He’s proof the good guys CAN change the world

The Mail on Sunday - - Tina Weaver - By ROBIN RENWICK

GE­ORGE Bush was one of na­ture’s great gen­tle­men. As Am­bas­sador, I would re­ceive hand writ­ten notes from him, thank­ing us for some show of sup­port, leav­ing me won­der­ing how on earth he had the time to do it all.

When I ac­com­pa­nied the fam­i­lies of Bri­tish sol­diers killed in the first Gulf War to the White House, Bush in­sisted on see­ing them him­self and do­ing what he could to com­fort the stricken rel­a­tives per­son­ally.

He was a warm and ami­able man. Dur­ing the sum­mer months, we’d have drinks on the White House bal­cony and he’d never fail to point out, with good hu­mour, the scorch marks left by Ad­mi­ral Cock­burn and his Bri­tish marines when they burnt down the White House in 1814.

But Ge­orge Bush was not sim­ply a politi­cian, he was a truly great states­man and a great pub­lic ser­vant who was par­tic­u­larly shrewd when it came to for­eign af­fairs.

He goes down in his­tory as hav­ing changed the world. His great achieve­ments in­clude his steady hand as the So­viet Union col­lapsed and in the re­uni­fi­ca­tion of Ger­many, as well as his role in guid­ing Amer­ica out of the quag­mire of the first Gulf War.

It is true that he was weaker on do­mes­tic af­fairs. In­deed one of his key as­so­ci­ates once told me he was wor­ried that ‘the Pres­i­dent knew more about Kuwait than Cal­i­for­nia’.

To many, he will be re­mem­bered as a some­what pa­tri­cian fig­ure who had dif­fi­culty con­nect­ing with or­di­nary Amer­i­cans in the way Rea­gan, his pre­de­ces­sor, had done.

EVEN so, Ge­orge Bush made a greater and more pos­i­tive mark on the world than his suc­ces­sors have done, in­clud­ing his son, Ge­orge W. Bush. He was for ex­am­ple, de­ter­mined to lib­er­ate Kuwait – and then to with­draw. He did not want to get bogged down in Iraq.

When his son, as Pres­i­dent, threat­ened mil­i­tary ac­tion in 2003 Ge­orge se­nior was pub­licly loyal, but I know that in pri­vate he had tried and failed to dis­suade him from in­vad­ing. Ge­orge Bush was equally loyal to his clos­est po­lit­i­cal al­lies and friends.

His chances of re-elec­tion in 1992 would have been con­sid­er­ably im­proved if he’d re­placed the hap­less Dan Quayle as his run­ning mate, for ex­am­ple. But Quayle begged him not to get rid of him, and Ge­orge did not have the heart.

It was a mis­take. But then, he did not ex­pect to lose that elec­tion. He had been un­able to be­lieve that the Amer­i­can peo­ple would choose to elect Bill Clin­ton as their Pres­i­dent and over­look his own con­sid­er­able achieve­ments and ser­vice to his coun­try. He had, af­ter all, been a fighter pi­lot in the Sec­ond World War.

Ge­orge Bush was sim­ply too much of a gen­tle­man to put up too much op­po­si­tion – and so be­came his own worst en­emy. Dur­ing the 1992 elec­tion cam­paign, we knew from the Clin­ton camp that they were dread­ing the mo­ment when, in the Pres­i­den­tial de­bates, Ge­orge Bush would al­most cer­tainly ask his op­po­nent the hard­est ques­tion of all: ‘ What makes you think you are qual­i­fied to be com­man­der in chief?’

But Ge­orge, ever the man of honour, could not bring him­self to ask it.

He was an ad­mirer of his Bri­tish coun­ter­part, Mar­garet Thatcher, al­though their styles were very dif­fer­ent.

As Vice Pres­i­dent, he had turned up to meet her at Che­quers one week­end with his golf clubs, only to find him­self em­broiled in in­tense dis­cus­sions of world af­fairs, with no pause for breath.

Colin Pow­ell told me he was con­vinced that it was Mrs Thatcher’s meet­ing with Bush in Aspen – af­ter Sad­dam Hus­sein’s in­va­sion of Kuwait – that had stiff­ened Bush’s re­solve to oust him.

It was im­me­di­ately fol­low­ing that meet­ing that Bush had fa­mously de­clared that ‘ this ag­gres­sion will not stand ’, caus­ing Pow­ell to ac­cel­er­ate the mil­i­tary prepa­ra­tions.

When Bush tele­phoned Thatcher to ex­plain a short de­lay in tak­ing ac­tion against Iraqi ships, she fa­mously replied: ‘This is no time to go wob­bly, Ge­orge!’

The Bush team were suf­fi­ciently amused to start us­ing this slo­gan among them­selves.

But Ge­orge Bush found a warmer bond with the gen­tle­manly John Ma­jor as Prime Min­is­ter af­ter the 1990 Gen­eral Elec­tion.

The Pres­i­dent proved an ex­traor­di­nar­ily kind and gen­er­ous men­tor to the new Prime Min­is­ter, and was re­warded with Ma­jor’s staunch sup­port in the first Gulf War.

Af­ter his 1992 Elec­tion de­feat, Ma­jor paid an emo­tional farewell visit at Camp David and, on the eve of his leav­ing of­fice, we at­tended Ge­orge Bush’s last din­ner in the White House.

Bill Clin­ton did not do badly in the White House, but I could not feel that – in hu­man terms – the bet­ter man had won.

Amer­ica has just lost a great Pres­i­dent.

Not Quite A Diplo­mat, the forth­com­ing mem­oir of Lord Renwick is pub­lished by Bite­back, Fe­bru­ary 2019.

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