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Remembering George H. W. Bush

Bush was a remarkable president in remarkable times.

He was humble and surprisingly self-effacing for a man who had held so many powerful positions – congressman, liaison to China (essentially the ambassador before we had official ties), Director of the CIA, Ambassador to the United Nations, Chairman of the Republican National Committee, Vice President of the United States and President. It was only because of an election defeat in 1970 that he did not also serve in the Senate.

Despite his privileged upbringing – the son of United States Senator Prescott Bush – “41” had a common touch and a gracious sensitivity to the common person. He would spend all important holidays at the White House so that his travels would not require hundreds, perhaps thousands, of workers – from Secret Service to local police and reporters to be called away from their families to support the needs of a traveling president.

Considering he only had one term, Bush was one of the most accomplished presidents in American history. Having worked side-by-side with President Reagan to strategically bring down the Soviet Union, it was on Bush’s watch that what Reagan dubbed the “evil empire” collapsed — and the Cold War ended in a bloodless victory. More than a dozen nations held in hegemony by the Soviets were again free and independent. The most iconic image of that amazing accomplishment was the tearing down of the Berlin Wall that divided Germany for almost 50 years.

When Iraq madman Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, Bush quickly assembled a coalition of nations and deployed 400,000 U.S. troop to the Middle East to drive the Iraqi forces out of their neighboring country. It was a war that was almost concluded in hours. Following the swift victory, Bush had a favorable rating of 91 percent — the highest of any president.

He was denied a second term by a conflation of many events – none of which on their own would have blocked his re-election. He had broken his “read my lips” campaign promise not to raise taxes. The economy had gone into a decline – and some blamed the tax increase. Independent candidate Ross Perot was cutting into the conservative base. In Bill Clinton, he was up against one of the most effective campaigners presidential elections had ever experienced – and conversely, Bush was floundering on the platform, even to the point that some suggested he was not in the best of health.

He and the also 94-year-old Jimmy Carter are the last presidents of what is often called America’s “greatest generation” – at least since the Founders. Whether that is a bit overstated, it can be said that Bush ended an era of civic pride and national unity that has not been seen to this day. His successor, Bill Clinton, kicked off the current era or division and acrimony from the grassroots to the Oval Office.

In fact, he came from a generation of men who did the right thing even if it was unpopular. H.W. wasn’t perfect, but he knew it and didn’t pretend otherwise.

George Herbert Walker Bush, you will be missed.

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  1. Did the “right thing” include ignoring HIV while it killed entire american communities?

    • ” ignoring HIV while it killed entire american communities”-I’m curious, where did you get your data?

      • A number of different sources throughout the decades have noted the Reagan administration – with Bush as VP – and later the Bush administration for its inaction on HIV as it killed thousands upon thousands (roughly 100,000 from the early 80’s through the end of Bush’s tenure), particularly within gay men’s communities. It killed nearly 25,000 people in 1990 (source: national center for health statistics) a rate of about 10/100k. To give that some perspective – the opioid epidemic only hit 10/100k last year (source: CDC).

      • Deb – I would like to say some nice things about him, too – lest people think that I *only* remember the bad. I object to the deification of him, the idea that he was pure good. His legacy is more complicated than that, with both good and bad things, and both deserve to be remember – the former to replicate, the latter to avoid.

        I consider him to have passed the greatest and best legislation since the Civil Rights Act – the ADA. The ADA is, without a doubt on my part, one of the greatest things America has to offer the world. So many Americans are able to take part in society, to be productive, to have normal lives, simply because of this legislation. For that I will always be proud and I think it’s important people know the impact the ADA has had.

        • “I consider him to have passed the greatest and best legislation since the Civil Rights Act – the ADA”

          It’s not my intention to attack your feelings, or the statement you’ve made but this is a good example of how Americans are so naïve, politically speaking (and often, otherwise)! People, too often, allow their own prejudices and vested interests to control their own actions and to judge the actions of others. I consider myself to be a VERY empathetic individual BUT, please enlighten me as to where in the US Constitution the federal government has the authority to COMPEL private businesses to provide, for example, specific toilets, parking spaces in close proximity to the business entry, etc. ad infinitum. You see, No matter how empathetic YOU may feel about these issues, or former President Bush, the federal government was NEVER granted these powers under The Constitution. When we ignore the Constitution (rules of the game) , at our own peril, then we are, in effect, participants in a game where the rules continually change. If Congress can do whatever it deems fit, then we, Heaven forbid, are living under an aristocracy rather than a Constitutional Republic. If a private business desires the patronage (again, as an example) of certain classes of people, such as handicapped, homosexuals, women, white men, dog lovers, _____ (fill in the blank), then let them solicit the patronage of these customers. I, for one, will not tolerate and tacitly approve of government, at any level, usurping powers that were never granted – no matter how convenient it is for me or how “good” it makes me feel!

          In truth, George H W Bush was a globalist and the first president to attempt to usher in the New World Order of his elite comrades. Upon further study you will find that he was neither a nationalist (putting America first) or a patriot. And he CERTAINLY was not a conservative of any stripe – nor are his progeny.

          • To be honest? I don’t care if it’s in the Constitution, I care if it’s legislation that makes for a better nation. And yes, I know that’s probably fairly offensive to your sensibilities, but I simply have a different framework than you do. When I take a look at legislation – or court rulings – my question is never “was this constitutional” but “does this make us a better nation”. Because our Constitution is pretty reasonably written, often those two overlap quite a bit. Sometimes there are challenges we face today that were not foreseeable that require decisions that may not align with what the framers envisioned. And I think that’s okay, and good – the business of running a real, living nation is messy. The EPA is a good example – there’s a good argument that it’s unconstitutional, but there’s little argument that it’s been wildly successful at making our country better for everybody. Clean air, water, and national landscapes that will serve our nation for centuries to come – even Trump who isn’t a big fan of the EPA acknowledges that we’ve got clean air and water, something which couldn’t really be said at the EPA’s founding.

  2. There can be no doubt that he, Bush Sr., was a good and honorable man, respected by members of both political parties. I doubt that we will see his like again.

  3. He was my favorite president of my entire life. I am 60 years old. He was on board when the soviet union collapsed, he invaded Iraq but was smart enough not to go to a full scale invasion. He was able to help the kurds with a no-fly zone and had people inspecting the country for nuclear & chemical weapons.

    He was shot down several times in the pacific in world war two so he proved himself to us on that front.

    He also got rid of Noriega. He did everything right and seemed to be the right person to take over after a an extremely popular president.

  4. As much as I liked President Bush as s man, Naval Officer and experienced government manager it would be nieve to see him as a huge helper to the multitude of Americans that were at mid or lower levels of income.
    He was certainly no friend to “labor” ,,, hope the readers do not consider that a dirty word. The DOL continued its decline under President Bushes tutelage. Unions (another disfavored word in most higher social circles) lost significantly. When a President like Bush gives the highest civilian medal possible to a man like Sam Wal Mart it says much. Wal Mart left some countries because their labor practices are not allowed. In the US we reward retail magnets that treat employees marginally and squeeze every dime out of them. That says a lot about real values regarding of the icing on the cake.
    Bush was another rich guy that in the final analysis took care of the other rich guys. Front oil, to his buddies in Saudi Arabia to American retail us citizens were never his high priority. He accomplished this with such aplomb that most missed what he had done and so did the historians if recently told history is an indicator.

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