Bush, president and political patriarch, led long life of service
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 re-election 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
A vengeful Saddam later plotted to have Bush assassinated after he’d left office. In retaliation, President Bill Clinton bombed the Iraqi national intelligence headquarters.
Saddam remained in power until he was top- pled 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.
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’d 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, 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. 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.
Before his death, former President George H.W. Bush had lived with a rare condition whose symptoms are similar to Parkinson’s disease.
Former President George H.W. Bush, and his wife, former first lady Barbara Bush, arrive for the premiere of HBO’s documentary on his life in 2012. Bush died Friday night at age 94, about eight months after her death.