Pres­i­dent led life of ser­vice

A World War II Navy pi­lot, he earned re­spect lead­ing to, and af­ter the White House.

The Morning Call (Sunday) - - FRONT PAGE - By Michael Graczyk

HOUS­TON — Ge­orge Her­bert Walker Bush played many prom­i­nent pub­lic roles in nearly a cen­tury of life, from when he was a 20-year-old World War II hero to the 41st pres­i­dent of the United States. In be­tween came turns as a con­gress­man, the di­rec­tor of the CIA, an am­bas­sador to the United Na­tions and China, and a two-term vice pres­i­dent.

Yet col­leagues and friends say the great-grand­fa­ther was hum­ble, mod­est and un­fail­ingly polite.

Bush, who died late Fri­day at his Hous­ton home at age 94, would see his pop­u­lar­ity as pres­i­dent soar af­ter he as­sem­bled a U.S.-led mil­i­tary coali­tion that lib­er­ated Kuwait from its in­vad­ing neigh­bor Iraq in 1991 dur­ing the Gulf War. But just a year later, a deep­en­ing eco­nomic cri­sis at home would drive him from of­fice when he lost his bid for re-elec­tion.

Still, the Re­pub­li­can would rein­vent him­self yet again by be­com­ing an el­der states­man ad­mired by mem­bers of both ma­jor po­lit­i­cal par­ties. Bush, who died just eight months af­ter the death of his wife of seven decades, Barbara, also saw his son Ge­orge W. Bush twice elected as the na­tion’s 43rd pres­i­dent.

“Ge­orge H.W. Bush was a man of the high­est char­ac­ter and the best dad a son or

daugh­ter could ask for,” the younger Bush said in a state­ment Fri­day. “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, and for the con­do­lences of our friends and fel­low cit­i­zens.”

Air Force One was be­ing sent to Texas to trans­port Bush’s cas­ket to Wash­ing­ton, where his body will lay in state at the Capi­tol Ro­tunda af­ter an ar­rival cer­e­mony Mon­day. The pub­lic is in­vited and can pay their re­spects from Mon­day evening through Wed­nes­day morn­ing. The fam­ily is still ar­rang­ing fu­neral ser­vices, but the White House said Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump and first lady Me­la­nia Trump plan to at­tend.

The son of a se­na­tor, Bush was the man with golden re­sume who rose through the po­lit­i­cal ranks, which also in­cluded be­com­ing the Re­pub­li­can Party chair­man be­fore serv­ing as vice pres­i­dent un­der the hugely pop­u­lar Ron­ald Rea­gan.

But he ac­knowl­edged he had trou­ble ar­tic­u­lat­ing “the vi­sion thing” dur­ing his time in of­fice. He was also haunted by his de­ci­sion to break a stern, solemn vow he made to vot­ers when he ac­cepted the Re­pub­li­can Party’s nom­i­na­tion for pres­i­dent in 1988: “Read my lips. No new taxes.”

He lost his bid for re-elec­tion to then-Arkansas Gov. Bill Clin­ton dur­ing a cam­paign in which busi­ness­man H. Ross Perot took al­most 19 per­cent of the vote as an in­de­pen­dent can­di­date. But with the elec­tion of son Ge­orge W. Bush to the White House, they be­came only the sec­ond fa­ther-and-son chief ex­ec­u­tives, fol­low­ing John Adams and John Quincy Adams.

Out of of­fice, Bush was con­tent to re­main largely 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?” he joked in Oc­to­ber 2005.

As the years passed, his 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.

Dur­ing his pres­i­dency, his greatest tri­umphs came with his han­dling of the first Gulf War and dur­ing a time when the Cold War was end­ing. Af­ter Iraq in­vaded Kuwait in Au­gust 1990, Bush quickly 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 As­so­ci­ated Press in 2011 from his of­fice just a few blocks from his Hous­ton home. “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. Bush later ac­knowl­edged: “I mis­cal­cu­lated.” His legacy was dogged for years by that de­ci­sion not to go into Bagh­dad and re­move Iraqi leader Sad­dam Hus­sein from power. Hus­sein was even­tu­ally ousted in 2003, in the sec­ond Gulf War led by Bush’s son, 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 even sug­gested he was a “wimp.” But his workhard, play-hard ap­proach to the pres­i­dency ini­tially won broad pub­lic ap­proval: He held more news con­fer­ences in most months than Rea­gan, his pre­de­ces­sor, did in most years.

The Iraq cri­sis of 1990 to 1991 also brought out the skills Bush had honed in a quar­ter-cen­tury of pol­i­tics and pub­lic ser­vice. Af­ter win­ning United Na­tions sup­port and a green light from a re­luc­tant Congress, he un­leashed a pun­ish­ing air war against Iraq and a five-day ground jug­ger­naut that sent Iraqi forces reel­ing in dis­ar­ray back to Bagh­dad. He basked in the big­gest out­pour­ing of pa­tri­o­tism and pride in Amer­ica’s mil­i­tary since World War II, and his ap­proval rat­ings soared to nearly 90 per­cent.

The other bat­tles he fought as pres­i­dent, in­clud­ing a war on drugs and a cru­sade to make Amer­i­can chil­dren the best ed­u­cated in the world, were not so de­ci­sively won.

An avid out­doors­man who took Theodore Roo­sevelt as a model, Bush sought to safe­guard the en­vi­ron­ment and signed the first im­prove­ments to the Clean Air Act in more than a decade. It was ac­tivism with a Re­pub­li­can cast, al­low­ing pol­luters to buy oth­ers’ clean-air cred­its and giv­ing in­dus­try flex­i­bil­ity on how to meet tougher goals on smog.

He also signed the land­mark Amer­i­cans with Dis­abil­i­ties Act to ban work­place dis­crim­i­na­tion against peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties and re­quire im­proved ac­cess to pub­lic places and trans­porta­tion.

Bush rode into of­fice pledg­ing to make the United States a “kinder, gen­tler” na­tion and call­ing on Amer­i­cans to vol­un­teer their time for good causes — an ef­fort he said would cre­ate “a thou­sand points of light.”

But it was Bush’s vi­o­la­tion of a dif­fer­ent pledge — the no-new­taxes prom­ise — that helped sink his bid for a sec­ond term. He aban­doned the idea in his sec­ond year, cut­ting a deficit-re­duc­tion deal that an­gered many con­gres­sional Repub­li­cans and con­trib­uted to GOP losses in the 1990 midterm elec­tions.

Bush failed to rein in the deficit, which had tripled to $3 trillion un­der Rea­gan and gal­loped ahead by as much as $300 bil­lion a year un­der Bush. Seven years of eco­nomic growth ended in mid-1990, just as the Gulf cri­sis be­gan to un­fold. Bush in­sisted the re­ces­sion would be “short and shal­low,” and law­mak­ers did not even try to pass a jobs bill or other re­lief mea­sures.

Bush’s true in­ter­ests lay else­where, out­side the realm of net­tle­some do­mes­tic pol­i­tics.

“I love cop­ing with the prob­lems in for­eign af­fairs,” he told a child who asked what he liked best about be­ing pres­i­dent.

He op­er­ated at times like a one-man State Depart­ment, on the phone at dawn with his peers — Mikhail Gor­bachev of the Soviet Union, Fran­cois Mit­ter­rand of France, Ger­many’s Hel­mut Kohl.

Com­mu­nism be­gan to crum­ble on his watch, with the Ber­lin Wall com­ing down, the War­saw Pact dis­in­te­grat­ing and the Soviet satel­lites fall­ing out of orbit.

He seized lead­er­ship of the NATO al­liance with a bold and ul­ti­mately suc­cess­ful pro­posal for deep troop and tank cuts in Europe. Huge crowds cheered him on a tri­umphal tour through Poland and Hun­gary.

Bush’s in­va­sion of Panama in De­cem­ber 1989 was a mil­i­tary pre­cur­sor of the Gulf War and another suc­cess: a quick op­er­a­tion with a re­sound­ingly su­pe­rior Amer­i­can force. But in Panama, the troops seized dic­ta­tor Manuel Nor­iega and brought him back to the United States in chains to stand trial on drug­traf­fick­ing charges.

In the clos­ing days of the 1992 cam­paign, Bush fought the im­pres­sion that as the son of wealth he was dis­tant and out of touch with or­di­nary peo­ple.

Dur­ing a cam­paign visit to a gro­cers’ con­ven­tion, he re­port­edly ex­pressed amaze­ment when shown an elec­tronic check­out scan­ner. Crit­ics seized on the mo­ment, say­ing it in­di­cated that the pres­i­dent had be­come dis­con­nected from vot­ers.

Later at a town-hall style de­bate, he paused to look at his

wrist­watch — a seem­ingly in­no­cent glance that be­came freighted with deeper mean­ing be­cause it seemed to re­in­force the idea of a bored, im­pa­tient in­cum­bent.

In the same de­bate, Bush be­came con­fused by a woman’s ques­tion about whether the deficit had af­fected him per­son­ally. Clin­ton, with ap­par­ent ease, left his seat, walked to the edge of the stage to ad­dress the woman and of­fered a sym­pa­thetic answer.

“I lost in92` 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. I couldn’t get through this hue and cry for `change, change, change’ and `The econ­omy is horrible, still in re­ces­sion.’

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.

He en­listed in the Navy on his 18th birthday in 1942, right out of prep school. He re­turned home to marry his 19-year-old sweet­heart, Barbara Pierce, daugh­ter of the pub­lisher of McCall’s mag­a­zine, in Jan­uary 1945. They were the long­est-mar­ried pres­i­den­tial cou­ple in U.S. his­tory. She died April 17.

One of the youngest pi­lots in the Navy, he flew 58 mis­sions off the car­rier USS San Jac­into. He had to ditch one plane in the Pa­cific and was shot down Sept. 2, 1944, while com­plet­ing a bomb­ing run against a Ja­panese ra­dio tower. An Amer­i­can sub­ma­rine rescued Bush. His two crew­mates died. He re­ceived the Distin­guished Fly­ing Cross for brav­ery.

He was elected to Congress in 1966 and served two terms. Pres­i­dent Richard Nixon ap­pointed him am­bas­sador to the United Na­tions, and af­ter the 1972 elec­tion, named him chair­man of the Re­pub­li­can Na­tional Com­mit­tee. Later he would serve as am­bas­sador to China and head of the CIA.

He made his first bid for pres­i­dent in 1980. Although Bush won the early Iowa cau­cuses, Rea­gan went on to win the nom­i­na­tion and select him as his vice pres­i­den­tial run­ning mate.

In the 1988 pres­i­den­tial race, Bush trailed the Demo­cratic nom­i­nee, Mas­sachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis, by as many as 17 points that sum­mer. He did lit­tle to help him­self by pick­ing Dan Quayle, a lightly re­garded ju­nior se­na­tor from In­di­ana, as his run­ning mate.

But Bush soon be­came an ag­gres­sor, stress­ing pa­tri­otic themes and flail­ing Dukakis as an out-of-touch lib­eral. He car­ried 40 states, be­com­ing the first sit­ting vice pres­i­dent to be elected pres­i­dent since Martin Van Buren in 1836.

He took of­fice with the hu­mil­ity that was his hall­mark.

“Some see lead­er­ship as high drama, and the sound of trum­pets call­ing, and some­times it is that,” he said at his in­au­gu­ra­tion. “But I see his­tory as a book with many pages, and each day we fill a page with acts of hope­ful­ness and mean­ing. The new breeze blows, a page turns, the story un­folds.”

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.

He be­came the pa­tri­arch of one of the na­tion’s most prom­i­nent po­lit­i­cal fam­i­lies . In ad­di­tion to Ge­orge W. be­com­ing pres­i­dent, another son, Jeb, was elected Florida gover­nor in 1998 and made an un­suc­cess­ful run for the GOP pres­i­den­tial nom­i­na­tion in 2016.

The other Bush chil­dren are sons Neil and Marvin and daugh­ter Dorothy Bush LeBlond. Another daugh­ter, Robin, died of leukemia in 1953, a few weeks be­fore her fourth birthday.

CHARLES KRUPA/AP FILE PHOTO

For­mer Pres­i­dent Ge­orge H.W. Bush and his wife, Barbara, were the long­est-mar­ried pres­i­den­tial cou­ple in U.S. his­tory. He died Fri­day, about about eight months af­ter her.

AP FILE PHOTO

Pres­i­dent-elect Ge­orge H.W. Bush ac­knowl­edges the crowd’s ap­plause dur­ing a vic­tory rally Nov. 9, 1988, af­ter be­com­ing the first sit­ting vice pres­i­dent to be elected pres­i­dent since 1836.

SGT. 1ST CLASS KEVIN MCDANIEL/AP FILE PHOTO

In this photo pro­vided by the U.S. Army Golden Knights, for­mer Pres­i­dent Ge­orge H.W. Bush is shown dur­ing his free fall Nov. 10, 2007, above his pres­i­den­tial mu­seum in Col­lege Sta­tion, Texas.

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