Archive for December, 2018

12/01/2018

George H W Bush (1924-2018)

George H. W. Bush, born in Connecticut in 1924, enlisted as a teenager in WWII, and as a Navy pilot, he was shot down by the Japanese over the Pacific, before being rescued by an American submarine in 1944, and awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.

Upon returning home, he married Barbara Pierce in 1945, and they had six children, one of whom would become President. After Bush graduated from Yale in 1948, he moved his family to Texas and founded an oil company.

Bush turned his attention to Texas politics in 1964, as he lost his first bid for the U.S. Senate. Two years later, he won the first of two terms in the House. As a Northern-born Republican in Houston, he supported the Open Housing Act of 1968, but then paid the price, as he lost his second try for the U.S. Senate against Lloyd Benston in 1970.

After President Nixon named Bush UN Ambassador in 1971, Bush became the Chair of the National Republican Party in 1974, and was handed the unenviable job of telling the President he had to resign or face a certain conviction in the Senate on impeachment charges. Once Nixon left office, President Ford named Bush U.S. liaison to the Peoples Republic of China in 1974, and from there, Bush was promoted to CIA Director in 1976.

In the 1980 Presidential Primaries, Bush defeated Reagan in the Iowa Caucuses, but ultimately lost the nomination and instead served as Reagan’s Vice-President (1981-89).

After Bush won the Republican nomination for President in 1988, he picked Sen. Dan Quayle as his running mate, and they defeated Gov. Dukakis in the general election by borrowing Nixon’s Southern strategy, as Bush endlessly ran ads reminding voters that Gov. Dukakis had once paroled a black repeat offender named Willie Horton.

By modern standards, the First Lady was actually a moderate, as Barb favored the Equal Rights Amendment for women and the Supreme Court’s pro-choice decision on abortion. She hugged a baby afflicted with AIDS to demonstrate she had no fear of gays or the illness.

In foreign affairs, Bush looked on with great interest as Chinese students staged a courageous high-profile protest against their totalitarian government in Tiananmen Square in 1989. He simultaneously watched young Germans dismantle the Berlin Wall, during the tolerant era of Soviet leader Gorbachev. He further monitored changes in South Africa in 1989, as President De Klerk unraveled apartheid policies imposed by an earlier racist regime. South Africa released Mandela from prison in 1990 and repealed their apartheid laws in 1991.

While peaceful changes were occurring around the globe, Bush challenged international law as the U.S. military invaded Panama, ostensibly to seize President Noriega in 1989. Bush’s military also acted in the Mediterranean, as U.S pilots shot down Libyan fighters.

As Bush stationed U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia to stage an invasion of Kuwait in the Gulf War (1991), he unknowingly triggered the rage of Osama Bin Laden, who 11 years later would mastermind the 911 attacks our of revenge for what he considered an insult to his Muslim holy land. As Bush imposed sanctions against Iraq in 1991, he unknowingly again set the stage for his son’s subsequent invasion of Iraq, 12 years later.

During the Bush Presidency, Premier Gorbachev, who would be called the greatest man of the 20th Century, stood back in 1991, as he single handedly allowed his various republics to dissolve the Soviet Union. Although Gorbachev could have interfered as the Czechs conducted their Velvet Revolution against totalitarianism, he did not. Likewise Polish Solidarity leader Lech Walesa was permitted leave the Soviet sphere.

Bur Europe was not entirely peaceful during the Bush era, as the Serbs began what would become a crisis in Bosnia. Bush was slow to act in response in 1992, and the job of doing something about the Bosnian-Serb crisis would be left to President Clinton. Also, in North Africa, trouble brewed in Somaliland in 1991, and after Bush sent U.S. troops to provide humanitarian relief in 1992, that crisis would also be left to the next President.

On the home front, Bush earned points as he appointed David Souter to the U.S. Supreme Court, as he was a moderate, who steered clear of right-wing extremism. Clarence Thomas, Bush’s other appointee to the Court, would however prove to be a disaster.

Perhaps Bush’s crowing legislative achievement was the Americans with Disabilities Act (1990). Conversely, his low skill lottery Immigration Act (1990) would prove unpopular even within his own party.

As Bush watched a brutal beating of a black man by law enforcement officers in Los Angeles in 1991, for the first time Americans actually had video proof of the realities of police abuse. They then had to endure a violent black reaction, as the police who beat Rodney King were acquitted. To his credit, Bush signed a law in 1991 that allowed higher damage awards in Civil Rights cases. As to firearms, Bush deserves some credit for seeking a ban against the importation of semi-automatic weapons in 1992, despite the usual opposition by the National Rifle Association. Barbara also favored gun control.

Bush lost his bid for a second term to President Bill Clinton, thanks mainly to a third party run by the Texas billionaire Ross Perot, who split the vote three ways, and allowed for a Clinton plurality.

In comparison to the current occupant of the White House, Bush I certainly ranks much higher, and he will be remembered as one who handled the job of President with dignity.

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