Former President George W. Bush styled himself as a "compassionate conservative" when he was in politics. He's now showing his compassion again, in very unusual ways, as he eases back into the public spotlight.
Bush has sent a letter of encouragement to University of Alabama kicker Cade Foster, who missed two field goals and had a third one blocked in Alabama's 34-28 loss to Auburn Nov. 30. The defeat ended both the Crimson Tide's undefeated season and the team's hopes for a national championship.
Many fans have blamed Foster, but Bush was supportive of the young player. "Dear Cade (#43)," the former president wrote in a hand-written letter dated Dec. 3, 2013, "Life has its setbacks. I know! However, you will be a stronger human with time. I wish you all the best—Sincerely—another 43, George Bush." Bush was the 43rd president.
Foster tweeted a picture of the letter, which he said he would have framed.
Bush's softer side was also on display aboard Air Force One when he rode with President Obama and their spouses to the funeral of former South African President Nelson Mandela earlier this week. Bush used an iPad to show Obama and members of his entourage, including former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, images of his paintings of dogs and cats, a hobby he has taken up since he left office in January 2009.
And during a recent appearance on the Jay Leno television program, Bush showed up with a portrait he painted of Leno, which he gave to the comedian.
Since he left office, Bush has kept mostly out of public view.
His father, former President George H.W. Bush, also made news this week when he signed up for Twitter and sent out his first tweet, a message to mark Mandela's funeral on behalf of himself and his wife. "Barbara and I wish we could have joined the U.S. delegation honoring President Mandela today," Bush tweeted. "He, and his countrymen, are in our prayers." The elder Bush, 89, didn't attend the funeral on the advice of his doctors.
Ken Walsh covers the White House and politics for U.S. News. He is the author of the new book "Prisoners of the White House. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Facebook and Twitter.