For­mer pres­i­dent was start of fam­ily’s po­lit­i­cal dy­nasty

The Sun News (Sunday) - - Front Page - BY JARED GIL­MOUR AND STEVE THOMMA jil­[email protected]

For­mer Pres­i­dent George H.W. Bush – who buried his wife, Bar­bara, 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-elec- tion 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. am­bassa- dor 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 past 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 U.S. people 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. Yet he did noth­ing to aid Iraqi Kurds and Shi­ite Mus­lims when they chal­lenged Sad­dam, only to see their re­bel­lions crushed.

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 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’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 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. 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.

“I still feel like charg­ing ahead and liv­ing life to the hilt,” he wrote in Forbes FYI magazine. “But my body lags be­hind. My mind is out there on the play­ing field or on the cam­paign trail or cir­cling the globe but my skele­tal struc­ture cries out sug­gest­ing I give it a break.”

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.

As a prep school stu­dent in 1942, Bush heard a vis­it­ing Sec­re­tary of War Henry Stimson urge Amer­ica’s young men fac­ing war to “be brave without be­ing bru­tal, self­con­fi­dent without boast­ing, part of an irresistible might but without los­ing faith in in­di­vid­ual lib­erty.”

Soon af­ter Ja­pan at­tacked Pearl Har­bor, Bush vol­un­teered for the Navy, be­com­ing an 18-year-old tor­pedo bomber pi­lot, the youngest in that branch of the ser­vice.

Head­ing into a bomb­ing run dur­ing an at­tack on the Ja­panese is­land of Chichi Jima on Sept. 2, 1944, Bush ran into Ja­panese anti-air­craft fire.

“The flak was the heav­i­est I’d ever flown into,” he wrote in his 1987 cam­paign bi­og­ra­phy, “Look­ing For­ward.” “The Ja­panese were ready and wait­ing.”

“Sud­denly there was a jolt, as if a mas­sive fist had crunched into the belly of the plane. Smoke poured into the cock­pit, and I could see flames rip­pling across the crease of the wing, edg­ing to­ward the fuel tanks. I stayed with the dive, homed in (on) the tar­get, un­loaded our four 500-pound bombs, and pulled away head­ing for the sea.”

His two crew­mates were killed, but Bush was res­cued by the U.S. sub­ma­rine Fin­back. Awarded the Dis­tin­guished Fly­ing Cross, he re­turned home and went to Yale, where he cap­tained the base­ball team.

For the son of a pros­per­ous banker, “a nor­mal pro­gres­sion would have been Yale, then Wall Street,” said Le­vantrosser, the po­lit­i­cal sci­en­tist at Hof­s­tra Univer­sity in New York. “But he had a more ad­ven­tur­ous streak, and he went to Texas to go into the oil busi­ness.”

With wife Bar­bara and son George in tow, Bush moved to West Texas.

“There wasn’t any­thing sub­tle or com­pli­cated about it,” Bush wrote. “We all just wanted to make a lot of money quick.”

Backed by money from fam­ily and friends, Bush and his Za­p­ata oil equip­ment busi­ness did make money, lots of it. Still in his 30s, Bush looked to pol­i­tics for new chal­lenges.

His in­ter­est came nat- urally. His fa­ther had been elected to the Se­nate from Con­necti­cut in 1952 and served two six-year terms. As Prescott Bush left the Se­nate, the younger Bush de­cided in 1964 to seek a Se­nate seat from Texas. He lost.

Two years later, Bush won a seat in the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives, and won re-elec­tion in 1968. By 1970, he was itch­ing to move up and weighed whether to give up a safe seat in the House for an un­cer­tain sec­ond bid for the Se­nate.

The young Bush went to see a fel­low Texan who knew more about pol­i­tics than al­most any­one he knew. In his trade­mark drawl, for­mer Pres­i­dent Lyn­don John­son told Bush the dif­fer­ence be­tween the Se­nate and the House “is the dif­fer­ence be­tween chicken salad and chicken s---.”

Bush took the ad­vice, ran for the Se­nate and lost. His four-year ca­reer in Con­gress was over.

He looked in­stead to the ex­ec­u­tive branch, work­ing for other pres­i­dents, learning how to pull the levers of power and work­ing his way up­ward. For Richard Nixon, he served as am­bas­sador to the United Na­tions and chair­man of the Repub­li­can Na­tional Com­mit­tee. For Ger­ald Ford, he served as li­ai­son to China and director of the CIA.

Fi­nally in 1980, he was ready to make his try for the top job him­self.

AP file photo

For­mer Pres­i­dent George H.W. Bush died Fri­day, about eight months af­ter the death of his wife, Bar­bara Bush.

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