Pres­i­dent who ended Cold War dies at 94

‘41’ led na­tion through tu­mult of wars in life­time of pub­lic ser­vice

USA TODAY Weekend Extra - - FRONT PAGE - Su­san Page and Judy Keen

Ge­orge Her­bert Walker Bush, the pres­i­dent who man­aged the end of the Cold War and forged a global coali­tion to oust Iraqi forces from Kuwait, has died at age 94. In a po­lit­i­cal ca­reer that spanned three decades, he lost his bid for re-elec­tion and lived to see his son win the Oval Of­fice.

The death of Bush — nick­named “41” to dis­tin­guish him­self from son Ge­orge W. Bush, “43” — was an­nounced in a state­ment re­leased late Fri­day.

“Jeb, Neil, Marvin, Doro and I are sad­dened to an­nounce that af­ter 94 re­mark­able years, our dear Dad has died,” his son, for­mer Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush, said in a state­ment. “Ge­orge H.W. Bush was a man of the high­est char­ac­ter and the best dad a son or daugh­ter could ask for. 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.”

Bush will lie in state from 7:30 p.m. Mon­day to 7 a.m. Wed­nes­day at the U.S. Capi­tol Ro­tunda, con­gres­sional lead­ers an­nounced Satur­day. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump and first lady Me­la­nia Trump will at­tend the fu­neral at the Na­tional Cathe­dral, and Wed­nes­day will be de­clared a na­tional day of mourn­ing.

“There is no higher honor than to serve free men and women, no greater priv­i­lege than to la­bor in gov­ern­ment be­neath the Great Seal of the United States and the Amer­i­can flag.”

Pres­i­dent Ge­orge H.W. Bush

Bush bris­tled at the term “dy­nasty,” but his fam­ily de­fined the term. He was the son of a se­na­tor, Prescott Bush of Con­necti­cut, and the fa­ther of Jeb Bush, the two-term gover­nor of Florida, and Ge­orge W. Bush, the two-term gover­nor of Texas who went on to win two terms as pres­i­dent. Only the found­ing Adams fam­ily, John and John Quincy, can also claim both fa­ther and son as pres­i­dents.

The el­der Bush en­tered the Oval Of­fice with the long­est po­lit­i­cal re­sume of any pres­i­dent in mod­ern times: Con­gress­man. United Na­tions am­bas­sador. Re­pub­li­can na­tional chair­man. U.S. li­ai­son to China. Di­rec­tor of the CIA. When he lost the GOP pres­i­den­tial nom­i­na­tion in 1980 to Ron­ald Rea­gan, the for­mer Cal­i­for­nia gover­nor of­fered him the vice pres­i­dency, a role he filled for eight years

“He’ll be ad­mired for end­ing the Cold War on terms that Amer­i­cans never could have dreamt pos­si­ble . ... It would not have hap­pened if Ge­orge Bush hadn’t been there.” Michael Beschloss Pres­i­den­tial his­to­rian

be­fore win­ning the top job him­self in 1988 over Demo­crat Michael Dukakis.

Bush’s bid for a sec­ond term in 1992 was re­buffed by vot­ers who weren’t con­vinced he un­der­stood the eco­nomic anx­i­eties in their lives.

Bush moved home to Hous­ton, where he and Barbara be­came fa­mil­iar fig­ures at Astros games, restau­rants and fundrais­ing galas. He over­saw the build­ing of the Ge­orge Bush Pres­i­den­tial Li­brary and Mu­seum on the grounds of Texas A&M, in Col­lege Sta­tion. And he de­ter­minedly re­jected ef­forts to an­a­lyze his role in his­tory, de­clin­ing even to write the sort of mem­oir that has be­come the lu­cra­tive last word for past pres­i­dents.

“I don’t want any­one to pay at­ten­tion to me,” he told USA TO­DAY in 1997. “I’m con­fi­dent that his­to­ri­ans from one per­spec­tive or another are go­ing to write and say what they think and then there’ll be a merge of a judg­ment of our ad­min­is­tra­tion.”

He added with a smile: “I think his­tory’s go­ing to be rel­a­tively kind.”

Pres­i­den­tial his­to­rian Michael Beschloss agreed.

“Es­pe­cially af­ter his pres­i­dency, Bush came to be seen as a real hu­man be­ing and, in­stinc­tively, Amer­i­cans felt good about him,” he said.

Man in a hurry

Bush was born in Mil­ton, Mass., on June 12, 1924, into a fam­ily of en­ti­tle­ment, en­ergy and pub­lic ser­vice.

On the day he turned 18, Bush grad­u­ated from Phillips Academy An­dover and en­listed in the Navy, lit­tle more than six months af­ter the Ja­panese at­tack on Pearl Har­bor. Less than a year later, when he was still 18, he re­ceived his wings and of­fi­cer’s com­mis­sion. He was be­lieved to be the Navy’s youngest pi­lot.

For the next two years, Bush flew tor­pedo bombers off the USS San Jac­into. On Sept. 2, 1944, his plane was hit by anti-air­craft fire while on a bomb­ing run in the Pa­cific. Bush bailed and was rescued by a sub­ma­rine, but his two crewmem­bers were killed. Bush would later say he thought of them ev­ery day.

Af­ter the war, Bush was a man in a hurry. He mar­ried Barbara Pierce in 1945 and grad­u­ated in 1948 with a de­gree in eco­nom­ics from Yale, where he was also cap­tain of the base­ball team. The cou­ple and son Ge­orgie, then a tod­dler, moved to the Oil Patch in Odessa, Texas, to seek his for­tune. He started as a sales­man of oil field equip­ment for a com­pany owned by a friend of his fa­ther, then founded an oil com­pany of his own.

They would have six chil­dren in all: Ge­orge, Robin, Jeb, Neil, Marvin and Doro. Robin died at age 3 of leukemia, a loss that would re­ver­ber­ate through their lives. Decades later, her por­trait was still hang­ing in a cor­ner of her par­ents’ liv­ing room.

Barbara Bush died at their Hous­ton home on April 17 af­ter a long bat­tle with con­ges­tive heart fail­ure. Her hus­band of 73 years, the long­est pres­i­den­tial mar­riage in his­tory, was hold­ing her hand.

Bush lost his first po­lit­i­cal cam­paign, for a U.S. Se­nate seat in 1964, but he was elected to the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives in 1966. He was re-elected two years later and then lost a sec­ond cam­paign for the Se­nate in 1970.

Pres­i­dent Richard Nixon ap­pointed Bush am­bas­sador to the United Na­tions and then drafted him to chair the Re­pub­li­can Na­tional Com­mit­tee dur­ing the Water­gate scan­dal. Af­ter Nixon re­signed, Pres­i­dent Ger­ald Ford named him chief of the U.S. Li­ai­son Of­fice in China and then di­rec­tor of the Cen­tral In­tel­li­gence Agency.

In 1980, with some re­luc­tance af­ter a tough pri­mary cam­paign, Rea­gan picked Bush as his run­ning mate. Af­ter eight years as vice pres­i­dent, he won the job he had long wanted.

Stel­lar qual­i­fi­ca­tions

Bush’s background in na­tional se­cu­rity and his re­la­tion­ships with for­eign lead­ers – forged dur­ing his ten­ure at the UN and the CIA and in China – pre­pared him for deal­ing with a world tee­ter­ing on the precipice of dra­matic change. A year af­ter he was elected, on Nov. 9, 1989, the Ber­lin Wall fell. Then the Soviet Union un­rav­eled and its for­mer satel­lites em­braced demo­cratic rev­o­lu­tions.

“He’ll be ad­mired for end­ing the Cold War on terms that Amer­i­cans never could have dreamt pos­si­ble for the 45 years of the Cold War,” Beschloss says. “It would not have hap­pened if Ge­orge Bush hadn’t been there . ... He formed a re­la­tion­ship with (Soviet leader Mikhail) Gor­bachev of trust that en­cour­aged Gor­bachev to give up a lot of con­ces­sions.”

The ul­ti­mate test of Bush’s for­eign­pol­icy lead­er­ship came af­ter Iraq in­vaded Kuwait on Aug. 2, 1990. Three days later, re­turn­ing from Camp David, Bush told re­porters wait­ing for him on the South Lawn: “This will not stand, this ag­gres­sion against Kuwait.”

Bush ag­o­nized over his de­ci­sion to send Amer­i­can troops into com­bat, then as­sem­bled a 30-na­tion coali­tion to oust Iraq in what be­came Op­er­a­tion Desert Storm. Af­ter weeks of bom­bard­ing Iraqi forces by air, the al­lies moved in on the ground and, in days, lib­er­ated Kuwait.

Bush cham­pi­oned im­por­tant do­mes­tic leg­is­la­tion on do­mes­tic pol­icy. He signed the Amer­i­cans With Dis­abil­i­ties Act, which paved new ground for pro­vid­ing ac­cess and job pro­tec­tions to peo­ple with handicaps, and a sig­nif­i­cant re­vi­sion of the Clean Air Act.

Most mem­o­rable – and most dam­ag­ing po­lit­i­cally – was his de­ci­sion to em­brace a bud­get agree­ment in 1989 that in­cluded an in­crease in sev­eral ex­ist­ing taxes. That broke the prom­ise he had made in his ac­cep­tance speech at the 1988 Re­pub­li­can Na­tional Con­ven­tion.

“Read my lips,” he had said to cheers. “No new taxes.”

Four years later, dogged by ques­tions over how much he knew about the IranCon­tra af­fair and ham­pered by an in­de­pen­dent cam­paign run by fel­low Texan H. Ross Perot, he was de­feated for a sec­ond term by Bill Clin­ton.

Bush went sky­div­ing again to mark his 80th, 85th and 90th birthdays. But his bat­tle with vas­cu­lar Parkin­son­ism robbed him of his abil­ity to walk, and in re­cent years made it in­creas­ingly dif­fi­cult for him to speak more than a few words at a time.

“Life goes on with all its mystery and won­der,” he wrote in his diary on Sept. 2, 1988. “I want to live to do good things and partly to meet the chal­lenges that lie ahead, but I don’t fear death.”

Con­tribut­ing: Aamer Mad­hani and Kirk Bado


Ge­orge H.W. Bush was the son of a se­na­tor and the fa­ther of a pres­i­dent.

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