or counted, there is no such thing as a conspiracy theory. It’s simply a possibility you have to consider.
It’s simply Thursday. Or Wednesday. Or today.
So, with thanks to Bush I and Bush II, Clinton and, yes, President Trump, I stipulate that words matter. And they give rise to both comfort and anxiety.
The comfort is obvious: George H.W. Bush’s elegant note to Clinton, written only a couple months after a ’92 election that was as ugly as anything American had seen to that time, is a testament to the notion that a nation’s best interests supersede any one person’s.
But the anxiety keeps you up at night: If the election results end in a Biden victory, nothing Trump has said reveals he would accept them.
And if that happens, what happens to America?