ABC's Ann Compton Cites Gracious Note From Elder Bush as Favorite Moment on WH Beat

August 25th, 2014 5:40 PM

Ever notice that you seldom see Ann Compton, longtime White House correspondent for ABC News, appear on this site? What she said yesterday on "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" helps explain why.

After covering seven presidents and every presidential campaign since the Bicentennial in 1976, Compton is retiring and Stephanopoulos paid tribute yesterday with a nostalgic look back at her remarkable career. Compton began covering the White House more than four decades ago, at the tender age of 27, and was invariably in the thick of it. She was, for example, the only broadcast reporter on board Air Force One with President George W. Bush and his staff on Sept. 11, 2001. (Video and audio after the jump)

Here's what Compton said Sunday that must have caught the attention of conservatives watching "This Week" (audio) --

I'm often asked if you have a favorite moment with the president. And I remember being stunned, President George Herbert Walker Bush was about to send a half million American soldiers into the desert for combat. And he comes back to the White House and he makes a statement on the South Lawn and I asked him a question and he kind of barked at me. The next day, I get an apology note. At the bottom he had signed it his initials G.B. and a smiley face wearing a frown. I thought that was a remarkable moment for a president to take time to do that.

I'm reminded of Peggy Noonan's account of her boss, President Reagan, speaking at a fundraiser for the John F. Kennedy Library held in 1985 at Sen. Edward's Kennedy's home in McLean, Va.

A few days later Reagan received a note from Ted Kennedy, Noonan recounted in "What I Saw at the Revolution: A Political Life in the Reagan Era." Kennedy wrote, "I only wish Jack could have been there too last night. Your presence itself was such a magnificent  tribute to my brother. ... The country is well served by your eloquent graceful leadership, Mr. President." Kennedy signed the note, "With my prayers and thanks for you as you lead us through these difficult times."

To Noonan, it was "grace meets grace." And so it was in Bush's magnanimity toward a reporter who had asked him a tough question, and with Compton citing it two decades later as a cherished memory.

All the best in your well-earned retirement, Mrs. Compton, you will be missed.