A look back at the life of a war hero, statesman.
HOUSTON — George H.W. Bush, whose presidency soared with the coalition victory over Iraq in Kuwait, but then plummeted in the throes of a weak economy that led voters to turn him out of office after a single term, has died. He was 94.
The World War II hero, who also presided during the collapse of the Soviet Union and the final months of the Cold War, died Friday night at his Houston home, said family spokesman Jim McGrath.
His wife of more than 70 years, Barbara Bush, died in April.
The son of a senator and father of a president, Bush was the man with the golden resume who rose through the political ranks: from congressman to U.N. ambassador, Republican Party chairman to envoy to China, CIA director to twoterm vice president under the popular Ronald Reagan. The 1991 Gulf War stoked his popularity.
But Bush would acknowledge that he had trouble articulating “the vision thing,” and he was haunted by his decision to break a stern, solemn vow he made to voters: “Read my lips. No new taxes.”
He lost his bid for reelection to Bill Clinton in a campaign in which businessman H. Ross Perot took almost 19 percent of the vote as an independent candidate. Still, he lived to see his son, George W., twice elected to the presidency — only the second father-and-son chief executives, following John Adams and John Quincy Adams.
The 43rd president issued a statement Friday following his father’s death, saying the elder Bush “was a man of the highest character.”
“The entire Bush family is deeply grateful for 41’s life and love, for the compassion of those who have cared and prayed for Dad,” the statement read.
After his 1992 defeat, George H.W. Bush complained that media-created “myths” gave voters a mistaken impression that he did not identify with the lives of ordinary Americans.
Once out of office, Bush was content to remain on the sidelines, except for an occasional speech or paid appearance and visits abroad. He backed Clinton on the North American Free Trade Agreement, which had its genesis during his own presidency. He visited the Middle East, where he was revered for his defense of Kuwait.
And he returned to China, where he was welcomed as “an old friend” from his days as the U.S. ambassador there.
He later teamed with Clinton to raise tens of millions of dollars for victims of a 2004 tsunami in the Indian Ocean and Hurricane Katrina, which swamped New Orleans and the Gulf Coast in 2005. During their wide-ranging travels, the political odd couple grew close.
“Who would have thought that I would be working with Bill Clinton, of all people?” Bush quipped in October 2005.
On Friday, his successor said in a statement that he would “always hold our friendship as one of my life’s greatest gifts.”
Those sentiments were echoed by Barack Obama, the 44th president, who said Friday that “America has lost a patriot and humble servant in George Herbert Walker Bush.”
In his post-presidency, Bush’s popularity rebounded with the growth of his reputation as a fundamentally decent and wellmeaning leader who, although he was not a stirring orator or a dreamy visionary, was a steadfast humanitarian. Elected officials and celebrities of both parties publicly expressed their fondness.
After Iraq invaded Kuwait in August 1990, Bush began building an international military coalition that included other Arab states. After liberating Kuwait, he rejected suggestions that the U.S. carry the offensive to Baghdad, choosing to end the hostilities a mere 100 hours after the start of the ground war.
“That wasn’t our objective,” he told The Associ- ated Press in 2011. “The good thing about it is there was so much less loss of human life than had been predicted and indeed than we might have feared.”
But the decisive military defeat did not lead to the regime’s downfall, as many in the administration had hoped.
“I miscalculated,” acknowledged Bush. His legacy was dogged for years by doubts about the decision not to remove Saddam Hussein. The Iraqi leader was eventually ousted in 2003, in the war led by Bush’s son that was followed by a long, bloody insurgency.
George H.W. Bush entered the White House in 1989 with a reputation as a man of indecision and indeterminate views.
One newsmagazine suggested he was a “wimp.”
But his work-hard, playhard approach to the presi- dency won broad public approval.
It was Bush’s violation of his no-new-taxes promise that helped sink his bid for a second term. He cut a deficit-reduction deal that angered many congressional Republicans and contributed to GOP losses in the 1990 midterm elections
Bush said the pain of losing in 1992 was eased by the warm reception he received after leaving office.
“I lost in ’92 because people still thought the economy was in the tank, that I was out of touch and I didn’t understand that,” he said in an AP interview shortly before the dedication of his presidential library in 1997. “The economy wasn’t in the tank, and I wasn’t out of touch, but I lost.”
George Herbert Walker Bush was born June 12, 1924, in Milton, Mass., into the New England elite, a world of prep schools, mansions and servants seemingly untouched by the Great Depression.
His father, Prescott Bush, the son of an Ohio steel magnate, made his fortune as an investment banker and later served 10 years as a senator from Connecticut.
George H.W. Bush enlisted in the Navy on his 18th birthday in 1942, right out of prep school. He returned home to marry his 19-yearold sweetheart, Barbara Pierce, daughter of the publisher of McCall’s magazine, in January 1945.
They were the longestmarried presidential couple in U.S. history. She died on April 17.
Bush approached old age with gusto, celebrating his 75th and 80th birthdays by skydiving over College Station, Texas, the home of his presidential library. He did it again on his 85th birthday in 2009, parachuting near his oceanfront home in Kennebunkport, Maine.
Former President George H.W. Bush embraces his son Jeb Bush as Barbara Bush applauds during a campaign rally for Jeb’s first gubernatorial bid, in Orlando, in 1994. George H.W. Bush died Friday while Barbara Bush died in April.