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Remembering George H.W. Bush
Dec 5, 2018 at 02:31 PM

The Quick Facts

  • Former U.S. President George H.W. Bush passed away in Houston, Texas on November 30th, 2018.
  • Bush, a Republican, was the 41st U.S. President, serving between 1989 and 1993. He was Ronald Reagan's Vice President between 1981 and 1989.
  • During his presidency, the United States conducted military operations in Panama and the Persian Gulf, the Berlin Wall fell, the Soviet Union dissolved, and NAFTA was signed. Bush also raised taxes, reneging on a campaign promise he had made in 1988.
  • In 1992, Bush lost his re-election campaign to Bill Clinton. Many attribute Bush's loss to a weak economic recovery from a recession, and the lessened importance of foreign policy in the Post-Cold War Era.
  • Bush served in the U.S. Navy as an aviator following the attack on Pearl Harbor until 1945. He graduated from Yale University in 1948, moved to Texas, and founded his own oil company.

Food For Thought

What is George H.W. Bush's legacy?

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The Washington Post

We never met a man as remarkable as George H.W. Bush — and we never will again

Jeb Bush and James A. Baker III
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This obituary, written by Jeb Bush (son of George H.W. Bush and former Florida Governor), and James A Baker III (White House Chief of Staff and Secretary of State during the Bush administration) makes these kinds of points:

  • George H.W. Bush was "remarkable" human being, and as "both a public figure and private individual, he set a standard of excellence astonishing in its scope."
  • On top of his numerous foreign policy achievements, Bush passed some hugely important pieces of legislation by bridging partisan divides. "The Americans With Disabilities Act and legislation that largely ended acid rain are just two examples."
  • Most importantly, Bush"reached the pinnacle of power by living the virtues that make for a good Boy Scout: loyalty, trustworthiness, humility, reverence." These virtues are sorely needed in "today's cynical world."

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Houston Chronicle

George H.W. Bush was a Texan, a patriot, and an underrated president

Editorial Board
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The Editorial Board at the Houston Chronicle makes these sorts of arguments to evaluate George H.W. Bush's legacy:

  • George H.W. Bush "lacked the political genius of either his lionized predecessor or the silver-tongued successor," but his political career included many grand successes.
  • He is deserving of great praise for his handling of the Kuwait crisis and for "almost single-handedly stage-manag[ing] the creation of a new world order amid the collapse of communism, the fall of the Berlin Wall and the reunification of Germany."
  • However, more than anything else, Bush should be remembered for the graceful life that he led. He wielded "power mixed with wisdom, compassion, and self-sacrifice," and his love for his family was "worn on his sleeve."

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Los Angeles Times

George H.W. Bush taught American politics an unfortunate lesson — restraint is for losers

Doyle McManus
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This Los Angeles Times commentary by Doyle McManus offers these sorts of perspectives:

  • George H.W. Bush was elected in 1988, in large part, due to his reputation for restraint and moderation. This restraint was a strength in the foreign policy arena, but ultimately, turned into his biggest political weakness.
  • In 1990, Bush struck a huge bipartisan budget deal in which he raised taxes, famously reneging on his campaign promise in which he said, "read my lips: no new taxes." He compromised to get things done, but this ended up being "political suicide."
  • George Bush wasn't a great politician. If he had been, "he might not have given restraint such a bad name. There might even be one or two moderate Republicans in Congress now."

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The New York Times

George Bush and the Obituary Wars

Frank Bruni
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In this New York Times opinion piece, Frank Bruni makes these types of points:

  • Many of the obituaries written for George H.W. Bush have been glowing in nature, so Bush's detractors are right to point out that he was a man with flaws. However, it's not okay for Bush's detractors to unfollow any liberal commentator who has kind words for the former President.
  • Too often, we want to classify "political figures and issues in all-or-nothing, allies-or-enemies, black-and-white terms, blind to shades of gray." If we were more "mature," we might be more adept at handling complexities.
  • Sure, Bush had stains on his record. He signed off on the "despicable Willie Horton ad," he "nominated Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court," "did too little in the face of AIDS," and was often blinded by his privilege. However, it's okay to admit that he was also a good man. 

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Glowing Legacy
Mixed Legacy