Patriarch of political dynasty led life of service and dignity
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 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 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 parkinso-
nism, 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 CIA, 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. Yet he did nothing to aid Iraqi Kurds and Shiite Muslims when they challenged Saddam, only to see their rebellions crushed.
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.
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.
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.
Then-Republican presidential candidate George H.W. Bush, who went on to become the 41st president, poses for a portrait on Jan. 1, 1980. Bush died Friday night at age 94, about 7 1⁄2 months after the death of his wife, Barbara.
Presidents George H.W. Bush, Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Carter, Gerald Ford and Richard Nixon, left to right, gathered at the dedication of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library on Nov. 5, 1991, in Simi Valley.