Bush, 41st pres­i­dent, led long life of ser­vice, dig­nity

Head of GOP po­lit­i­cal dy­nasty dies 7 months af­ter wife at 94

The Fresno Bee (Sunday) - - Front Page - BY JARED GILMOUR AND STEVE THOMMA jil­[email protected]­clatchy.com

For­mer Pres­i­dent Ge­orge H.W. Bush — who buried his wife, Bar­bara, ear­lier this year — died Fri­day at 94.

Serv­ing for a sin­gle term, Bush oc­cu­pied the Oval Of­fice from 1989 to 1993. Dur­ing that time, Bush led the United States to vic­tory in a 1991 ef­fort to drive Iraqi troops out of Kuwait.

Bush lost his bid for re­elec­tion to Pres­i­dent Bill Clin­ton, but saw his son, Ge­orge W. Bush, elected pres­i­dent eight years later. That es­tab­lished his fam­ily as a po­lit­i­cal dy­nasty along­side the Adams and Kennedy fam­i­lies.

Be­fore be­com­ing pres­i­dent, Bush was elected to Congress and served as the U.S. am­bas­sador to the United Na­tions, di­rec­tor of the Cen­tral In­tel­li­gence Agency and vice pres­i­dent un­der Ronald Rea­gan.

Bush has suf­fered from re­s­pi­ra­tory prob­lems in re­cent years, and about a year ago he was hos­pi­tal­ized for two weeks to treat pneu­mo­nia and chronic bron­chi­tis. Ear­lier in 2017 Bush spent 16 days in the hos­pi­tal for a sep­a­rate case of pneu­mo­nia.

Bush also suf­fered from vas­cu­lar parkin­son­ism, a rare con­di­tion whose symp­toms are sim­i­lar to Parkin­son’s Dis­ease. For the last sev­eral years, he had re­lied on a wheel­chair.

The el­der Bush was the last pres­i­dent from the gen­er­a­tion that en­dured the Great De­pres­sion of the 1930s, won World War II, built a pros­per­ous and pow­er­ful post­war Amer­ica and won the Cold War against Soviet com­mu­nism.

Born June 12, 1924, to wealth and priv­i­lege, Bush chose a life of duty and ser­vice that spanned five decades, from his ser­vice as the Navy’s youngest pi­lot in World War II

to stints in Congress, as am­bas­sador to the United Na­tions, chair­man of the Repub­li­can Party, li­ai­son to China, di­rec­tor of the Cen­tral In­tel­li­gence Agency, vice pres­i­dent and fi­nally to his elec­tion as the coun­try’s 41st pres­i­dent.

“It has been a won­der­ful jour­ney,” he wrote as he looked for­ward to his 80th birth­day on June 12, 2004.

In the first rush of his­tory, an­a­lysts rate Bush an av­er­age pres­i­dent, tri­umphant in war and for­eign pol­icy but sad­dled at home with a re­ces­sion.

“He’s prob­a­bly ranked in the mid­dle of the pres­i­dents,” said Bill Le­vantrosser, a po­lit­i­cal sci­en­tist at Hof­s­tra Univer­sity in New York. “As time goes on, though, I think he’s go­ing to rise in peo­ple’s es­ti­mates.”

Her­bert Parmet, au­thor of the first de­fin­i­tive bi­og­ra­phy, “Ge­orge Bush: The Life of a Lone Star Yan­kee,” said Bush would be re­mem­bered for his lead­er­ship in for­eign af­fairs but also for run­ning an ad­min­is­tra­tion com­par­a­tively free of scan­dal.

With a uniquely per­sonal style of lead­er­ship and diplo­macy, Bush will be re­mem­bered as the pres­i­dent who as­sem­bled an in­ter­na­tional coali­tion against Iraqi dic­ta­tor Sad­dam Hus­sein af­ter Sad­dam’s army in­vaded neigh­bor­ing Kuwait and threat­ened oil-rich Saudi Ara­bia.

Bush res­o­lutely drew what he called a “line in the sand” and de­clared that the in­va­sion would not stand.

Fac­ing re­luc­tance at home and abroad, Bush first con­vinced the Amer­i­can peo­ple that it was in their in­ter­est to push Iraq back. Then, in a stream of per­sonal phone calls to world lead­ers, he mar­shaled an in­ter­na­tional coali­tion the likes of which had not been seen since World War II.

On the eve of war, Bush wrote to his own five chil­dren about the choices he faced.

“When the ques­tion is asked, ‘How many lives are you will­ing to sac­ri­fice?’ it tears at my heart,” he wrote. “The an­swer, of course, is none, none at all.”

He shared a con­cern that he might face im­peach­ment if a war proved long and un­suc­cess­ful, but added that he viewed the con­fronta­tion with Iraq and Sad­dam as one of good vs. evil, akin to the war against Nazi leader Adolf Hitler.

“Some­times in life, you have to act as you think best. You can’t com­pro­mise, you can’t give in, even if your crit­ics are loud and numer­ous.”

Just weeks later, in Jan­uary 1991, a U.S.-led jug­ger­naut slaugh­tered Iraq’s forces and lib­er­ated Kuwait. Agree­ing with his mil­i­tary ad­vis­ers, Bush or­dered an end to the as­sault with Iraq’s forces in re­treat, a move that left Sad­dam in power.

Bush later said he had thought the Iraqi peo­ple would over­throw Sad­dam them­selves.

A venge­ful Sad­dam later plot­ted to have Bush as­sas­si­nated af­ter he had left of­fice. In re­tal­i­a­tion, Clin­ton bombed the Iraqi na­tional in­tel­li­gence head­quar­ters.

Sad­dam re­mained in power un­til he was top­pled in 2003 by an in­va­sion led by Bush’s son.

The el­der Bush also over­saw the West’s vic­tory over Soviet com­mu­nism af­ter 50 years of Cold War. The vic­tory had been won over the decades, but Bush got credit for his even-handed re­sponse when the Soviet Union fi­nally col­lapsed.

“Some wanted an over­re­ac­tion,” Parmet said. “But Bush said we don’t have to dance on the Ber­lin Wall. Steer­ing the end of the Cold War with­out hav­ing the Rus­sians or the Soviet Union col­lapse in a way that would have re­dounded to our dis­ad­van­tage, with­out push­ing them into the arms of hard-line ex­trem­ists, that was ex­traor­di­nar­ily im­por­tant to the legacy in a way most Amer­i­cans do not ap­pre­ci­ate.”

Two weeks af­ter the war against Iraq ended, 91 per­cent of the Amer­i­can peo­ple said they liked Bush and ap­proved of the job he was do­ing. Yet just be­neath the eu­pho­ria of vic­tory was eco­nomic anx­i­ety — sim­mer­ing anger at a pres­i­dent who had raised taxes in vi­o­la­tion of his “read my lips” cam­paign pledge not to do so and grow­ing angst over the toll a broad re­ces­sion had taken on wages and per­sonal fi­nan­cial se­cu­rity.

Bush, a pa­tri­cian and wealthy man who spent his sum­mers at a sprawl­ing ocean­front re­treat in Ken­neb­unkport, Maine, was of­ten ac­cused of fail­ing to em­pathize with his less-priv­i­leged coun­try­men.

In one of the most amaz­ing falls from grace in mod­ern po­lit­i­cal his­tory, he was turned out of of­fice just 18 months af­ter the war, de­feated by Arkansas Gov. Bill Clin­ton.

Bush spent the first of his re­tire­ment years ac­tively, golf­ing, fish­ing, play­ing horse­shoes, parachut­ing with mem­bers of the mil­i­tary Golden Knights para­chute team. He raised money for char­i­ties and fel­low Repub­li­cans, fore­most his two po­lit­i­cal sons. Near­ing 80, he had to give up some of the more stren­u­ous ac­tiv­i­ties such as ten­nis and con­fessed that he some­times found his mind grow­ing “a lit­tle lazy” as he strug­gled to re­mem­ber some things.

Ge­orge Her­bert Walker Bush was born on June 12, 1924, to Dorothy and Prescott Bush. His mother came from wealth — her fam­ily owned the now­fa­mous Walker’s Point land on the Maine coast — and his fa­ther was a banker who later served as a Repub­li­can sen­a­tor from Con­necti­cut.

His par­ents in­stilled in him two val­ues he car­ried through­out his life: self­less­ness and ser­vice.

Bush also en­joyed a large and close-knit fam­ily. Af­ter his 3-year-old daugh­ter, Robin, died of leukemia in 1953, Bush wrote of his loss in a let­ter to his mother with an elo­quence he rarely re­vealed in pub­lic. “There was about her a cer­tain soft­ness,” he wrote. “Her peace made me feel strong, and so very im­por­tant … but she is still with us. We need her and yet we have her. We can’t touch her, and yet we feel her.”

His sons Ge­orge and Jeb later re­called that their dad al­ways made time for them and fam­ily, even when he was pres­i­dent.

“My dad was pres­i­dent, but he was also a per­son mo­ti­vated by his faith in God, by his love of fam­ily. That’s where his in­ner strength came from,” said Jeb Bush.

Added Ge­orge W. Bush: “In spite of the fact that Ge­orge Bush was al­ways busy as pres­i­dent, he was al­ways a great dad. … Ge­orge Bush was a great pres­i­dent. But first and fore­most, he was a great man.”

LAWRENCE JACK­SON AP

For­mer Pres­i­dent Ge­orge H.W. Bush is shown dur­ing his ar­rival on the South Lawn of the White House on May 11, 2008. Bush died at the age of 94 on Fri­day, about eight months af­ter the death of his wife, Bar­bara. He served as vice pres­i­dent for eight years and pres­i­dent for four, from 1989 to 1993.

PAUL HOSEFROS NYT

Vice Pres­i­dent Ge­orge H.W. Bush, his wife, Bar­bara, first lady Nancy Rea­gan and Pres­i­dent Ronald Rea­gan at­tended the GOP Na­tional Con­ven­tion in New Or­leans, where Bush was nom­i­nated, in 1988.

AP

Bush was cap­tain of the Yale base­ball team. He played in the first Col­lege World Se­ries in 1947.

J. SCOTT APPLEWHITE AP

For­mer Pres­i­dent Ge­orge H.W. Bush, left, joins then Pres­i­dent-elect Barack Obama, Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush, for­mer Pres­i­dent Bill Clin­ton and for­mer Pres­i­dent Jimmy Carter in the Oval Of­fice at the White House in 2009.

SGT. 1ST CLASS KEVIN MCDANIEL AP

For­mer Pres­i­dent Ge­orge H.W. Bush, in 2007, free falls with Golden Knights para­chute team mem­ber Sgt. 1st Class Mike El­liott, as he makes a dra­matic en­trance to his pres­i­den­tial mu­seum dur­ing a reded­i­ca­tion cer­e­mony.

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