Ge­orge HW Bush US pres­i­dent who made his mark in for­eign af­fairs with the col­lapse of com­mu­nism and lib­er­a­tion of Kuwait

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Ge­orge HW Bush, who has died aged 94, was the 41st pres­i­dent (1989-93) of the US and fa­ther of the 43rd pres­i­dent – the first in­stance of a fa­ther and son hold­ing Amer­ica’s high­est elected of­fice since John and John Quincy Adams al­most two cen­turies ear­lier.

Bush could claim to have been one of the most suc­cess­ful for­eign pol­icy pres­i­dents, in the same league as Harry Tru­man and the two Roo­sevelts, but he had a far shakier touch when it came to do­mes­tic af­fairs. He steered the US and its al­lies suc­cess­fully through the col­lapse of com­mu­nism and co­or­di­nated sup­port for the re­uni­fi­ca­tion of Ger­many. Then he or­gan­ised a tri­umphant in­ter­na­tional re­sponse to Sad­dam Hus­sein’s in­va­sion of Kuwait, in marked con­trast to his son’s in­va­sion of Iraq, which was en­dorsed whole­heart­edly by only a hand­ful of gov­ern­ments.

He was also pop­u­lar with the awk­ward squad of for­eign lead­ers with whom he had to deal, in­clud­ing Mar­garet Thatcher, Hel­mut Kohl and François Mit­ter­rand. Although his per­for­mance on the do­mes­tic front was no­tably less as­sured, he won gen­eral trust as he steered the US into a po­si­tion of global dom­i­nance.

It was widely as­sumed that

Bush was un­en­thu­si­as­tic about the rightwing tone of his son’s ad­min­is­tra­tion, but he re­mained dis­creet about such mat­ters, and no one could be sure what he felt be­yond fam­ily pride.

De­spite Bush’s pretty min­i­mal ex­pe­ri­ence of elected pol­i­tics be­fore he ran for pres­i­dent in 1980, lim­ited to two terms in the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives, few mod­ern pres­i­dents have been bet­ter pre­pared for the White House. He had served as chair of the Re­pub­li­can na­tional com­mit­tee, as am­bas­sador to China, and as Ron­ald Rea­gan’s slightly un­likely vice-pres­i­dent.

Although tem­per­a­men­tally con­ser­va­tive with a small C, Bush did not be­long to the rightwing move­ment that pro­pelled Rea­gan to the White House, and was treated with re­serve and even sus­pi­cion by the ide­o­logues of the new right. He was, rather, a tra­di­tional “coun­try club” Re­pub­li­can, with fam­ily and busi­ness roots sev­eral gen­er­a­tions deep in the Wall Street in­vest­ment bank­ing elite. His fa­ther, Prescott Bush, was a sen­a­tor and a part­ner in the in­vest­ment bank Brown Broth­ers Har­ri­man, of which his grand­fa­ther, Ge­orge Her­bert Walker, was a founder.

If Ge­orge W Bush, “Bush 43”, suc­ceeded in com­ing across to his sup­port­ers as a down­home Texas boy, a born-again Chris­tian at ease in cow­boy boots and speak­ing with an au­then­tic twang, his fa­ther, “Poppy Bush” or “41”, never sought to hide what he was, a great Amer­i­can gen­tle­man in pub­lic life. He was so un­con­vinc­ing as a man of the peo­ple that his aides urged him to be filmed buy­ing some­thing in a shop. Char­ac­ter­is­ti­cally, he said he needed a pair of ten­nis socks, but seemed un­fa­mil­iar with how to buy them.

Like his son, he re­ceived the tra­di­tional ed­u­ca­tion of the up­per class. Both went to Phillips An­dover Academy, Mas­sachusetts, and then to Yale Univer­sity, Con­necti­cut, where both played on the col­lege base­ball team and both, like many of their re­la­tions, were mem­bers of the ex­clu­sive, ul­tra-se­cre­tive Yale se­nior so­ci­ety, Skull and Bones.

Bush Sr played ten­nis well enough for him to briefly con­sider be­com­ing a pro­fes­sional “ten­nis bum”. Both, too, in­stead of slid­ing eas­ily into a life of week­days on Wall Street and sports-mad week­ends in a Con­necti­cut sub­urb, de­cided to try their luck in the oil busi­ness of the Per­mian Basin field in West Texas.

The Bushes claimed de­scent from the Pil­grim Fathers sev­eral times over, and ear­lier from Mary Tu­dor, Duchess of Bran­don, sis­ter of Henry VIII. In 1919 Prescott Bush, a big man on the Yale cam­pus turned US sen­a­tor, mar­ried Dorothy Walker, whose fam­ily ran a busi­ness in St Louis, Mis­souri, im­port­ing dry goods, largely from Britain.

Their sec­ond son, born in Mil­ton, Mas­sachusetts, was named Ge­orge Her­bert Walker af­ter her fa­ther.

Prescott was pros­per­ing as an in­vest­ment banker, thanks to his con­nec­tions with the Rock­e­feller, Mor­gan and Har­ri­man busi­ness em­pires. In 1920 he be­came pres­i­dent of the in­vest­ment bank WA Har­ri­man & Co (from 1931,

Brown Broth­ers Har­ri­man), which fo­cused its busi­ness ef­forts on fund­ing the re­cov­er­ing econ­omy of Ger­many, con­tin­u­ing to is­sue bonds for the Ger­man govern­ment long af­ter Hitler came to power in 1933.

The bankers and their lawyers, how­ever, in­clud­ing movers such as Henry L Stim­son, were more pro-British than pro-Ger­man and were to be­come the “for­eign pol­icy es­tab­lish­ment” who helped Franklin Roo­sevelt to ma­noeu­vre the US into giv­ing Britain “all aid short of war”.

It was Stim­son who played a part in one of the de­ci­sive mo­ments in Bush’s life. In June 1940, af­ter France fell, the Wall Street lawyer and for­mer sec­re­tary of both war and state went to give a talk at An­dover. He painted a dark pic­ture of the sit­u­a­tion in Europe, but por­trayed it as an op­por­tu­nity for young men to fight for free­dom. Bush was sup­posed to en­rol at Yale that au­tumn. In­stead, he headed for a navy re­cruit­ing of­fice. Helped by con­tacts, be­cause he was un­der­age, he vol­un­teered and be­came the youngest navy pilot in his­tory.

He was pop­u­lar with the awk­ward squad of for­eign lead­ers: Thatcher, Kohl and Mit­ter­rand

Af­ter the US en­tered the sec­ond world war in De­cem­ber 1941 with the bomb­ing of Pearl Har­bor, Bush flew 58 com­bat mis­sions and was twice res­cued from the Pa­cific ocean. In April 1944 he made a forced land­ing on wa­ter, and in Septem­ber that year he bailed out af­ter a suc­cess­ful at­tack and was res­cued by a sub­ma­rine.

For this ac­tion he re­ceived the Dis­tin­guished Fly­ing Cross.

While still at An­dover, at a Christ­mas dance in South Carolina, Bush met Bar­bara Pierce, her­self a Mayflower de­scen­dant, whose an­ces­tor Franklin Pierce was the

14th pres­i­dent (1853-57). They were en­gaged be­fore Bush de­parted for the South Pa­cific. When he re­turned, she dropped out of Smith Col­lege, Mas­sachusetts, and in Jan­uary 1945 they got mar­ried.

The de­mo­bilised Bush took an eco­nom­ics de­gree at Yale (1948) and then joined Dresser In­dus­tries, an Ohio firm with Yale and fam­ily con­nec­tions (his fa­ther had been on the board since 1930). It was Dresser who sent him to work in Texas. In 1950 he moved down to Mid­land, a West Texas town full of well­con­nected Ivy League types.

Bush was no roustabout, still less a rough­neck. His in­volve­ment in oil was pri­mar­ily on the fi­nan­cial side. He be­gan as a “land­man”, seek­ing out own­ers of min­eral rights and buy­ing up promis­ing prop­er­ties, and went on to cor­po­rate fi­nance.

He be­came a lead­ing light in Za­p­ata Pe­tro­leum, later a ma­jor oil com­pany. There are scraps of ev­i­dence that sug­gest that he was al­ready in­volved with the CIA, as his part­ner in Za­p­ata, Thomas Devine, cer­tainly was. It has even been sug­gested that Za­p­ata it­self was a

CIA “pro­pri­etary”, or se­cretly owned com­pany. He was also in­volved in CIA op­er­a­tions against Fidel Cas­tro.

The Bushes moved to Hous­ton, where he soon be­came in­volved in Re­pub­li­can pol­i­tics. Hous­ton was then still an over­whelm­ingly Demo­crat city, so Bush faced lit­tle com­pe­ti­tion in 1962 when he was elected chair of the Har­ris county Re­pub­li­can party, where he was un­pre­pared for the vir­u­lence of the John Birch So­ci­ety’s rightwing op­po­si­tion. He was de­feated when he ran for the Se­nate in 1964, and when in 1966 he ran for Congress, suc­cess­fully, he as­sumed some Gold­wa­ter-style con­ser­va­tive po­si­tions, at­tack­ing the UN and calling for the over­throw of Cas­tro.

In 1970, per­haps am­bi­tious to match his fa­ther’s ca­reer, he quit the house and ran again for the Se­nate. He had hoped to win against the lib­eral Demo­crat Ralph Yar­bor­ough, but Yar­bor­ough, beaten in the Demo­cratic pri­mary by the rel­a­tively con­ser­va­tive Lloyd Bentsen, en­dorsed Bentsen for the gen­eral elec­tion, and the Demo­crat beat Bush eas­ily.

At this point, Bush’s po­lit­i­cal ca­reer could have ended. He was saved by Richard Nixon. Keen to im­prove his re­la­tions with the es­tab­lish­ment and mod­er­ate “Rock­e­feller Repub­li­cans”, Nixon ap­pointed Bush as his am­bas­sador to the UN in 1971. Although he was not a par­tic­u­larly ef­fec­tive am­bas­sador, he be­gan to be­come re­spected in Re­pub­li­can cir­cles. When in 1974 Nixon was forced to re­sign over Water­gate and was suc­ceeded by Ger­ald

Ford, Bush was given the choice of em­bassies in Lon­don or Paris.

In­stead, aware of the long-term sig­nif­i­cance of Nixon and Henry Kissinger’s open­ing of re­la­tions with China, he asked to be sent to Bei­jing. He and Bar­bara loved the post­ing and bought bi­cy­cles to ex­plore the city. Bush’s main po­lit­i­cal pre­oc­cu­pa­tion was to try to pro­tect Tai­wan’s in­ter­ests in a “two Chi­nas” pol­icy without for­feit­ing the friend­ship of the Chi­nese lead­ers. In fact, he had lit­tle con­tact with the lead­er­ship. He saw Mao Ze­dong only twice and Zhou En­lai not at all.

When Ford asked Bush to be­come di­rec­tor of Cen­tral In­tel­li­gence it seemed a sur­prise ap­point­ment, though many top CIA of­fi­cials were Skull and Bones­men. By far his most im­por­tant achieve­ment dur­ing his brief ten­ure (1976-77) was to set up what be­came known as Team B.

This was a high-level panel, stuffed with fire-breath­ing mil­i­tary men and con­ser­va­tive schol­ars, who were asked to re­assess the agency’s es­ti­mate of the Soviet Union. They con­cluded that the CIA’s Soviet ex­perts had un­der­es­ti­mated the size of the Soviet de­fence bud­get and there­fore the Soviet threat.

Whether or not the new es­ti­mate was more ac­cu­rate than the agency’s old as­sump­tions, the Team B episode, soon leaked to the press, was an im­por­tant mo­ment in the shift of the po­lit­i­cal cen­tre of grav­ity to the right in Wash­ing­ton in the mid-1970s. It ad­vanced Bush’s cre­den­tials in con­ser­va­tive cir­cles and led to his emer­gence as a se­ri­ous can­di­date for the pres­i­dency, in com­pe­ti­tion with Rea­gan, in 1980.

Bush an­noyed the Rea­gan camp dur­ing the nom­i­na­tion cam­paign, not least by char­ac­ter­is­ing Rea­gan’s ideas as “voodoo eco­nom­ics”. But that did not stop the Rea­gan team of­fer­ing Bush the vice-pres­i­dency, to bal­ance Rea­gan’s rep­u­ta­tion with a more tra­di­tional Re­pub­li­can ap­peal.

Once in the White House, Bush kept pretty quiet, pro­tect­ing his chances of suc­ceed­ing as the Re­pub­li­can pres­i­den­tial chal­lenger in 1988. This was a less ob­vi­ous pos­si­bil­ity than might be sup­posed. For decades, no sit­ting vice-pres­i­dent had suc­ceeded im­me­di­ately, ex­cept in the event of a pres­i­dent’s death.

Bush did come un­der sus­pi­cion of in­volve­ment in at least two in­tel­li­gence-re­lated scan­dals un­der Rea­gan. The first, widely dis­missed but still sup­ported by per­sua­sive ev­i­dence, was the so-called

“Oc­to­ber sur­prise”. This was the charge that Bush was in­volved in se­cret ne­go­ti­a­tions with the Ira­nian rev­o­lu­tion­ar­ies in the con­text of com­pe­ti­tion be­tween the Jimmy Carter White House and the Rea­gan cam­paign to bring back the Amer­i­can hostages from Tehran on the eve of the 1980 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion.

There were also sug­ges­tions that he was im­pli­cated in the IranCon­tra scan­dal, in which White House and CIA of­fi­cials, some with pre­vi­ous con­nec­tions to Bush, sought to fi­nance il­le­gal sup­port for the rightwing Con­tra guer­ril­las in Nicaragua, for­bid­den by Congress, by means of an in­ge­nious plot for sell­ing arms to the rogue regime in Iran.

As a ma­jor pub­lic fig­ure whose style ex­uded gen­tle­manly values, Bush had an un­usual num­ber of du­bi­ous or con­spir­a­to­rial con­nec­tions, some dat­ing back to his in­volve­ment in Mid­dle Eastern oil in­vest­ment in his Texas days. There are plau­si­ble sug­ges­tions, for ex­am­ple, that he had busi­ness con­nec­tions with the scan­dal-rid­den Bank of Credit and Com­merce In­ter­na­tional, and also with rich Saudi in­vestors, in­clud­ing rel­a­tives of Osama bin Laden.

In spite of such ru­mours and in­deed cer­tain proven con­nec­tions, Bush sur­vived all threats to his po­si­tion dur­ing the Rea­gan ad­min­is­tra­tion and emerged in 1988 as Rea­gan’s debonair heir ap­par­ent.

His cam­paign for the pres­i­dency was marred by some ac­tiv­i­ties widely re­garded as less than gen­tle­manly. Most con­tro­ver­sial was the use of the case of Wil­lie Hor­ton, a con­victed mur­derer freed un­der a Mas­sachusetts fur­lough, or pa­role,

Bush an­noyed Rea­gan’s camp not least by calling his ideas ‘voodoo eco­nom­ics’

pro­gramme, who went on to com­mit an at­tack that re­sulted in con­vic­tions for kid­nap­ping, rape and at­tempted mur­der. This fur­lough scheme had been in­tro­duced by one of Michael Dukakis’s pre­de­ces­sors as gov­er­nor of Mas­sachusetts but was de­fended by Dukakis when he stood as the Demo­cratic can­di­date.

Ed Rollins, the chair of Rea­gan’s 1984 pres­i­den­tial re-elec­tion cam­paign, stated that Bush’s cam­paign man­ager, Lee At­wa­ter, “was no racist, but he played the race card with Wil­lie Hor­ton and Ge­orge Bush looked the other way”.

The great events of 1989, when the Berlin Wall fell and the com­mu­nist em­pire in eastern Europe col­lapsed, showed Bush at his best. He had al­ready es­tab­lished a friendly work­ing re­la­tion­ship with Mikhail Gor­bachev. This en­abled him to avoid the mis­trust that might have arisen with a less diplo­matic pres­i­dent.

Even more pos­i­tive was Bush’s role in avoid­ing the po­ten­tially per­ilous con­se­quences of Ger­man re­uni­fi­ca­tion. Kohl was keen to seize the op­por­tu­nity to bring the two Ger­manys to­gether, but Gor­bachev, Mit­ter­rand and Thatcher were all op­posed.

With the help of his skil­ful na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser, Brent Scowcroft, and of his old friend from Texas and the Rea­gan White House, James Baker, now his sec­re­tary of state, Bush calmed their fears and nudged the diplo­matic process along to a suc­cess­ful con­clu­sion.

In the 1998 mem­oir he wrote jointly with Scowcroft, A World Trans­formed, Bush gave his opin­ion that “in less than a year we had ac­com­plished the most pro­found change in Eu­ro­pean pol­i­tics and se­cu­rity for many years, without con­fronta­tion, without a shot fired”. Much was cer­tainly owed to Bush’s per­sonal build­ing of trust with Kohl and with Gor­bachev.

On 1 Au­gust 1990, Bush was char­ac­ter­is­ti­cally re­ceiv­ing heat treat­ment for hit­ting too many golf balls when Scowcroft ar­rived at the White House med­i­cal of­fice and broke the news that Sad­dam was about to in­vade Kuwait. From then un­til af­ter vic­tory, the pres­i­dent did not put a foot wrong. Im­me­di­ately af­ter learn­ing of Sad­dam’s at­tack, he met Thatcher, who stiff­ened his de­ter­mi­na­tion that “this will not stand”. But he did not need the British prime min­is­ter to tell him that.

Per­haps his most im­pres­sive achieve­ment was the way in which he lined up the broad­est pos­si­ble in­ter­na­tional coali­tion against Iraq. Around 400,000 Amer­i­can troops were in­volved as well as a sig­nif­i­cant British force. The Saudis, whose bor­ders and oil­fields were di­rectly threat­ened, con­trib­uted forces. So did Syria and Egypt. The Ja­pa­nese were per­suaded to pay sub­stan­tial sums, and Bush re­ceived diplo­matic sup­port from Rus­sia, France and Ger­many. In­deed, although Sad­dam had been sup­ported by the Soviet Union in the past, on

3 Au­gust – only 48 hours or so af­ter the

in­va­sion of Kuwait – Baker and the Soviet for­eign min­ster, Ed­uard She­vard­nadze, signed a joint state­ment con­demn­ing the in­va­sion.

For the first time since the cold war be­gan, the US and the Soviet Union were on the same side. In truth, the re­la­tion­ship was dif­fi­cult for both sides. The Soviet lead­ers were re­luc­tant to send troops, and the Amer­i­cans were not keen to see them in­volved ei­ther. And there was a wob­ble, just be­fore the ground at­tacks be­gan, when the Soviet diplo­mat Alexan­der Bess­mert­nykh sug­gested the ac­tion could be called off pend­ing a ne­go­ti­ated set­tle­ment, which by then the Amer­i­cans did not want.

The mil­i­tary cam­paign was over in a mat­ter of days, and Bush’s most con­tro­ver­sial de­ci­sion was to end the war be­fore the coali­tion’s forces could reach Bagh­dad and over­throw Sad­dam, as his son’s army did. Crit­ics have sug­gested that his Saudi friends in­flu­enced Bush, re­luc­tant as they were to take a step that might end with putting Shia Mus­lims in power in Iraq. Bush him­self merely pointed out that his con­gres­sional man­date was to lib­er­ate Kuwait, not to oust Sad­dam.

It is plain that he was al­ready aware of the dan­ger of in­cur­ring re­spon­si­bil­ity for Iraq in the way that his son did so dis­as­trously. He re­mained staunchly sup­port­ive of his son’s pol­icy in pub­lic. But one of the most in­trigu­ing ques­tions about Bush Sr is what he re­ally thought. Given the strong sense of fam­ily sol­i­dar­ity, it is at least pos­si­ble that he pri­vately op­posed the in­va­sion of 2003 but de­cided not to say so.

Cer­tainly, both he and Scowcroft crit­i­cised an op­er­a­tion that would have led to the cap­ture of Bagh­dad when they were in com­mand. In view of what Bush Jr was to do a decade later, there is irony in Bush Sr and Scowcroft’s judg­ment that had the US oc­cu­pied Bagh­dad and ruled Iraq, it would have vi­o­lated its own prin­ci­ples and “could con­ceiv­ably still be an oc­cu­py­ing power in a bit­terly hos­tile land”.

Af­ter Bush’s mas­terly man­age­ment of the first Iraq war, it might have been as­sumed that his re­elec­tion, for a sec­ond four-year term from 1993, would be as­sured. In fact, his pop­u­lar­ity plum­meted, from more than 90% by some poll mea­sures to un­der 40%. One rea­son, as the vic­to­ri­ous Bill Clin­ton put it, was ob­vi­ous: “It’s the econ­omy, stupid!”

Even if he had wanted to be more ac­tive than he ac­tu­ally was, he would have been con­strained by the im­mense deficit he had in­her­ited from Rea­gan. The only two pieces of do­mes­tic leg­is­la­tion of any sig­nif­i­cance he per­suaded Congress to pass were the Dis­abil­i­ties Act of 1990, bring­ing dis­abled peo­ple, as he put it, “into the main­stream”, and the Clean Air Act of 1990, passed af­ter the Exxon Valdez oil spill. In the end, as Clin­ton him­self summed up the elec­tion in his own mem­oir: “I had won the de­bate over what the elec­tion was about.”

That, along with Clin­ton’s very able cam­paign team, had been too much for Bush, a man who gave the im­pres­sion that he did not like cam­paign­ing.

Bush was vul­ner­a­ble to the sus­pi­cion that he was a pa­tri­cian, shel­tered from the trou­bles of most peo­ple’s lives. Although his de­meanour re­mained mod­est, he did ev­ery­thing to con­firm this stereo­type. The in­de­pen­dent third party can­di­date, Ross Perot, one of the most suc­cess­ful in his­tory, who won 19% of the vote, made cap­i­tal out of the Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion’s ap­par­ent in­dif­fer­ence to mid­dle-class in­se­cu­rity.

Even Pat Buchanan, the rightwing Re­pub­li­can chal­lenger, made mileage out of calling Bush “King Ge­orge”. It was an ugly cam­paign, fea­tur­ing in­sin­u­a­tions of adul­tery and other per­sonal at­tacks on both can­di­dates. Bush lost a cam­paign, one Clin­ton bi­og­ra­pher wrote, “shaped as much by Bush’s fee­ble grip on power as by Clin­ton’s de­ter­mined grasp for it”.

In the cir­cum­stances, Bush’s re­jec­tion by the elec­torate in a pe­riod of ex­treme eco­nomic stag­na­tion and fear is less re­mark­able than his re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion in the court of pub­lic opin­ion. Con­ser­va­tives never for­gave Clin­ton for in­ter­rupt­ing what they saw as their his­tor­i­cally in­evitable, if not di­vinely or­dained, as­cen­dancy. Bush him­self won sym­pa­thy when an at­tempt was made to as­sas­si­nate him dur­ing a visit to Kuwait.

Most strik­ing of all was the way the con­ser­va­tive move­ment, and the Re­pub­li­can party with which it in­creas­ingly over­lapped, al­lowed him to pass on a cer­tain po­lit­i­cal charisma to his sons, first to John El­lis “Jeb” Bush and then, af­ter Jeb’s de­feat in his first run for gov­er­nor of Florida, to Ge­orge W.

The two Ge­orges, af­ter all, were more than a lit­tle dif­fer­ent: the fa­ther a well-man­nered pa­tri­cian, the son – well, some­thing very dif­fer­ent. “Poppy” was far too tra­di­tional a pa­tri­arch to al­low the press any spe­cific idea of what he thought of his two sons. When Ge­orge W was crit­i­cised, his fa­ther and mother would say how proud they were of their son. In 2010, the two men jointly threw out the first cer­e­mo­nial pitch in a World Se­ries base­ball game.

The Bushes re­mained, how­ever, above all else a fam­ily, tightly bound by shared am­bi­tions, at­ti­tudes and habits, and es­pe­cially by a com­mon pas­sion for all forms of sport. Bush Sr wrote a mov­ing let­ter to his sons about his own con­scious­ness of the age­ing process and, by im­pli­ca­tion, though he was too ret­i­cent to make much of it, of the ap­proach of death. But the ex­am­ples he cited were all taken from sports, the creak­ing of joints on the ten­nis court, and the short­en­ing of his golf drive.

None­the­less, Bush was an un­con­ven­tional fig­ure in turn­ing his back on the easy life he might have had in busi­ness. He climbed, against most ex­pec­ta­tions, to the top of the greasy po­lit­i­cal pole, and made a real im­pact on in­ter­na­tional pol­i­tics at a mo­ment of dan­ger­ous tran­si­tion.

Bush was bet­ter known for his sim­ple ex­pres­sions of per­sonal taste and be­lief than for philo­soph­i­cal pro­fun­dity. He dis­liked broc­coli, he told the press, and had done so since he was a lit­tle child. He was not the sort of guy, he said, who would ever apol­o­gise for the US, what­ever the facts. Such mo­ments led the sharp-tongued Texas gov­er­nor Ann Richards to say: “Poor Ge­orge, he was born with a sil­ver foot in his mouth.”

What­ever the truth about his dab­blings in the covert world, and for all his proven abil­ity to hold his own with the sub­tleties of diplo­macy, he re­mained at heart an Ivy League hero out of the pages of John O’Hara or John P Mar­quand, de­voted to cap­i­tal­ism, fam­ily, hon­our and coun­try. He was hap­pi­est when fish­ing from his speed­boat, Fidelity, in the wa­ters off Maine, or pitch­ing horse­shoes and greet­ing each of his own suc­cess­ful throws with his trade­mark cry of

“Mr Smooth does it again!”

Bar­bara died in April this year. Bush is sur­vived by their sons, Ge­orge, Jeb, Neil and Mar­vin, and daugh­ter Dorothy. An­other daugh­ter, Robin, died in child­hood.

God­frey Hodg­son

Ge­orge Her­bert Walker Bush, politi­cian, born 12 June 1924; died 30 Novem­ber 2018

He was vul­ner­a­ble to the sus­pi­cion that he was a pa­tri­cian, shel­tered from the trou­bles of peo­ple’s lives


Bush be­ing greeted by sol­diers in Dhahran, Saudi Ara­bia, in 1990


Bush, top, in uni­form as a naval avi­a­tion cadet in early 1943. He was un­der­age when he vol­un­teered, be­com­ing the youngest navy pilot in his­tory. Above, with his wife, Bar­bara, and chil­dren in 1956. She died in April this year


Bush with the then prime min­is­ter Mar­garet Thatcher out­side No 10 Down­ing Street in 1989; and with Mikhail Gor­bachev dur­ing a press con­fer­ence in the White House, 1990

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