In response to Bob Novak’s widely publicized, nationally syndicated Thursday column, David Keene, Chairman of the American Conservative Union, sent the following letter to ACU Vice Chairman Don Devine.
(Note: Following the Keene letter, we’ve posted Mr. Devine’s response.)
May 20, 2004
Mr. Donald Devine
It saddens me to have to write this letter as we have been friends for a very long time but you have left me no real choice.
I have to tell you that I was appalled when I read Bob Novak??¢â???¬â???¢s column in this morning??¢â???¬â???¢s Washington Post.
I expected better of you. I didn??¢â???¬â???¢t know until the column appeared that your lack of judgment and manners included a refusal even to shake hands with the President of the United States when he had taken time out of his schedule to help us celebrate our 40th anniversary or that you would take such pride in your lack of manners as to brag about your boorishness to a reporter.
Don, it is one thing to express disagreement with some of the policies of the Bush Administration, but it is quite another to take after the President personally in conversations with a reporter or to act as you did at the dinner. As a long time officer and Board member of ACU, what you did was unpardonable. I found it offensive and no longer consider you either a personal friend or a friend of ACU. The crowd??¢â???¬â???¢s response both to the President??¢â???¬â???¢s presence and his speech tells me that you must have been the only person there who was ??¢â???¬?????bored??¢â???¬ by the affair. Indeed, your reaction says more about you than about his speech or the dinner and the fact that you sought out a reporter to express your personal hostility says even more.
You have done incalculable damage to ACU and I hope that you will have the good grace to resign your position as Vice Chairman. If you don??¢â???¬â???¢t, I can assure you that I will ask the Board to consider removing you at our June meeting.
David A. Keene
We asked Mr. Devine for a response to the whole situation. Here’s what he sent over:
The Honorable George W. Bush
President of the United States
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave., NW
Washington, D.C. 20500
May 22, 2004
I am writing to apologize to you for any difficulty that may have been caused by me as it was reported in Robert D. Novak??¢â???¬â???¢s column printed on May 20, 2004 in The Washington Post and other newspapers.
I wish to advise you that I have every respect for you as president and personally. Contrary to the impression of the column, I rose respectfully and clapped when you entered both the reception room and the main ballroom for the American Conservative Union 40th Anniversary and did the same when you left. As I am sure you know as well as anyone, we simply did not get the opportunity to shake hands at the picture-taking opportunity, as they were directing you to the photographers to speed things along and I was at the other end of the line.
I was not aware Mr. Novak was writing a story and would not have said anything if I had. I appreciated that you would come to ACU and would not want you to be repaid in such a manner for your courtesy. In fact, I was approached by other media and refused to discuss the matter at that time. It was only the fact that I have known Mr. Novak for so long that I was caught unaware. I speak to him regularly but have not appeared in his column for years and years and did not expect to at this time either.
Again, I apologize for any contrary impression. I may disagree with you on occasion but I have the highest respect for your office and I know how difficult your job is–and that you are doing what you think is best under very difficult circumstances.
Donald J. Devine
2nd Vice Chairman
American Conservative Union