Trump boasts he can make America safer. Bush just did it
SOMETIMES in life, we don’t realise what we had until it’s gone. And with the passing of President George H.W. Bush, America is now beginning to see that despite rejecting him for a second term in office, few leaders achieved so much in so little time.
When he was kicked out of the White House a quarter of a century ago, the 41st US leader had a terrible approval rating and was scorned by opposition Democrats and many Republicans alike.
It’s true Bush lacked the political genius of either his lionised predecessor, Ronald Reagan, or his silver-tongued successor, Bill Clinton.
His record as president was unquestionably mixed, and his campaign for re-election to the Oval Office in 1992 was destroyed by his failure to convince voters he understood the economic and social problems they suffered.
But where Bush did succeed, he did so on a huge, and often global scale. He made history, and much of that history made the world a better place.
Although at the time not given credit, he handled a series of historic crises with competence and restraint, while dealing with the everyday conflicts and compromises of governing responsibly and reasonably. But foreign policy was Bush’s great strength, and of his worldly contributions, two stand out.
Firstly, the end of the Cold War and of the Soviet Union occurred on Bush’s watch. His handling of both was skilful and adept. Bush saw the importance of giving Soviet reformers tacit support while not provoking their adversaries to act against them.
He almost single-handedly stagemanaged the creation of a new world order amid the collapse of communism, the fall of the Berlin Wall and the reunification of Germany.
Secondly, his decisions in 1990-1991 to protect Arab allies and drive Iraqi forces from Kuwait were brave and well-justified.
Both events shocked the world, and Bush steered their outcome with a calm that characterised most of his public life.
Sometimes people think politics is tawdry, today never more so. But ask any world leader, who met with Bush, what he was like and they will say he behaved impeccably at all times, with truth and honesty at the forefront of his leadership.
Naturally, he had opponents but never, they say, enemies. He made friends and never lost them.
By all accounts, Bush ensured politics was a respectable profession, and he understood its obligations to everyone, not just the powerful, not only the rich but those far less fortunate, from every walk of life.
It is difficult at the moment of his passing not to take note of the profound differences between his time in the White House and that of its current occupant, Donald Trump.
Beyond a desire to be president – Bush was more driven and ambitious than his modest personality often suggested – the two men had almost nothing in common.
Whereas one was gracious and modest, the other is arrogant and vain. One was prudent, the other brash. One dependable, the other unhinged.
Bush’s death should be a moment to remember a respectful political order when government attracted people of talent and integrity, for whom public service offered a purpose higher than self-enrichment.
Bush is now rightly seen as one of the most underrated presidents in recent history.
The end of the Cold War and of the Soviet Union occurred on Bush’s watch. His handling of both was skilful
President Trump and wife Melania pay their respects to the late George H.W Bush, left
The Berlin Wall falls, 1989