George Herbert Walker Bush (Milton, June 12, 1924 – Houston, November 30, 2018) was an American politician, diplomat, and businessman who served as President of the United States from 1989 to 1993. A member of the Republican Party, Bush also served as the 43rd Vice President from 1981 to 1989 in Ronald Reagan”s administration, and was also a member of the House of Representatives, Ambassador to the United Nations, and Director of the CIA.
Bush grew up in Greenwich, Connecticut and attended Phillips Academy before serving in the United States Navy Reserve during World War II, where he served with distinction. After the war, he graduated from Yale University and moved to West Texas, where he established a successful oil company. After a failed run for the Senate, he was elected to the House of Representatives for Texas” 7th District in 1966. President Richard Nixon appointed Bush to the position of U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations in 1971 and then chairman of the Republican National Committee in 1973. The following year, President Gerald Ford appointed him as Chief of the Office of Liaison with the People”s Republic of China and in 1976, Bush became Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Bush ran for the Republican Party nomination for the presidency in 1980, but was defeated in the primaries by Ronald Reagan. He ended up as the vice presidential candidate in the 1980 election and won, along with Reagan, being re-elected in 1984.
After leaving the White House in 1993, Bush remained active in humanitarian issues, even working closely with Clinton, his former opponent. With the victory of his son, George W. Bush, in the 2000 election, he became only the second father and son pair to serve as president, with the other being John Adams and John Quincy Adams. His other son, Jeb Bush, tried to seek the nomination for the Republican nomination in the 2016 primaries, but was unsuccessful. After a long battle with vascular Parkinson”s disease, Bush passed away on November 30, 2018. His presidency is rated as “slightly better than average” in the ranks of historians and political scientists.
George H. W. Bush was born in Milton, Massachusetts, on June 12, 1924. He was the son of Dorothy (Walker) Bush and Senator Prescott Bush. His family has a long history in the United States. His paternal grandfather was Samuel P. Bush (1825-1889), a businessman who made his career in Columbus, Ohio, and his great-grandfather, Obadiah Bush (1797-1851), was a New York prospector and businessman whose father, Captain Timothy Bush Sr, had served in the United States War of Independence on the Rebel side. His maternal grandfather was George Herbert Walker (1875-1953), who worked on Wall Street for the bank W. A. Harriman & Co.
In 1925, Bush and his family moved to Greenwich, Connecticut, where he would spend his childhood. Because of his wealth, the family did not suffer during the Great Depression, and Bush attended Greenwich Country Day School from 1929 to 1937 and then went to Phillips Academy, an elite private academy in Massachusetts, from 1937 to 1942. Bush was a popular student and worked on the school newspaper and even became president of the student council.
In 1942, upon graduating from Phillips Academy at the age of 18, Bush enlisted in the United States Navy as an aviator. Upon graduation, he was one of the youngest aviators in the nation”s navy. In 1944, while flying a Grumman TBF Avenger torpedo boat, he was transferred to Air Group 51 aboard the USS San Jacinto for duty in the Pacific theater of operations during World War II. In May 1944, George Bush participated in a bombing mission against Wake Island, then occupied by the Japanese. Shortly thereafter he was promoted to lieutenant. In August, Bush participated in another air raid, this time against Japanese positions on Chichi-jima. The mission was successful and the targets hit, but Bush”s plane was hit by anti-aircraft fire during the withdrawal. All of Bush”s crewmates were captured, tortured and killed by the Japanese, and two of them had their livers devoured by their captors in one of the most notorious acts of cannibalism of the war. George Bush, despite his physical injuries, was not captured and shortly thereafter was rescued by the submarine USS Finback. For his accomplishments, he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, but he began to wonder why he was the only one spared, turning to religion, believing that God had a plan for him. Back on the USS San Jacinto in November, he participated in missions in the Philippines. In 1945, he was transferred to VT-153 Squadron and began training for the planned invasion of Japan, which would ultimately not happen, with the Japanese surrendering in August. By the end of his active duty period, Bush had flown 58 missions, completed 128 aircraft carrier landings, and logged 1228 flight hours.
After returning from the war, Bush went on to study at Yale University, where he majored in economics and sociology. He was a member of the Delta Kappa fraternity and even played baseball for the university. Much earlier, in 1941, he met Barbara Pierce and they became engaged in December 1943, marrying in January 1945. They had six children: George W. (b. 1946), Robin (1949-1953), Jeb (b. 1953), Neil (b. 1955), Marvin (b. 1956) and Doro (b. 1959). Their oldest daughter, Robin, died of leukemia in 1953.
After graduating from Yale, Bush and his wife moved to Texas. According to biographer Jon Meacham, this move was part of Bush”s intention to get out of the shadow of his father and grandfather, who made their fortunes working for Wall Street. He soon began to make a name for himself, making a lot of money in the oil business. In 1952, he worked for the campaign of Republican Dwight D. Eisenhower and saw his father, Prescott, elected to the Senate from Connecticut. Bush then moved from Midland to Houston, where he continued to prosper in the oil business, making several friends who would later become important political allies, such as James Baker.
In 1988, The Nation newspaper hinted that Bush worked for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in the 1960s, something he vehemently denied.
Bush was nominated in 1971 to be an advisor to the president, but he persuaded Nixon to appoint him U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. This was his first major foreign policy experience, dealing with representatives of China and the Soviet Union, the country”s two major adversaries in the cold war. Nixon chose to approach his relations with the Soviets and Chinese in a détente light, in a non-aggressive and cooperative manner. Although he was against it, he could not prevent the UN from expelling Taiwan from the council and replacing it with Communist China. During the conflicts between Pakistan and India, Bush remained an ally of the Indian government.
After President Nixon was reelected in 1972, he appointed Bush to be the chairman of the Republican National Committee. In this position, he was in charge of fundraising, recruiting candidates, and making media appearances on behalf of the party. When Vice President Spiro Agnew began to be investigated for corruption, Bush, at Nixon”s request, pressured Senator John Glenn Beall Jr. to talk to his brother, George Beall, the attorney general for the District of Maryland, to slow down the investigations, but Beall ignored it.
In 1974, the Watergate scandal broke. Bush initially defended Nixon, but when tapes surfaced of the president confirming that he ordered federal agencies to cover up the affair, Bush joined the rest of the party leadership in demanding that Nixon resign, which he did in August of that year. Before that, when Agnew had resigned the vice presidency in an unrelated Watergate scandal, Bush was tapped to replace him, but Gerald Ford eventually took over as vice president and then president when Nixon resigned as well. Ford then appointed Bush as special envoy to China. According to biographer Jon Meacham, Bush”s time in China convinced him that American involvement abroad was necessary to ensure global stability and that the United States “needed to be visible but not aggressive; muscular but not domineering.”
In January 1976, Bush returned to Washington and was appointed as Director of the CIA. With the Watergate Affair and the Vietnam War, the reputation of American intelligence was low. He did what he could to try to restore the CIA”s credibility, but he oversaw the agency”s involvement with military dictatorships throughout Latin America, especially through Operation Condor.
In 1974, Ford had considered Bush for the vice presidential position, but preferred to go with Nelson Rockefeller. In the 1976 election, however, he dismissed Rockefeller and, although he considered George Bush for the position, decided to run with Bob Dole. Democrat Jimmy Carter ended up winning the election, and in his capacity as CIA director, Bush gave intelligence briefings to President-elect Carter.
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After the election of Jimmy Carter, Bush”s term as head of the CIA ended. This was the first time since the mid-1960s that he had not held public office. He then went to work on the executive committee of the First International Bank in Houston and also came to teach at Rice University”s Jones School of Business, while also maintaining his membership in the Council on Foreign Relations group and joining the discussion forum known as the Trilateral Commission. In 1980, Bush announced that he would run in the Republican Party primaries to try to be the candidate for the presidency. There were several contenders, such as Senators Bob Dole and Howard Baker, Texas Governor John Connally, and Congressmen Phil Crane and John B. Anderson. However, the leading candidate and favorite was the former governor of California, Ronald Reagan.
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Reagan”s vice president (1981-1989)
As vice president, Bush generally kept out of the spotlight, recognizing the constitutional limits of the office; he avoided criticizing Reagan or his policies in any form. This approach helped him gain Reagan”s trust, which lowered the rivalry between the two that had still existed since the primaries. Bush also cultivated a good relationship with Reagan”s cabinet, including with his friend Jim Baker, who served as the president”s first Chief of Staff.
His approach to the vice office was influenced by his predecessor, Walter Mondale, who had a very close relationship with President Carter in part because of his ability to avoid confrontation with senior officials and Cabinet members. He was also aware of Vice President Nelson Rockefeller”s poor relationship with President Ford”s staff. Bush and his wife attended various events and ceremonies, including state funerals, something that comedians constantly mocked. As vice president, he was also the president of the Senate, which meant that Bush remained in close contact with Congress and kept President Reagan informed of the activities of the legislators.
On March 30, 1981, Reagan suffered an assassination attempt and was taken to the hospital. Bush immediately returned to Washington D.C. When his plane landed, many called for him to go straight to the White House via helicopter to show the people that the government was still functioning. Bush rejected the idea, fearing that such a dramatic scene would give the impression that he was trying to usurp Reagan”s powers and prerogatives. During the short period of Reagan”s incapacity, Bush presided over cabinet meetings, met with congressional leaders and foreign heads of government and state, and kept reporters updated on the affairs of the federal government, but consistently rejected the possibility of invoking the Twenty-Fifth Amendment to the Constitution. Bush”s handling of the whole situation impressed Reagan and after he recovered, the two grew closer and began to have a weekly lunch at the White House to discuss matters of state.
Reagan”s second term saw a slowing down of the Cold War. Mikhail Gorbachev became leader of the Soviet Union and he began a series of new policies of political and economic openness, which were very well received in the West. In 1987, the United States and the Soviets signed the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty and new negotiations between the two countries began, with the President and Secretary of State George Shultz heading these talks, but with Bush attending several meetings and giving advice. Bush did not agree with some of Reagan”s positions, but continued to support his president and stated to Gorbachev that, should he himself be elected president in ”88, he would maintain Reagan”s rapprochement policies. On July 13, 1985, Bush served as acting president for a little over eight hours while Reagan underwent surgery to remove a polyp in his large intestine.
In 1986, the Reagan administration was rocked by the scandal known as the Iran-Contra Affair. In the midst of the context of the Iran-Iraq War, the United States secretly sold arms to the Iranians in exchange for their intervention to free American hostages in Lebanon. The money made from this sale was used to finance the anti-communist guerrillas known as the Contras in Nicaragua, contrary to a law passed by Congress that prevented the government from taking such action. When the matter broke in the media, Bush claimed to have no knowledge of this case. Although neither Reagan nor Bush were directly implicated, this scandal would become an occasional political issue.
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1988 Presidential Election
Bush began to think about running for president again after the 1984 election. But it was not until October 1987 that he made public his intention to run in the Republican primary. His campaign was headed by Lee Atwater and relied on the advice of his son George W. Bush Junior and media consultant Roger Ailes. Although he took an ideological turn further to the right, his reputation with more conservatives was never very good and several of Ronald Reagan”s supporters still had not forgotten the things he had said in the primaries eight years earlier. His main competitors were Senator Bob Dole of Kansas, Congressman Jack Kemp of New York, and Christian televangelist Pat Robertson. Reagan did not endorse any candidate but declared public support for Bush.
Although he was considered the early favorite, he ran into difficulties, losing the Iowa primary. Bush reorganized his campaign and focused on New Hampshire and won by a good margin. Then came another important victory in South Carolina, and in the next seventeen states he saw sixteen victories, winning Super Tuesday, securing the nomination. Bush, who was often criticized for his lack of eloquence, gave a good acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention in ”88. The speech became known as “A Thousand Points of Light,” where he flirted with the religious right, trying to secure conservative support. He maintained that he would advocate the minimal state, keep the pledge of allegiance to the flag and prayers in schools, advocate keeping capital punishment at the federal level, and the right of citizens to keep and bear firearms. But what drew the most attention in the speech was his pledge to the electorate not to raise taxes, in his now infamous phrase “Read my lips: no new taxes”. Bush chose the hitherto unknown Senator Dan Quayle of Indiana to be his vice presidential candidate. The hope was that Quayle”s youthfulness would appeal to younger voters, while his conservatism would placate criticism from extremists in the party.
The Democratic Party nominated Michael Dukakis of Massachusetts, a politician more aligned to the liberal left. Despite initially being ahead in the polls, Dukakis ran an erratic and ineffective campaign. The Bush campaign attacked Dukakis as an “unpatriotic, extremist leftist.” In one of the most iconic moments of the election, the Bush campaign released a commercial mentioning Willie Horton, a convicted murderer who had been granted a temporary release from jail and used that time to rape a woman. Dukakis was against the death penalty and supported temporary jail breaks on festive dates, such as the one Horton had used. While at the time the commercial was a major factor in the campaign to paint Dukakis as an underdog on the issue of public safety, today many recognize it as a type of racial “dog whistle” and a moment of political incivility. Finally, a strange photo inside an M1 Abrams tank and a horrible turnout in the second debate ultimately doomed Dukakis” campaign. This election is widely considered to have a high level of negative campaigning, although political scientist John Geer argued that the share of negative ads was in line with previous presidential elections.
Bush was inaugurated as president on January 20, 1989. In his inaugural address, he indirectly emphasized the beginning of the collapse of communism in Europe and stated, “The era of totalitarianism is passing, its old ideas carried away like leaves from an old, lifeless tree. A new breeze is blowing and a nation renewed by freedom is ready to move forward.”
His first major appointment was James Baker for Secretary of State. Dick Cheney, President Ford”s former chief of staff, was appointed as Secretary of Defense, Jack Kemp was named as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, and Elizabeth Dole, Bob Dole”s wife, was appointed as Secretary of Labor. Several members of Reagan”s cabinet remained, including Secretary of the Treasury Nicholas F. Brady, Attorney General Dick Thornburg, and Secretary of Education Lauro Cavazos. New Hampshire Governor John Sununu, a Bush supporter in the 1988 campaign, became Chief of Staff. Brent Scowcroft was appointed as National Security Advisor, the same role he had in Gerald Ford”s presidency.
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In his first year in office, President Bush decided to pause the Reagan administration”s détente policy toward the Soviet Union. Bush and his advisors were wary of Gorbachev, with some seeing him as a democratic reformer, while others claimed that he was only proposing limited changes that might recover the USSR and put it back into a competitive position with the United States. However, by 1989, with the communist governments in Eastern Europe falling, Gorbachev refused to send any help to keep his allies in power, effectively abandoning the Brezhnev Doctrine. In March 1989, Bush and Gorbachev met at the Malta Meeting, where Bush said he came away trusting the Soviet leader more. At this meeting, one of the main points of discussion was the reunification of Germany. Britain and France remained disliking the idea of a unified German state, but Bush supported Chancellor Helmut Kohl”s ideas that the reunification of the country should happen. Bush believed that a united Germany was important to the interests of the United States and negotiated with Gorbachev to allow the Germans to join NATO. Gorbachev agreed and in October 1990, West and East Germany reunified after paying billions in reparations to Moscow.
In August 1991, a group of hard-line communists attempted a coup d”état to overthrow Gorbachev and reverse his reforms. The coup was unsuccessful and military personnel loyal to the central government regained control, but the prestige and power of the authorities in Moscow collapsed. At the end of the same month, Gorbachev resigned as General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and Boris Yeltsin, who had been elected President of the Russian Federation, assumed complete power, ordered the appropriation of all Soviet state property. Gorbachev tried to hold on to power with the nominal position of President of the Soviet Union but in December he officially lost all his authority, with Yeltsin negotiating with the remaining Soviet republics for the official dissolution of the USSR, with some fifteen new nations emerging. As he had done in the previous two years, Bush decided not to interfere and let events unfold without American participation. Bush and Yeltsin met for the first time in February 1992, declaring the beginning of a new era of “friendship and partnership.” In January of the following year, the START II treaty was signed between the United States and Russia. The end of the Soviet Union led many, such as historian Francis Fukuyama, to speculate on whether the world had reached the “end of history,” with the end of the dichotomy between democracies and totalitarianism. Within the United States, the conservative movement lost some of its identity, with foreign policy becoming less significant to the American electorate.
During the 1980s, the United States supported Panama”s anti-communist dictator Manuel Noriega, even though he was accused of abuses, corruption, and even drug trafficking. In May 1989, Noriega annulled the result of the election that had elected Guillermo Endara as president, which angered the United States. Bush was concerned about American interests in Panama, especially on the issue of the Panama Canal. The president decided to send 2,000 troops near the country for exercises, which violated a treaty between the two nations. Tensions continued to rise and Panamanian soldiers eventually opened fire on American military personnel. In response, in December 1989, Bush ordered a military invasion of Panama to oust Noriega (the “Operation Just Cause”). This was the largest U.S. military mobilization since Vietnam and the first military action not occurring in the context of the Cold War by the United States in over forty years. The invasion was not very difficult and within a matter of days, American troops were already in control of Panama City and the Canal. On January 3, 1990, two weeks after the invasion began, Noriega surrendered and was taken to the United States to answer for his crimes. Some 23 American soldiers were killed in the invasion and 394 others were wounded. Historian Stewart Brewer argued that the invasion “represented a new era in American foreign policy” because Bush did not justify the invasion under the Monroe Doctrine or the threat of communism, but rather on the grounds that it was in the best interests of the United States.
At Bush”s insistence, in November 1990, the UN Security Council passed a resolution authorizing the use of force if Iraq did not withdraw its troops from Kuwait by January 15, 1991. With Gorbachev”s support and China”s abstention, the resolution passed and the UN demanded that the Iraqis withdraw unconditionally from Kuwaiti territory. Bush convinced, without much difficulty, the United Kingdom, France, and thirty other nations to send military assets to confront Iraq, while securing financial support from Germany, Japan, South Korea, and especially Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Bush managed to convince Saudi King Fahd not only to help finance the campaign but also got his permission for the United States to maintain military bases in the country. In January 1991, Bush also got Congress to authorize the use of force against Iraq. Bush believed that the UN resolution alone gave him the necessary authorization to launch a military attack against Saddam, but he wanted to show that the nation also supported him. Despite opposition from most Democrats, the Senate and House of Representatives passed passage of the so-called “1991 Resolution authorizing the use of military force against Iraq.”
In 1987, the United States and Canada signed a free trade treaty that eliminated tariffs between the two countries. President Reagan hoped this would be the first pass at a new agreement that would eliminate trade tariffs between the United States, Canada, and Mexico. The Bush administration, along with conservative Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, spearheaded the negotiations that would eventually result in the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which also involved the Mexican government. In addition to reduced tariffs, the proposed treaty would affect patents, copyrights, and trademarks. In 1991, Bush asked Congress for authorization to submit an international treaty to Congress that could not be modified in the House. Despite staunch opposition led by House Majority Leader Dick Gephardt, both houses of Congress voted to give Bush this power. NAFTA was signed in December 1992, after Bush had already lost re-election, but President Clinton formally ratified NAFTA in 1993. The impacts of the treaty, however, have been quite controversial over the years, with many questioning whether it has actually brought benefits to the American worker.
Bush and Congress had agreed not to make many changes to the budget for fiscal year 1990. However, both sides knew that for the following year some action would have to be taken, either spending cuts or tax increases. The government was also facing problems with Alan Greenspan, the Chairman of the Federal Reserve, who refused to lower interest rates, which could stimulate consumption, before the deficit in the public accounts was brought under control. In a statement released in late June 1990, Bush said he would be open to a deficit reduction program that included spending cuts, incentives for economic growth, reform of the budget process, and tax increases. During his campaign for the presidency in 1988, Bush had promised, “My opponent doesn”t rule out raising taxes, but I can . And Congress will push me to raise taxes, and I will say no. And they”ll push, and I”ll say no, and they”ll push again, and I”ll say, to them, ”Read my lips: no new taxes.”” So, with Bush now agreeing to the possibility of raising federal taxes, fiscal conservatives in his party felt betrayed and criticized Bush for giving in to the Democrats so early in the negotiations.
In September 1990, Bush and the Democrats in Congress reached an agreement where government spending would be cut and taxes would be raised for the wealthiest and on the price of gasoline. As part of this agreement, new provisions could only be introduced if the government showed how it intended to pay for them, in a system known as “pay as you go.” The minority leader in the House of Representatives, Newt Gingrich, led the conservative opposition to these proposals, not agreeing to any tax increases. When liberals also opposed the plan, the government eventually went through a brief shutdown. With Republicans proving adamant, Bush had to once again give in to the Democrats. So in November, the OBRA-90 statute passed through Congress, with the gasoline tax increase being eliminated, but taxes on the wealthier classes was passed, with almost no Republican support at all. Spending cuts were also passed, but they were smaller than those originally proposed. Bush”s decision to sign this bill hurt his standing with conservatives and the general public, but it also laid the groundwork for the budget surpluses of the late 1990s.
Until 1989, people with disabilities were not afforded their full rights as outlined in the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and many faced discrimination and segregation. In 1988, Congressmen Lowell Weicker and Tony Coelho introduced the Americans with Disabilities Act, which barred employment discrimination against qualified individuals with disabilities. The bill passed the Senate, but not the House, and had to be reintroduced for a vote the following year. Many conservatives opposed the law, believing it would be too expensive to implement and would end up being more of a burden on small businesses, but Bush supported this legislation. In 1990, Congress finally passed the “Americans with Disabilities Act,” and Bush signed it into law in July 1990. The law required employers and public accommodations to make “reasonable accommodations” for the disabled, while providing an exception when such accommodations imposed an “undue hardship.”
In 1990, Senator Ted Kennedy introduced a bill that, among other things, would make it easier to file employment discrimination lawsuits. Bush vetoed the bill, saying it could end up creating racial quotas when it came to hiring. The president, however, ended up having to sign the Civil Rights Act of 1991, which was very similar to the one Kennedy had introduced.
In June 1989, the Bush administration proposed a bill that would amend the Clean Air Act of ”63. Working with Senate Majority Leader George J. Mitchell, the administration won passage of the amendments against opposition from business-aligned members of Congress who feared the impact on the economy of stricter regulations. The legislation planned to curb acid rain and pollution by requiring the reduction of emissions of chemicals in the atmosphere, such as sulfur dioxide, and was the first major update to the Clean Air Act since 1977. Bush also signed the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 in response to the environmental disaster caused by the Exxon Valdez. However, the League of Conservation Voters have criticized some of President Bush”s actions in the environmental area, including his opposition to stricter auto mileage standards.
Bush appointed two justices to the Supreme Court of the United States, David Souter (1990) and Clarence Thomas (1991). While Souter passed easily through the Senate, Thomas had more difficulty. Accusations of sexual abuse came to light and made the nomination difficult, which was also opposed by pro-choice groups and even the NAACP, who were concerned about his conservatism. In the end, the vote approving Thomas was very tight. Bush appointed 42 judges to the Court of Appeals and 148 others to the district courts.
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Bush was considered a “pragmatic caretaker” who lacked a unifying and compelling long-term theme for his efforts. His ability as an articulator and diplomat on the international stage gained bipartisan support and his approval rating remained high for a brief period of time. However, even on the subject of the Gulf War, where his skill as a leader was highly praised, critics pointed to the fact that he failed to topple Saddam Hussein from power, leaving his job “incomplete.” Once the crises abroad passed, especially with the end of the cold war, the nation”s eyes turned almost entirely to domestic affairs, where an economy in recession ultimately eroded his popularity. The New York Times erroneously reported in 1992 that Bush, while visiting a supermarket, was surprised to see a barcode scanner, which sparked controversy, with many accusing Bush of elitism, not being aware of how ordinary citizens lived.
In the midst of the recession of the early 1990s, his image changed from “conquering hero” to “politician confused by economic issues.” Added to this, the political climate in 1991-92 was one of political polarization and low tone in campaigning, which increased public disdain and disinterest in matters related to politics in general.
The Democrats nominated a centrist for president, Governor Bill Clinton of Arkansas. Seen as a moderate, Clinton favored welfare reform, budget deficit reduction, and tax cuts for the middle class. In early 1992, the presidential race took a turn when independent populist Ross Perot launched his candidacy, claiming that neither Democrats nor Republicans could get the deficit under control or make the government run efficiently. His message appealed to voters across the political spectrum, disappointed with the perceived fiscal irresponsibility of both parties. Perot attacked NAFTA, claiming that the agreement had destroyed jobs in the country. For a while in the polls Ross Perot was ahead in the polls, but Clinton seemed to be gaining ground, with an effective campaign and also by naming Senator Al Gore, a young Southerner, as her vice presidential candidate.
According to Seymour Martin Lipset, the 1992 election had several unique characteristics. Voters felt that economic conditions were worse than they really were, which hurt Bush. A rare event was a strong third party candidate. Liberals showed a reaction against twelve years of a conservative White House. Perhaps the main factor was how Clinton successfully unified her party and won over many heterogeneous groups.
After leaving the White House, Bush and his wife built a house in West Oaks, Houston, and established an office on Memorial Drive near his new home. He spent his vacation time between his luxury residence in Kennebunkport, Maine, an annual cruise in Greece, fishing in Florida, and also visiting the Bohemian Club in Northern California. He turned down offers to serve on the board of directors of various companies but gave several paid speeches around the country and served as an advisor to The Carlyle Group company. Although he never wrote his memoirs, he and Brent Scowcroft wrote the book A World Transformed in 1999, which talks about international politics. Parts of his letters and diary were later compiled into the books The China Diary of George H.W. Bush and All The Best, George Bush.
In 1993, while visiting Kuwait, the former president was allegedly the target of an assassination attempt planned by the Mukhabarat (the intelligence agency of Baathist Iraq). The plan was to blow up a car bomb and kill Bush and the Kuwaiti Emir, however the Kuwaiti intelligence service identified the threat and neutralized it, arresting several people in the process (although there is doubt as to whether this story was in fact true). President Bill Clinton ordered a retaliatory strike against Iraq, launching 23 cruise missiles against Iraqi intelligence targets.
In the 1994 election, his eldest son George W. ran for governor of Texas and his middle son Jeb ran for governor of Florida. He campaigned for both of them but advised them to go their own way and not think too much about what their father would do instead. George ended up winning Ann Richards in Texas, but Jeb was defeated by Lawton Chiles in Florida. Bush stated that he was proud for his sons, although he felt bad for what he lost. Jeb would try again to get elected in Florida in 1998 and won, at the same time that his brother George W. was re-elected in Texas. It was the second time in the history of the United States that two brothers served simultaneously as governor.
When his eldest son, George W. ran for President of the United States in the 2000 election, Bush Father endorsed and publicly supported his son, but did not campaign for him and did not speak at the Republican National Convention. When George won, they became only the second father and son duo to be president, with the other two being John Adams and John Quincy Adams. Until then, Bush was referred to only as “George Bush” or “President Bush,” but after the son”s election the need arose to distinguish between them and they created retronymic forms, such as “George H. W. Bush” and “George Bush Sr.” or more colloquially, such as “Bush 41” and “Bush the Elder” (or “Bush Father”). Bush advised his son on personal issues, approved the selection of Dick Cheney as his vice president, and the retention of George Tenet as CIA director. However, he was not consulted on everything, including the appointment of his former rival, Donald Rumsfeld, as Secretary of Defense. Although he did not set out to give his son advice, Bush did talk to him about various government issues, including national security.
In his retirement, Bush generally avoided publicly expressing his opinion on political issues, preferring to use the public spotlight to support various charities. Despite previous political differences with Bill Clinton, the two former presidents eventually became friends. They appeared together in television ads encouraging aid to victims of Hurricane Katrina and the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami.
Bush supported the candidacies of Republicans John McCain in the 2008 presidential election and Mitt Romney in the 2012 election, but both were defeated by Barack Obama. In 2011, Obama presented Bush with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor in the United States.
Bush supported his son Jeb in the 2016 Republican primaries, but the latter did not advance much. Neither George H.W. or George W. Bush endorsed the Republican nominee, Donald Trump; all three Bushs frequently criticized Trump”s policies and style, while Trump was critical of George W. Bush”s presidency. Bush Father later stated that in 2016, he voted for Democrat Hillary Clinton. After Trump”s election and victory, Bush wrote a letter to President-elect Donald Trump in January 2017 to inform him that due to his failing health, he would not be able to attend his inauguration ceremony on January 20; but he sent his regards.
In August 2017, following the violence that took place at the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, both Presidents Bush released a joint memo stating, “America must reject racial prejudice, anti-Semitism, and hatred in all forms As we pray for Charlottesville, we are all reminded of the fundamental truths drafted by that city”s most prominent citizen in the Declaration of Independence: we are all created equal and endowed by our Creator with inalienable rights.”
On April 17, 2018, his wife Barbara Bush passed away at the age of 92 at their home in Houston, Texas. Her funeral took place at St. Martin”s Episcopal Church four days later. Bush, along with former presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush (son), Bill Clinton and first ladies Melania Trump, Michelle Obama, Laura Bush (daughter-in-law) and Hillary Clinton were present and had their picture taken together as a sign of unity.
On November 1, 2018, Bush went back in the elections for the legislature. This was his last public appearance in life.
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Bush suffered from parkinsonism, a form of Parkinson”s disease. The former president died on November 30, 2018 at the age of 94 at his home in Houston, Texas. He had been being treated at a local hospital for several days with symptoms of hypotension. At the time of his death, he was the oldest former president in history, a distinction he passed to Jimmy Carter.
His state funeral took place on December 5, 2018 at the Washington National Cathedral and brought together all living presidents of the United States. In addition to President Donald Trump, former Presidents Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter, and H.W. Bush”s eldest son George W. Bush attended. He was buried the next day at the George Bush Presidential Library in College Station, Texas, next to the grave of his wife Barbara, who died on April 17 of the same year, and his daughter Robin, who died decades earlier.
In 1991, The New York Times revealed that Bush suffered from Graves” Disease, a thyroid condition that his wife Barbara also suffered from. Later, Bush was afflicted with vascular parkinsonism, a form of Parkinson”s Disease that forced him to use a motorized scooter or wheelchair.
Bush has always been a member and attendee of the Episcopal Church. He cited several moments in his life that deepened his faith, including his escape from Japanese forces in 1944 and the death of his three-year-old daughter, Robin, in 1953. His faith was often reflected in his political views, including his advocacy for the presence of religion in schools and his support for pro-life movements.
Historians and political scientists cite him as an above-average president. In a 2018 poll, the American Political Science Association listed Bush as the 17th best president (out of 44). A 2017 survey of historians by C-Span ranked him as the 20th best president (out of 43). According to USA Today, Bush Pai”s legacy as president is defined primarily by his victory over Iraq in the Gulf War and for presiding over, though not interfering in, the Dissolution of the Soviet Union and the Reunification of Germany.
In 1990, Time magazine named him Man of the Year. In 1997, Houston”s international airport was renamed George Bush Intercontinental Airport. His library and museum was completed in 1997 and is located on the west side of the Texas A&M University campus in College Station.