PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Former Gov. Tom Corbett first met George Herbert Walker Bush in 1988 when the Vice President was running for President and the late Elsie Hillman, a distant cousin of Bush’s and National Republican Committeewoman, asked Corbett to run the Bush campaign locally.
“I took a leave of absence from my law firm,” Corbett told KDKA political editor Jon Delano on Tuesday.
“We went into the William Penn — there were offices there — and I helped her run the southwestern part of the state, pretty much the western part of the state,” recalled Corbett.
Pennsylvania was a swing state for Bush.
“We weren’t supposed to win Pennsylvania.”
But Bush did win — by just two percent — and he named Corbett the U.S. Attorney for Western Pennsylvania.
Delano: “Do you credit President Bush with helping you to launch a political career?”
Corbett: “Oh absolutely. He put me into a position, he had confidence — and I’m sure Elsie had a whole lot of whispers in his ears — that I could serve in the role of U.S. Attorney.”
That was the job that put Corbett on the path to state Attorney General and the then Governor.
“But for President Bush, I don’t have the career that I had,” declared Corbett.
Corbett says the late president was a moderate Republican who might never have won the election in today’s political environment.
“Today, if he were trying to run today, if he was young enough to do that, I think he would have a very difficult time obtaining that.”
And his style of governing seems foreign to Washington these days.
“He understood that you have to reach across the aisle to get votes, get a compromise, but he was a man of high integrity and good humor, and one of the most difficult things is keeping your humor in politics.”
And thanks to Elsie Hillman, Bush tapped into local expertise from Dick Thornburgh to Tom Ridge to Tom Corbett.
“The proximity of Pittsburgh to Washington DC for the Bush family wasn’t forgotten.”