Vice President of the United States
President of the United States
George Herbert Walker Bush (born June 12, 1924) is an American politician who served as the 41st President of the United States from 1989 to 1993. Prior to assuming the presidency, Bush served as the 43rd Vice President of the United States from 1981 to 1989. A member of the Republican Party, he had previously been a Congressman, Ambassador and Director of Central Intelligence. While active in the public sector, he was known simply as George Bush; since 2001, he has often been referred to as George H. W. Bush, Bush the Elder or George Bush Senior in order to distinguish him from his eldest son, George W. Bush, the 43rd president of the United States. He is the nation's oldest living President and Vice President, as well as the longest-lived President in its history.
A member of the Bush family, he was born in Milton, Massachusetts to Prescott Bush and Dorothy Walker Bush. Following the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, Bush postponed his university studies, enlisted in the U.S. Navy on his 18th birthday, and became the youngest aviator in the U.S. Navy at the time. He served until the end of the war, then attended Yale University. Graduating in 1948, he moved his family to West Texas, where he entered the oil business and became a millionaire by the age of 40 in 1964. Soon after founding his own oil company, Bush became involved in politics and won election to the House of Representatives in 1966. In 1971, President Richard Nixon appointed Bush as Ambassador to the United Nations, and in 1973, Bush became the Chairman of the Republican National Committee. The following year, President Gerald Ford appointed Bush as the ambassador to the People's Republic of China and later reassigned Bush to the position of Director of Central Intelligence. Bush ran for president in 1980 but was defeated in the Republican primary by Ronald Reagan. Reagan chose Bush as his running mate, and Bush became vice president after the Reagan–Bush ticket won the 1980 election. During his eight-year tenure as vice president, Bush headed administration task forces on deregulation and fighting the War on Drugs.
In 1988, Bush ran a successful campaign to succeed Reagan as President, defeating Democratic opponent Michael Dukakis. Foreign policy drove the Bush presidency: military operations were conducted in Panama and the Persian Gulf; the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, and the Soviet Union dissolved two years later. Though the agreement was not ratified until after he left office, Bush also signed the North American Free Trade Agreement, which created a trade bloc consisting of the United States, Canada, and Mexico. Domestically, Bush reneged on a 1988 campaign promise and, after a struggle with Congress, signed an increase in taxes that Congress had passed. In the wake of a weak recovery from an economic recession, along with continuing budget deficits and the diminution of foreign politics as a major issue in a post-Cold War political climate, he lost the 1992 presidential election to Democrat Bill Clinton.
Bush left office in 1993. His presidential library was dedicated in 1997, and he has been active—often alongside Bill Clinton—in various humanitarian activities. With George W. Bush's victory in the 2000 presidential election, Bush and his son became the second father–son combination to serve as president, following John Adams and John Quincy Adams. Bush's second son Jeb Bush, served as the 43rd Governor of Florida (1999–2007) and unsuccessfully sought the Republican presidential nomination in 2016.
George Herbert Walker Bush was born at 173 Adams Street in Milton, Massachusetts, on June 12, 1924, to Prescott Sheldon Bush and Dorothy (Walker) Bush. The Bush family moved from Milton to Greenwich, Connecticut, shortly after his birth. Growing up, he used the nickname "Poppy".
Bush began his formal education at the Greenwich Country Day School in Greenwich. Beginning in 1938, he attended Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts, where he held a number of leadership positions including president of the senior class, secretary of the student council, president of the community fund-raising group, a member of the editorial board of the school newspaper, and captain of both the varsity baseball and soccer teams.
The United States was drawn into World War II when the Empire of Japan attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. Six months later, Bush enlisted into the US. Navy immediately after he graduated from Phillips Academy on his eighteenth birthday. He became a naval aviator training for aircraft carrier landings and takeoffs on the USS Sable. After completing the 10-month course, he was commissioned as an ensign in the United States Naval Reserve at Naval Air Station Corpus Christi on June 9, 1943 (just three days before his 19th birthday), which made him the youngest naval aviator to that date.
In September 1943, he was assigned to Torpedo Squadron (VT-51) as the photographic officer. The following year, his squadron was based on USS San Jacinto as a member of Air Group 51, where his lanky physique earned him the nickname "Skin". During this time, the task force was victorious in one of the largest air battles of World War II: the Battle of the Philippine Sea.
After Bush's promotion to Lieutenant (junior grade) on August 1, 1944, San Jacinto commenced operations against the Japanese in the Bonin Islands. Bush piloted one of four Grumman TBM Avenger aircraft from VT-51 that attacked the Japanese installations on Chichijima. His crew for the mission, which occurred on September 2, 1944, included Radioman Second Class John Delaney and Lieutenant Junior Grade William White. During their attack, the Avengers encountered intense anti-aircraft fire; Bush's aircraft was hit by flak and his engine caught on fire. Despite the fire in his aircraft, Bush completed his attack and released bombs over his target, scoring several damaging hits. With his engine ablaze, Bush flew several miles from the island, where he and one other crew member on the TBM Avenger bailed out of the aircraft; the other man's parachute did not open. Bush waited for four hours in an inflated raft, while several fighters circled protectively overhead until he was rescued by the lifeguard submarine USS Finback. For the next month, he remained on Finback and participated in the rescue of other pilots. Several of those shot down during the attack were executed, and their livers were eaten by their captors.
In November 1944, Bush returned to San Jacinto and participated in operations in the Philippines until his squadron was replaced and sent home to the United States. Through 1944, he flew 58 combat missions for which he received the Distinguished Flying Cross, three Air Medals, and the Presidential Unit Citation awarded to San Jacinto.
Because of his valuable combat experience, Bush was reassigned to Norfolk Navy Base and put in a training wing for new torpedo pilots. He was later assigned as a naval aviator in a new torpedo squadron, VT-153, based at Naval Air Station Grosse Ile, Michigan. The unconditional surrender of Japan was announced on August 15, 1945. Bush was honorably discharged the following month.
George Bush married Barbara Pierce in Rye, New York on January 6, 1945, only weeks after his return from the Pacific and shortly before entering Yale. During the war, the couple had occupied a residence in a small rented apartment in Trenton, Michigan, near Bush's Navy assignment at NAS Grosse Ile. The marriage produced six children: George Walker Bush (b. 1946), Pauline Robinson "Robin" Bush (1949–1953, died of leukemia), John Ellis "Jeb" Bush (b. 1953), Neil Mallon Pierce Bush (b. 1955), Marvin Pierce Bush (b. 1956), and Dorothy Walker Bush (b. 1959).
Bush had been accepted to Yale University prior to his enlistment in the military, but he deferred attending the school until after he completed his military service and married Barbara Pierce. While at Yale, he was enrolled in an accelerated program that allowed him to graduate in two and a half years, rather than the usual four. He was a member of the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity and was elected its president. He also captained the Yale baseball team, and as a left-handed first baseman, played in the first two College World Series. As the team captain during his senior year, Bush met Babe Ruth before a game; the event took place only weeks before Ruth's death. Like his father, he was also a member of the Yale cheerleading squad. Late in his junior year, he was initiated into the Skull and Bones secret society; his father Prescott Bush had been initiated into the same society in 1917. He graduated from Yale in 1948 as a member of the Phi Beta Kappa with a Bachelor of Arts degree in economics.
After graduating from Yale, Bush moved his young family to West Texas. His father's business connections proved useful as he ventured into the oil business, starting as an oil field equipment salesman for Dresser Industries, a subsidiary of Brown Brothers Harriman (where Prescott Bush had served on the board of directors for 22 years). While working for Dresser, Bush lived in various places with his family: Odessa, Texas; Ventura, Bakersfield and Compton, California; and Midland, Texas. (According to eldest son George W. Bush, then age two, the family lived in one of the few duplexes in Odessa with an indoor bathroom, which they "shared with a couple of hookers".) Bush started the Bush-Overbey Oil Development company in 1951 and in 1953 co-founded the Zapata Petroleum Corporation, an oil company that drilled in the Permian Basin in Texas. In 1954 he was named president of the Zapata Offshore Company, a subsidiary which specialized in offshore drilling.
In 1959 (shortly after the subsidiary became independent), Bush moved the company and his family from Midland to Houston. He continued serving as president of the company until 1964, and later chairman until 1966, but his ambitions turned political. By that time, Bush had become a millionaire. According to Time.com, Bush had a net worth of $20 million in 2015.
Bush served as Chairman of the Republican Party for Harris County, Texas in 1964, but wanted to be more involved in policy making, so he set his sights high: he aimed for a U.S. Senate seat from Texas. After winning the Republican primary, Bush faced his opponent, incumbent Democrat Ralph W. Yarborough, who attacked Bush as a right-wing extremist. Bush was a strong supporter of Republican Senator Barry Goldwater, who headed the Republican ticket as the presidential candidate. Like Goldwater, Bush strongly opposed civil rights legislation in the name of states rights. Yarborough, a leading Texas liberal, supported the civil rights legislation and was reelected by 56% - 44%. The Republican candidate for governor, Jack Crichton of Dallas, who often campaigned alongside Bush before the election, lost by a much wider margin to Governor John B. Connally Jr. Bush and the Harris County Republicans played a role in the development of the new Republican Party of the late 20th century. First, Bush worked to absorb the John Birch Society members, who were trying to take over the Republican Party. Second, during and after the civil rights movement, Democrats in the South who were committed to segregation left their party, and although the "country club Republicans" had differing ideological beliefs, they found common ground in hoping to expel the Democrats from power.
Bush was elected in 1966 to a House of Representatives seat from the 7th District of Texas, defeating with 57 percent of the ballots cast the Democrat Frank Briscoe, the district attorney of Harris County known for his law-and-order credentials and a cousin of later Governor Dolph Briscoe. Bush was the first Republican to represent Houston in the U.S. House. Bush's representative district included Tanglewood, the Houston neighborhood that was his residence; his family had moved into Tanglewood in the 1960s. His voting record in the House was generally conservative: Bush voted for the Civil Rights Act of 1968, although it was generally unpopular in his district. He supported the Nixon administration's Vietnam policies, but broke with Republicans on the issue of birth control, which he supported. Despite being a first-term congressman, Bush was appointed to the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, where he voted to abolish the military draft. He was elected to a second term in 1968.
In 1970 Nixon convinced Bush to relinquish his House seat to run for the Senate against Ralph Yarborough, a fierce Nixon critic. In the Republican primary, Bush easily defeated conservative Robert J. Morris, by a margin of 87.6% to 12.4%. Nixon came to Texas to campaign in Longview for Bush and gubernatorial candidate Paul Eggers, a Dallas lawyer who was a close friend of U.S. Senator John G. Tower. Former Congressman Lloyd Bentsen, a more moderate Democrat and native of Mission in south Texas, defeated Yarborough in the Democratic primary. Yarborough endorsed Bentsen, who defeated Bush, 53.4 to 46.6%. As Bush's political career waned, he moved out of Houston and sold his first Tanglewood house, but for periods of time continued to reside in Tanglewood.
Following his 1970 loss, Bush was well known as a prominent Republican businessman from the "Sun Belt", a group of states in the Southern part of the country. Nixon noticed and appreciated the sacrifice Bush had made of his Congressional position, so he appointed him Ambassador to the United Nations. He was confirmed unanimously by the Senate, and served for two years, beginning in 1971.
Amidst the Watergate scandal, Nixon asked Bush to become chairman of the Republican National Committee in 1973. Bush accepted, and held this position when the popularity of both Nixon and the Republican Party plummeted. He defended Nixon steadfastly, but later as Nixon's complicity became clear, Bush focused more on defending the Republican Party, while still maintaining loyalty to Nixon. As chairman, Bush formally requested that Nixon eventually resign for the good of the Republican party. Nixon did this on August 9, 1974; Bush noted in his diary that "There was an aura of sadness, like somebody died.... The [resignation] speech was vintage Nixon—a kick or two at the press—enormous strains. One couldn't help but look at the family and the whole thing and think of his accomplishments and then think of the shame.... [President Gerald Ford's swearing-in offered] indeed a new spirit, a new lift."
President Gerald Ford appointed Bush to be Chief of the U.S. Liaison Office in the People's Republic of China. Since the United States at the time maintained official relations with the Republic of China on Taiwan and not the People's Republic of China, the Liaison Office did not have the official status of an embassy and Bush did not formally hold the position of "ambassador", though he unofficially acted as one. The 14 months that he spent in China were largely seen as beneficial for U.S.-China relations.
After Ford assumed the presidency, Bush was under serious consideration for being nominated as vice president. Ford eventually narrowed his list to Nelson Rockefeller and Bush. White House Chief of Staff Donald Rumsfeld reportedly preferred Rockefeller over Bush. Rockefeller was finally named and confirmed.
Bush was again passed over for the vice presidency by Ford when the president chose Bush's future presidential rival, Senator Bob Dole, to replace Rockefeller on the 1976 presidential ticket.
In 1976 Ford brought Bush back to Washington to become Director of Central Intelligence (DCI), replacing William Colby. He served in this role for 357 days, from January 30, 1976, to January 20, 1977. The CIA had been rocked by a series of revelations, including those based on investigations by the Church Committee regarding illegal and unauthorized activities by the CIA, and Bush was credited with helping to restore the agency's morale. In his capacity as DCI, Bush gave national security briefings to Jimmy Carter both as a presidential candidate and as president-elect, and discussed the possibility of remaining in that position in a Carter administration, but did not do so. He was succeeded by Deputy Director of Central Intelligence E. Henry Knoche, who served as acting Director of Central Intelligence until Stansfield Turner was confirmed.
After a Democratic administration took power in 1977, Bush became chairman on the Executive Committee of the First International Bank in Houston. He later spent a year as a part-time professor of Administrative Science at Rice University's Jones School of Business beginning in 1978, the year it opened; Bush said of his time there, "I loved my brief time in the world of academia." Between 1977 and 1979, he was a director of the Council on Foreign Relations foreign policy organization.
Bush had decided in the late 1970s that he was going to run for president in 1980; in 1979, he attended 850 political events and traveled more than 250,000 miles (400,000 km) to campaign for the nation's highest office. In the contest for the Republican Party nomination, Bush stressed his wide range of government experience, while competing against rivals Senator Howard Baker of Tennessee, Senator Bob Dole of Kansas, Congressman John Anderson of Illinois (who would later run as an independent), Congressman Phil Crane, also of Illinois, former Governor John Connally of Texas, former Minnesota Governor Harold Stassen, and the front-runner Ronald Reagan, former actor, and Governor of California.
In the primary election, Bush focused almost entirely on the Iowa caucuses, while Reagan ran a more traditional campaign. Bush represented the centrist wing in the GOP, whereas Reagan represented conservatives. Bush famously labeled Reagan's supply side-influenced plans for massive tax cuts "voodoo economics". His strategy proved useful, to some degree, as he won in Iowa with 31.5% to Reagan's 29.4%. After the win, Bush stated that his campaign was full of momentum, or "Big Mo". As a result of the loss, Reagan replaced his campaign manager, reorganized his staff, and concentrated on the New Hampshire primary. The two men agreed to a debate in the state, organized by the Nashua Telegraph, but paid for by the Reagan campaign. Reagan invited the other four candidates as well, but Bush refused to debate them, and eventually they left. The debate proved to be a pivotal moment in the campaign; when the moderator, John Breen, ordered Reagan's microphone turned off, his angry response, "I am paying for this microphone," struck a chord with the public. Bush ended up losing New Hampshire's primary with 23% to Reagan's 50%. Bush lost most of the remaining primaries as well, and formally dropped out of the race in May of that year.
With his political future in doubt, Bush sold his house in Houston and bought his grandfather's estate in Kennebunkport, Maine, known as "Walker's Point". At the Republican Convention, Reagan selected Bush as his vice presidential nominee, placing him on the winning Republican presidential ticket of 1980.
As vice president, Bush generally maintained a typically low profile while he recognized the constitutional limits of the office; he avoided decision-making or criticizing Reagan in any way. As had become customary, he and his wife moved into the Vice President's residence at Number One Observatory Circle, about two miles from the White House. After selling the house in Tanglewood, the Bushes declared a room in The Houstonian Hotel in Houston as their official voting address. The Bushes attended a large number of public and ceremonial events in their positions, including many state funerals, which became a common joke for comedians. Mrs. Bush found the funerals largely beneficial, saying, "George met with many current or future heads of state at the funerals he attended, enabling him to forge personal relationships that were important to President Reagan." As the President of the Senate, Bush stayed in contact with members of Congress and kept the president informed on occurrences on Capitol Hill.
On March 30, 1981 (early into the administration), Reagan was shot and seriously wounded by John Hinckley Jr. in Washington, D.C. Bush was in Fort Worth, Texas, and immediately flew back to Washington because he was next in line to the presidency. Reagan's cabinet convened in the White House Situation Room, where they discussed various issues, including the availability of the Nuclear Football. When Bush's plane landed, his aides advised him to proceed directly to the White House by helicopter, as an image of the government still functioning despite the attack. Bush rejected the idea, responding, "Only the President lands on the South Lawn." This made a positive impression on Reagan, who recovered and returned to work within two weeks. From then on, the two men would have regular Thursday lunches in the Oval Office.
In September 1981, Bush traveled to Mexico for participation in Independence Day celebrations there, Bush saying in a statement that President Reagan was "deeply committed to strengthening the friendship and cooperation between our countries".
In November 1981, Bush toured western Texas to offer support for beleaguered Director of the Office of Management and Budget David Stockman, who he believed was intelligent but needed to adjust to managing journalists.
During a December 1981 interview, Bush stated that he was convinced news leaks by unnamed administration officials were correct and had succeeded in hurting President Reagan: "I really feel we have been undisciplined in this White House. We've not served the president well by these leaks."
On April 28, 1982, Bush met with Prime Minister of Singapore Lee Kuan Yew for a wide-ranging discussion that included speaking about regional security, the world economy, and Soviet expansionism in Southeast Asia, and later that month, Bush confirmed he was considering traveling to China during his impending trip to Asia and the Pacific amid a news conference in Seoul, South Korea.
In November 1982, Bush toured Africa, the first instance of American government visiting there since the Reagan administration began. Bush told reporters that while he would allow for heads of state to dictate how each meeting would transpire, there was an expectation on his part for discussions on the independence of Namibia, adding that the US was going to retain the position of no settlement in Namibia until Cuban troops in Angola were withdrawn. On November 15, Bush met with United States Secretary of State George P. Shultz and Yuri Andropov in Moscow, Russia to discuss human rights and arms reductions. Bush later said, "The meeting was frank, cordial and substantive. It gave both sides the opportunity to exchange views on the state of their relations."
At the end of January 1983, Bush began a seven-day tour of West Europe intended to promote the arms reduction commitment being advocated for by the Reagan administration. During a February 8 news conference in Paris, Bush said the US's invitations for the Soviet Union to consent to a reduction in medium-range missiles were supported by Western Europe, which he stated had also consented to the deployment of new American missiles starting in the latter part of the year. The following day, Bush defended American nuclear arms policy when answering British Secretary General of the Committee on Nuclear Disarmament Bruce Kent.
In September 1983, Bush met with President of Romania Nicolae Ceaușescu, insisting during the meeting that President Reagan intended to push for arms reductions at the Geneva talks with the Soviet Union. Shortly thereafter, Bush said the US wanted better relations with all countries within the East Bloc though stressed NATO would retaliate in the event of any threatening of European military stability by the Soviets, and the vice president assailed the Soviet Union for the Berlin Wall and destroying the Korean Air Lines jetliner.
In December 1983 Bush flew to El Salvador and warned that country's military leaders to end their death squads and hold fully free elections or face the loss of U.S. aid. "It is not just the President, it is not just me or the Congress. If these death-squad murders continue, you will lose the support of the American people and that would indeed be a tragedy." Bush's aides feared for his safety and thought about calling the meeting off when they discovered apparent blood stains on the floor of the presidential palace of Álvaro Magaña. Bush was never told of the aides' concerns and a tense meeting was held in which some of Magaña's personnel brandished semiautomatic weapons and refused requests to take them outside.
Bush was assigned by Reagan to chair two special task forces, on deregulation and international drug smuggling. The deregulation task force reviewed hundreds of rules, making specific recommendations on which ones to amend or revise, in order to curb the size of the federal government. The drug smuggling task force coordinated federal efforts to reduce the quantity of drugs entering the United States. Both were popular issues with conservatives, and Bush, largely a moderate, began courting them through his work.
In January 1984, Bush reported Reagan's stance on Moscow had projected a strong image toward the Soviets as well as heightened the possibility of an arms agreement.
On February 10, 1984, President Reagan designated Bush to lead the American delegation to the funeral of Yuri V. Andropov and convey America's "hope for an improved dialogue and cooperation which can lead to a more constructive relationship between our two countries." On February 24, Bush spoke on the progress made in Grenada as a result of the Reagan administration coming into play following Vietnam, Watergate, and the presidency of Jimmy Carter while talking to the American Soybean Association: "When the president faced this crisis in Grenada he didn't wait until we were taken hostage, he acted before the crisis became a humiliation."
On June 14, 1984, Bush cast a tie-breaking vote in the Senate in favor of 10-warhead MX missile.
Reagan and Bush ran for reelection in 1984. The Democratic opponent, Walter Mondale, made history by choosing a woman, New York Representative Geraldine Ferraro, as his running mate. She and Bush squared off in a single televised vice presidential debate. Ferraro served as a contrast to the Ivy-League educated Bush; she represented a "blue-collar" district in Queens, New York. This distinction and her popularity among female journalists left Bush at a disadvantage. Regardless, the Reagan-Bush ticket won in a landslide against the Mondale-Ferraro ticket. Early into his second term as vice president, Bush and his aides were planning a run for the presidency in 1988. By the end of 1985, a committee had been established and over two million dollars was raised for Bush.
In mid-March 1985, Bush attended the funeral of Konstantin Chernenko, telling reporters in Geneva, Switzerland that he had "brought a message with me to Moscow from President Reagan. It is a message of peace." During this trip, Bush pledged the US would planned military pullout from Grenada during a rally, met with President of Nicaragua Daniel Ortega for discussions on the four-point plan for peace of the Sandinista government in Brazil, and stated America would be committed in combatting the Sandinista regime within Nicaragua during an address in Honduras.
On July 13, 1985, Bush became the first vice president to serve as acting president when Reagan underwent surgery to remove polyps from his colon; Bush served as the acting president for approximately eight hours.
In October 1985, Bush toured Pearl Harbor while he received a briefing on Pacific Fleet operations. He told reporters of an improvement in Sino-American relations and disclosed Taiwan as a major topic in his discussions with Chinese officials.
In 1986, the Reagan administration was shaken by a scandal when it was revealed that administration officials had secretly arranged weapon sales to Iran. The officials had used the proceeds to fund the anti-communist Contras in Nicaragua, which was a direct violation of law. The scandal became known as the Iran-Contra Affair. When news of the public embarrassment broke to the media, Bush, like Reagan, stated that he had been "out of the loop" and unaware of the diversion of funds, although this was later questioned. His diaries from that time stated "I'm one of the few people that know fully the details" and as a result of six pardons by Bush, the independent counsel's final report on the Iran-Contra Affair pointedly noted: "The criminal investigation of Bush was regrettably incomplete."
In March 1986, Bush outlined the government's policy on the combating of terrorism. In an interagency task force report presented to President Reagan, Bush publicly stated that the strategy of the federal government was to retaliate without "wantonly" terminating human lives. In early April 1986, Bush was hoping to preserve peace when he traveled to the Persian Gulf.
In May, Bush underwent a procedure to remove a malignant growth his left cheek. His spokesman Marlin Fitzwater said that doctors had found the growth weeks earlier.
In February 1987, Bush addressed the National Religious Broadcasters, warning the group that intolerance was unacceptable and particularly called for racial tolerance. "We must let our children know hatred has no place in America. The Ku Klux Klan is an embarrassment to Christ, whose gospel is love, and an embarrassment to our nation, whose gospel is freedom."
In March 1987, Bush announced the resignation of advisor Fred Khedouri as well as implementation of Charles Greenleaf in the same role, and visited a drug rehabilitation center during a two-day swing through Florida, expressing the view that education was the sole means of ending drug issues throughout the US.
In September 1987, Bush embarked on a month long trip to Poland and European allied countries. On September 22, Bush cast a tie breaking vote in the Senate to save the Strategic Defense Initiative from receiving a 800 million cut in funding. On September 25, Bush reemployed Peter Teeley as Director of Communications for his office and presidential campaign. On September 28, Bush delivered a televised address pledging that the US would forever be aligned with Poland.
In 1988, the guided missile cruiser USS Vincennes accidentally shot down Iran Air Flight 655, killing 290 passengers. Bush said that he would "never apologize for the United States of America. Ever. I don't care what the facts are."
In the January 26, 1987, issue of Time magazine, journalist Robert Ajemian reported in an article entitled "Where Is the Real George Bush?" that one of Bush's friends had urged him to spend several days at Camp David thinking through his plans for his prospective presidency. Bush responded in exasperation, "Oh, the vision thing." This oft-cited quote became a shorthand for the charge that Bush failed to contemplate or articulate important policy positions in a compelling and coherent manner. The phrase has since become a metonym for any politician's failure to incorporate a greater vision in a campaign, and has often been applied in the media to other politicians or public figures.
As early as 1985, Bush had been planning a presidential run; he entered the Republican primary for President of the United States in October 1987. His challengers for the Republican presidential nomination included U.S. Senator Bob Dole of Kansas, U.S. Representative Jack Kemp of New York, former Governor Pete DuPont of Delaware, and conservative Christian televangelist Pat Robertson.
Bush was considered the early frontrunner for the nomination, but he came in third in the Iowa caucus, behind winner Dole and runner-up Robertson. Much as Reagan had done in 1980, Bush reorganized his staff and concentrated on the New Hampshire primary. With Dole ahead in New Hampshire, Bush ran television commercials portraying the senator as a tax raiser; he rebounded to win the state's primary. Following the primary, Bush and Dole had a joint media appearance, when the interviewer asked Dole if he had anything to say to Bush, Dole said, in response to the ads, "yeah, stop lying about my record" in an angry tone. This is thought to have hurt Dole's campaign to Bush's benefit. Bush continued seeing victory, winning many Southern primaries as well. Once the multiple-state primaries such as Super Tuesday began, Bush's organizational strength and fundraising lead were impossible for the other candidates to match, and the nomination was his.
As the 1988 Republican National Convention approached, there was much speculation who Bush would choose to be his running mate. He selected little-known U.S. Senator Dan Quayle of Indiana, who was favored by conservatives. Despite Reagan's popularity, Bush trailed Democratic nominee Michael Dukakis, then Governor of Massachusetts, in most polls.
Bush was occasionally criticized for his lack of eloquence when compared to Reagan, but he delivered a well-received speech at the 1988 Republican National Convention. Known as the "thousand points of light" speech, the presentation described Bush's vision of America. He endorsed the Pledge of Allegiance, prayer in schools, capital punishment, gun rights, and opposed abortion. The speech at the convention included Bush's famous pledge: "Read my lips: no new taxes."
The general election campaign between the two men was described in 2008 as one of the dirtiest in modern times. Bush blamed Dukakis for polluting the Boston Harbor as the Massachusetts governor. Bush also pointed out that Dukakis was opposed to a law that would require all students to say the Pledge of Allegiance, a topic well covered in Bush's nomination acceptance speech.
Dukakis's unconditional opposition to capital punishment led to a pointed question being asked during the presidential debates. Moderator Bernard Shaw asked Dukakis if Dukakis would hypothetically support the death penalty if his wife, Kitty, were raped and murdered. Dukakis's response of no, as well as a provocative ad about convicted felon Willie Horton, contributed toward Bush's characterization of Dukakis as "soft on crime".
Bush defeated Dukakis and his running mate, Lloyd Bentsen, in the Electoral College, by 426 to 111 (Bentsen received one vote from a faithless elector). In the nationwide popular vote, Bush took 53.4% of the ballots cast while Dukakis received 45.6%. Bush became the first serving vice president to be elected president since Martin Van Buren in 1836 as well as the first person to succeed someone from his own party to the presidency via election to the office in his own right since Herbert Hoover in 1929.
Bush was inaugurated on January 20, 1989, succeeding Ronald Reagan. He entered office at a period of change in the world; the fall of the Berlin Wall came early in his presidency, the collapse of Soviet Union came in 1991. He ordered military operations in Panama and the Persian Gulf, and, at one point, was recorded as having a record-high approval rating of 89%.
In his Inaugural Address, Bush said:
I come before you and assume the Presidency at a moment rich with promise. We live in a peaceful, prosperous time, but we can make it better. For a new breeze is blowing, and a world refreshed by freedom seems reborn; for in man's heart, if not in fact, the day of the dictator is over. The totalitarian era is passing, its old ideas blown away like leaves from an ancient, lifeless tree. A new breeze is blowing, and a nation refreshed by freedom stands ready to push on. There is new ground to be broken, and new action to be taken.
|The Bush Cabinet|
|President||George H. W. Bush||1989–1993|
|Vice President||Dan Quayle||1989–1993|
|Secretary of State||James Baker||1989–1992|
|Secretary of Treasury||Nicholas Brady||1989–1993|
|Secretary of Defense||Dick Cheney||1989–1993|
|Attorney General||Dick Thornburgh||1989–1991|
|Secretary of the Interior||Manuel Lujan||1989–1993|
|Secretary of Agriculture||Clayton Yeutter||1989–1991|
|Secretary of Commerce||Robert Mosbacher||1989–1992|
|Barbara Hackman Franklin||1992–1993|
|Secretary of Labor||Elizabeth Dole||1989–1990|
|Secretary of Health and
|Secretary of Education||Lauro Cavazos||1989–1990|
|Secretary of Housing and
|Secretary of Transportation||Samuel Skinner||1989–1992|
|Secretary of Energy||James Watkins||1989–1993|
|Secretary of Veterans Affairs||Ed Derwinski||1989–1993|
|Chief of Staff||John H. Sununu||1989–1991|
|Administrator of the
Environmental Protection Agency
|Director of the Office of
Management and Budget
|Director of the Office of
National Drug Control Policy
|United States Trade Representative||Carla Anderson Hills||1989–1993|
Early in his term, Bush faced the problem of what to do with leftover deficits spawned during the Reagan years. At $220 billion in 1990, the deficit had tripled since 1980. Bush was dedicated to curbing the deficit, believing that America could not continue to be a leader in the world without doing so. He began an effort to persuade the Democratic controlled Congress to act on the budget; with Republicans believing that the best way was to cut government spending, and Democrats convinced that the only way would be to raise taxes, Bush faced problems when it came to consensus building.
In the wake of a struggle with Congress, Bush was forced by the Democratic majority to raise tax revenues; as a result, many Republicans felt betrayed because Bush had promised "no new taxes" in his 1988 campaign. Perceiving a means of revenge, Republican congressmen defeated Bush's proposal which would enact spending cuts and tax increases that would reduce the deficit by $500 billion over five years. Scrambling, Bush accepted the Democrats' demands for higher taxes and more spending, which alienated him from Republicans and gave way to a sharp decrease in popularity. Bush would later say that he wished he had never signed the bill. Near the end of the 101st Congress, the president and congressional members reached a compromise on a budget package that increased the marginal tax rate and phased out exemptions for high-income taxpayers. Although he originally demanded a reduction in the capital gains tax, Bush relented on this issue as well. This agreement with the Democratic leadership in Congress proved to be a turning point in the Bush presidency; his popularity among Republicans never fully recovered.
Coming at around the same time as the budget deal, America entered into a mild recession, lasting for six months. Many government programs, such as welfare, increased. As the unemployment rate edged upward in 1991, Bush signed a bill providing additional benefits for unemployed workers. The year 1991 was marked by many corporate reorganizations, which laid off a substantial number of workers. Many now unemployed were Republicans and independents, who had believed that their jobs were secure.
By his second year in office, Bush was told by his economic advisors to stop dealing with the economy, as they believed that he had done everything necessary to ensure his reelection. By 1992, interest and inflation rates were the lowest in years, but by midyear the unemployment rate reached 7.8%, the highest since 1984. In September 1992, the Census Bureau reported that 14.2% of all Americans lived in poverty. At a press conference in 1990, Bush told reporters that he found foreign policy more enjoyable.
On April 5, 1989, Bush submitted to Congress the Educational Excellence Act of 1989, a seven program education legislative proposal with the intent of achieving "a better-educated America." The proposal was opposed by Republicans seeking to shrink government's role in education and met with a lack of enthusiasm by Democrats. A week after submitting the proposal, Bush said his administration was seeking to provide waivers on "some regulations for poorer communities" and create "a kind of performance-driven partial deregulation of education" that would grant federal funding when schools showed high levels of accountability coupled with academic performance. Later in the year, from September 27–28, Bush held a two-day summit with American governors dedicated solely to education reform at the University of Virginia, the group forming a consensus to overhaul the American education system for the country's students to be closer in test scores in science, mathematics, and literacy.
In the 1990 State of the Union Address, Bush revealed his interest in his administration spearheading the increase in American high school graduation rates to 90% along with making American students "first in the world" in the subjects of math and science by 2000.
In a speech in the White House East Room on April 18, 1991, Bush called for both public and private citizens to become involved with education reform: "To those who want to see real improvement in American education, I say there will be no renaissance without revolution. It's time we held our schools, and ourselves, accountable for results." On June 3, Bush advocated for community participation in reforming the national education system and insisting America 2000 would fail "if we try to do it from Washington itself." On October 4, Bush met with representatives of the New American Schools Development Corp. at Camp David as the organization sought 200 million USD for education reform to aid with the forming of "new learning environments". In a November 25 appearance in Columbus, Ohio, Bush joined Governor of Ohio George Voinovich in formally announcing a state version of his education policy, "Ohio 2000". Bush concurrently declared he would be involved with a reform of troubled schools and charged the Democrat-controlled Congress with "fighting tooth and nail against our most important reforms".
During a speech to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, Bush announced a vision to complete Space Station Freedom, resume exploration of the Moon and begin exploration of Mars. Although a space station was eventually constructed–work on the International Space Station began in 1998–other work has been confounded by NASA budgetary issues. In 1998, Bush received the Rotary National Award for Space Achievement's National Space Trophy for his pioneering leadership of the U.S. space program.
Bush signed a number of major laws in his presidency, including the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990; this was one of the most pro-civil rights bills in decades. He is also the only president to successfully veto a civil rights act, having vetoed the job-discrimination protection Civil Rights Act of 1990. Bush feared racial quotas would be imposed, but later approved watered-down Civil Rights Act of 1991. He worked to increase federal spending for education, childcare, and advanced technology research. He also signed the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act which provides monetary compensation of people who had contracted cancer and a number of other specified diseases as a direct result of their exposure to atmospheric nuclear testing undertaken by the United States during the Cold War, or their exposure to high levels of radon while doing uranium mining. In dealing with the environment, Bush reauthorized the Clean Air Act, requiring cleaner burning fuels. He quarreled with Congress over an eventually signed bill to aid police in capturing criminals, and signed into law a measure to improve the nation's highway system. Bush signed the Immigration Act of 1990, which led to a 40 percent increase in legal immigration to the United States.
Bush became a life member of the National Rifle Association early in 1988 and had campaigned as a "pro-gun" candidate with the NRA's endorsement. In March 1989, he placed a temporary ban on the import of certain semiautomatic rifles. This action cost him endorsement from the NRA in 1992. Bush publicly resigned his life membership in the organization after receiving a form letter from NRA depicting agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms as "jack-booted thugs." He called the NRA letter a "vicious slander on good people."
President Bush devoted attention to voluntary service as a means of solving some of America's most serious social problems. He often used the "thousand points of light" theme to describe the power of citizens to solve community problems. In his 1989 inaugural address, President Bush said, "I have spoken of a thousand points of light, of all the community organizations that are spread like stars throughout the Nation, doing good."
Four years later, in his report to the nation on The Points of Light Movement, President Bush said, "Points of Light are the soul of America. They are ordinary people who reach beyond themselves to touch the lives of those in need, bringing hope and opportunity, care and friendship. By giving so generously of themselves, these remarkable individuals show us not only what is best in our heritage but what all of us are called to become."
In 1990, the Points of Light Foundation was created as a nonprofit organization in Washington to promote this spirit of volunteerism. In 2007, the Points of Light Foundation merged with the Hands On Network with the goal of strengthening volunteerism, streamlining costs and services and deepening impact. Points of Light, the organization created through this merger, has approximately 250 affiliates in 22 countries and partnerships with thousands of nonprofits and companies dedicated to volunteer service around the world. In 2012, Points of Light mobilized 4 million volunteers in 30 million hours of service worth $635 million.
On October 16, 2009, President Barack Obama held a Presidential Forum on Service hosted by former President George H. W. Bush and Points of Light at the George Bush Presidential Library Center on the campus of Texas A&M University. The event celebrated the contributions of more than 4,500 Daily Point of Light award winners and honored President Bush's legacy of service and civic engagement.
In 2011, Points of Light paid tribute to President George H. W. Bush and volunteer service at Washington, D.C.'s Kennedy Center. President Bush was joined by Presidents Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush to highlight the role volunteer service plays in people's lives.
President Bush created the Daily Point of Light Award in 1989 to recognize ordinary Americans from all walks of life taking direct and consequential voluntary action in their communities to solve serious social problems. The President focused great attention on these individuals and organizations, both to honor them for their tremendous work and to call the nation to join them and multiply their efforts. By the end of his administration, President Bush had recognized 1,020 Daily Points of Light representing all 50 states and addressing issues ranging from care for infants and teenagers with AIDS to adult illiteracy and from gang violence to job training for the homeless. The Daily Point of Light continues to be awarded by Points of Light and President Bush continues to sign all of the awards.
On July 15, 2013, President Barack Obama welcomed President Bush to the White House to celebrate the 5,000th Daily Point of Light Award. They bestowed the award on Floyd Hammer and Kathy Hamilton of Union, Iowa, for their work founding Outreach, a nonprofit that delivers free meals to hungry children in 15 countries.
Bush appointed the following Justices to the Supreme Court of the United States:
In addition to his two Supreme Court appointments, Bush appointed 42 judges to the United States Courts of Appeals, and 148 judges to the United States district courts. Among these appointments was Vaughn R. Walker, who would later be revealed to be the earliest known gay federal judge. Bush also experienced a number of judicial appointment controversies, as 11 nominees for 10 federal appellate judgeships were not processed by the Democratically-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee.
In the 1980s, Panamanian leader Manuel Noriega, a once U.S.-supportive leader who was later accused of spying for Fidel Castro and using Panama to traffic drugs into the United States, was one of the most recognizable names in America and was constantly in the press. The struggle to remove him from power began in the Reagan administration, when economic sanctions were imposed on the country; this included prohibiting American companies and government from making payments to Panama and freezing $56 million in Panamanian funds in American banks. Reagan sent more than 2,000 American troops to Panama as well. Unlike Reagan, Bush was able to remove Noriega from power, but his administration's unsuccessful post-invasion planning hindered the needs of Panama during the establishment of the young democratic government.
In May 1989, Panama held democratic elections, in which Guillermo Endara was elected president; the results were then annulled by Noriega's government. In response, Bush sent 2,000 more troops to the country, where they began conducting regular military exercises in Panamanian territory (in violation of prior treaties). Bush then removed an embassy and ambassador from the country, and dispatched additional troops to Panama to prepare the way for an upcoming invasion. Noriega suppressed an October military coup attempt and massive protests in Panama against him, but after a U.S. serviceman was shot by Panamanian forces in December 1989, Bush ordered 24,000 troops into the country with an objective of removing Noriega from power; "Operation Just Cause" was a large-scale American military operation, and the first in more than 40 years that was not related to the Cold War.
The mission was controversial, but American forces achieved control of the country and Endara assumed the presidency. Noriega surrendered to the United States and was convicted and imprisoned on racketeering and drug trafficking charges in April 1992. President Bush and First Lady Barbara Bush visited Panama in June 1992, to give support to the first post-invasion Panamanian government.
In 1989, just after the fall of the Berlin Wall, Bush met with Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev in a conference on the Mediterranean island of Malta. The administration had been under intense pressure to meet with the Soviets, but not all initially found the Malta Summit to be a step in the right direction; General Brent Scowcroft, among others, was apprehensive about the meeting, saying that it might be "premature" due to concerns where, according to Condoleezza Rice, "expectations [would be] set that something was going to happen, where the Soviets might grandstand and force [the U.S.] into agreements that would ultimately not be good for the United States." But European leaders, including François Mitterrand and Margaret Thatcher, encouraged Bush to meet with Gorbachev, something that he did December 2 and 3, 1989. Though no agreements were signed, the meeting was viewed largely as being an important one; when asked about nuclear war, Gorbachev responded, "I assured the President of the United States that the Soviet Union would never start a hot war against the United States of America. And we would like our relations to develop in such a way that they would open greater possibilities for cooperation.... This is just the beginning. We are just at the very beginning of our road, long road to a long-lasting, peaceful period." The meeting was received as a very important step to the end of the Cold War.
Another summit was held in July 1991, where the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START I) was signed by Bush and Gorbachev in Moscow. The treaty took nine years in the making and was the first major arms agreement since the signing of the Intermediate Ranged Nuclear Forces Treaty by Reagan and Gorbachev in 1987. The contentions in START would reduce the strategic nuclear weapons of the United States and the USSR by about 35% over seven years, and the Soviet Union's land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles would be cut by 50%. Bush described START as "a significant step forward in dispelling half a century of mistrust". After the dissolution of the USSR in 1991, President Bush and Gorbachev declared a U.S.-Russian strategic partnership, marking the end of the Cold War.
On August 2, 1990, Iraq, led by Saddam Hussein, invaded its oil-rich neighbor to the south, Kuwait; Bush condemned the invasion and began rallying opposition to Iraq in the US and among European, Asian, and Middle Eastern allies. Secretary of Defense Richard Bruce "Dick" Cheney traveled to Saudi Arabia to meet with King Fahd; Fahd requested US military aid in the matter, fearing a possible invasion of his country as well. The request was met initially with Air Force fighter jets. Iraq made attempts to negotiate a deal that would allow the country to take control of half of Kuwait. Bush rejected this proposal and insisted on a complete withdrawal of Iraqi forces. The planning of a ground operation by US-led coalition forces began forming in September 1990, headed by General Norman Schwarzkopf. Bush spoke before a joint session of the U.S. Congress regarding the authorization of air and land attacks, laying out four immediate objectives: "Iraq must withdraw from Kuwait completely, immediately, and without condition. Kuwait's legitimate government must be restored. The security and stability of the Persian Gulf must be assured. And American citizens abroad must be protected." He then outlined a fifth, long-term objective: "Out of these troubled times, our fifth objective – a new world order – can emerge: a new era – freer from the threat of terror, stronger in the pursuit of justice, and more secure in the quest for peace. An era in which the nations of the world, East and West, North and South, can prosper and live in harmony.... A world where the rule of law supplants the rule of the jungle. A world in which nations recognize the shared responsibility for freedom and justice. A world where the strong respect the rights of the weak." With the United Nations Security Council opposed to Iraq's violence, Congress authorized the use of military force with a set goal of returning control of Kuwait to the Kuwaiti government, and protecting America's interests abroad.
Early on the morning of January 17, 1991, allied forces launched the first attack, which included more than 4,000 bombing runs by coalition aircraft. This pace would continue for the next four weeks, until a ground invasion was launched on February 24, 1991. Allied forces penetrated Iraqi lines and pushed toward Kuwait City while on the west side of the country, forces were intercepting the retreating Iraqi army. Bush made the decision to stop the offensive after a mere 100 hours. Critics labeled this decision premature, as hundreds of Iraqi forces were able to escape; Bush responded by saying that he wanted to minimize U.S. casualties. Opponents further charged that Bush should have continued the attack, pushing Hussein's army back to Baghdad, then removing him from power. Bush explained that he did not give the order to overthrow the Iraqi government because it would have "incurred incalculable human and political costs.... We would have been forced to occupy Baghdad and, in effect, rule Iraq."
Bush's approval ratings skyrocketed after the successful offensive. Additionally, President Bush and Secretary of State Baker felt the coalition victory had increased U.S. prestige abroad and believed there was a window of opportunity to use the political capital generated by the coalition victory to revitalize the Arab-Israeli peace process. The administration immediately returned to Arab-Israeli peacemaking following the end of the Gulf War; this resulted in the Madrid Conference, later in 1991.
Faced with a humanitarian disaster in Somalia, exacerbated by a complete breakdown in civil order, the United Nations had created the UNOSOM I mission in April 1992 to aid the situation through humanitarian efforts, though the mission failed. The Bush administration proposed American aid to the region by assisting in creating a secure environment for humanitarian efforts and UN Resolution 794 was unanimously adopted by the Security Council on December 3, 1992. A lame duck president, Bush launched Operation Restore Hope the following day under which the United States would assume command in accordance with Resolution 794. Fighting would escalate and continue into the Clinton administration.
On April 28, 1989, during an appearance in the press room of the White House, Bush announced the US would continue a deal with Japan on the production of the FSX advanced fighter jet now that promises had been made that American jobs and technology would be safe and said the proposal would bolster security for both the US and Japan.
On March 12, 1990, Bush met with former Prime Minister of Japan Noboru Takeshita for an hour to discuss shared economic issues and "the fact that their solution will require extraordinary efforts on both sides of the Pacific."
On December 7, 1991, the fiftieth anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, Bush accepted an apology from Japan over the event issued by Prime Minister Kiichi Miyazawa the previous day and urged progress be made in improving relations between the US and Japan.
On June 18, 1990, White House Press Secretary Marlin Fitzwater confirmed President Bush had sent Prime Minister of Israel Yitzhak Shamir a letter in which he congratulated the latter on his election and urged him to support the proposed "Shamir initiative for peace", which would involve the participation of Palestinian Arabians in local elections. On June 20, Bush suspended American dialogue with the Palestine Liberation Organization for the latter's refusal to condemn the Palestinian guerrilla raid of an Israeli beach the previous month.
On August 11, 1992, following a meeting between President Bush and Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, Bush announced he would seek the approval of Congress to bestow Israel up to $10 billion in loan guarantees to assist the country with its absorbing of Soviet Union immigrants.
Bush's administration, along with the Progressive Conservative Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, spearheaded the negotiations of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which would eliminate the majority of tariffs on products traded among the United States, Canada, and Mexico, to encourage trade amongst the countries. The treaty also restricts patents, copyrights, and trademarks, and outlines the removal of investment restrictions among the three countries. President Bush announced the completion of NAFTA during a Rose Garden appearance on August 12, 1992, calling it the "beginning of a new era".
The agreement came under heavy scrutiny amongst mainly Democrats, who charged that NAFTA resulted in a loss of American jobs. NAFTA also contained no provisions for labor rights; according to the Bush administration, the trade agreement would generate economic resources necessary to enable Mexico's government to overcome problems of funding and enforcement of its labor laws. Bush needed a renewal of negotiating authority to move forward with the NAFTA trade talks. Such authority would enable the president to negotiate a trade accord that would be submitted to Congress for a vote, thereby avoiding a situation in which the president would be required to renegotiate with trading partners those parts of an agreement that Congress wished to change. While initial signing was possible during his term, negotiations made slow, but steady, progress. President Clinton would go on to make the passage of NAFTA a priority for his administration, despite its conservative and Republican roots—with the addition of two side agreements—to achieve its passage in 1993.
The treaty has since been defended as well as criticized further. The American economy has grown 54% since the adoption of NAFTA in 1993, with 25 million new jobs created; this was seen by some as evidence of NAFTA being beneficial to the United States. With talk in early 2008 regarding a possible American withdrawal from the treaty, Carlos M. Gutierrez, current United States Secretary of Commerce, writes, "Quitting NAFTA would send economic shock waves throughout the world, and the damage would start here at home." But John J. Sweeney, President of the AFL-CIO, wrote in The Boston Globe that "the U.S. trade deficit with Canada and Mexico ballooned to 12 times its pre-NAFTA size, reaching $111 billion in 2004."
As other presidents have done, Bush issued a series of pardons during his last days in office. On December 24, 1992, he granted executive clemency to six former government employees implicated in the Iran-Contra scandal of the late 1980s, most prominently former Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger. Bush described Weinberger, who was scheduled to stand trial on January 5, 1993, for criminal charges related to Iran-Contra, as a "true American patriot".
In addition to Weinberger, Bush pardoned Duane R. Clarridge, Clair E. George, Robert C. McFarlane, Elliott Abrams, and Alan G. Fiers Jr., all of whom had been indicted and/or convicted of criminal charges by an Independent Counsel headed by Lawrence Walsh.
In 1990, Time magazine named him the Man of the Year. In 1991, the U.S. Navy Memorial Foundation awarded Bush its Lone Sailor award for his naval service and his subsequent government service. In 1993, he was made an Honorary Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath by Queen Elizabeth II. In 2009, he received the PGA Tour Lifetime Achievement Award.
In early 1992, Bush announced that he would seek a second term. A coalition victory in the Persian Gulf War and high approval ratings made re-election seem likely. As a result, many leading Democrats declined to seek their party's presidential nomination. On the negative side, Bush's popularity was reduced by an economic recession and doubts of whether he properly ended the Gulf War.
Conservative political columnist Pat Buchanan challenged Bush for the Republican nomination. He shocked political pundits by finishing second, with 37% of the vote in the New Hampshire primary. Bush responded by adopting more conservative positions on issues, in an attempt to undermine Buchanan's base. Once he had secured the nomination, Bush faced his Democratic challenger, Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton. Clinton attacked Bush as a politician who was not doing enough to assist the working middle-class and being "out of touch" with the common man, a notion reinforced by reporter Andrew Rosenthal's false report that Bush was "astonished" to see a demonstration of a supermarket scanner.
In early 1992, the race took an unexpected twist when Texas billionaire H. Ross Perot launched a third party bid, claiming that neither Republicans nor Democrats could eliminate the deficit and make government more efficient. His message appealed to voters across the political spectrum disappointed with both parties' perceived fiscal irresponsibility. Perot later bowed out of the race for a short time, then reentered.
Clinton had originally been in the lead, until Perot reentered, tightening the race significantly. As Election Day neared, the polls suggested that the race was a dead-heat, but Clinton pulled out on top, with 370 electoral votes to Bush's 168 votes. Perot won 19% of the popular vote, one of the highest totals for a third party candidate in U.S. history, drawing equally from both major candidates, according to exit polls.
Several key factors led to Bush's defeat. The ailing economy that arose from recession may have been the main factor in Bush's loss. On Election Day, 7 in 10 voters said that the economy was either "not so good" or "poor". On the eve of the 1992 election, after unemployment reports of 7.8% appeared (the highest since 1984), Economic recession had contributed to a sharp decline in his approval rating – to just 37%.
Conservative Republicans pointed out that Bush's 1990 agreement to raise taxes contradicted his famous "Read my lips: no new taxes" pledge. In doing so, Bush alienated many members of his conservative base, losing their support for his re-election. According to one survey, of the voters who cited Bush's broken "No New Taxes" pledge as "very important", two thirds voted for Bill Clinton. Bush had raised taxes in an attempt to address an increasing budget deficit, which has largely been attributed to the Reagan tax cuts and military spending of the 1980s. The tax revenue increase had not hurt his approval ratings to the extent that it prevented it from reaching 89% during the Gulf War, four months after the tax vote. By February 1991 his approval rating rose to its highest level—89%.
George Bush was widely seen as a "pragmatic caretaker" president who lacked a unified and compelling long-term theme in his efforts. Indeed, Bush's sound bite where he refers to the issue of overarching purpose as "the vision thing" has become a metonym applied to other political figures accused of similar difficulties. "He does not say why he wants to be there", wrote columnist George Will, "so the public does not know why it should care if he gets his way".
His Ivy League and prep school education led to warnings by advisors that his image was too "preppy" in 1980, which resulted in deliberate efforts in his 1988 campaign to shed the image, including meeting voters at factories and shopping malls, abandoning set speeches.
His ability to gain broad international support for the Gulf War and the war's result were seen as both a diplomatic and military triumph, rousing bipartisan approval, though his decision to withdraw without removing Saddam Hussein left mixed feelings, and attention returned to the domestic front and a souring economy. A New York Times article mistakenly depicted Bush as being surprised to see a supermarket barcode reader; the report of his reaction exacerbated the notion that he was "out of touch". Amid the early 1990s recession, his image shifted from "conquering hero" to "politician befuddled by economic matters".
Although Bush became the first elected Republican president since Hoover in 1932 to lose a reelection bid (facing a 34% approval rating leading up to the 1992 election), the mood did not last. Despite his defeat, Bush climbed back from election day approval levels to leave office in 1993 with a 56% job approval rating. By December 2008, 60% of Americans gave Bush's presidency a positive rating.
Upon leaving office, Bush retired with his wife, Barbara, and temporarily moved into a friend's house near the Tanglewood community of Houston as they prepared to build a permanent retirement house nearby. Ultimately they built their retirement house in the community of West Oaks, near Tanglewood. They had a presidential office within the Park Laureate Building on Memorial Drive. Mimi Swartz of National Geographic wrote that "The Bushes are too studiously sedate to live in River Oaks". They spend the summer at Walker's Point in Kennebunkport, Maine. On January 10, 1999, the Bushes became the longest-married presidential couple in history, outlasting John and Abigail Adams, who were married for 54 years and 3 days. At 70 years as of January 2015, they still hold the record, by a year and a half, over Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter. Bush co-founded an annual fishing tournament in Islamorada, an island in the Florida Keys, which was held annually for 10 years.
In 1993, Bush visited Kuwait to commemorate the coalition's victory over Iraq in the Gulf War, where he was targeted in an assassination plot. Kuwaiti authorities arrested 17 people allegedly involved in using a car bomb to kill Bush. Through interviews with the suspects and examinations of the bomb's circuitry and wiring, the FBI established that the plot had been directed by the Iraqi Intelligence Service. A Kuwaiti court later convicted all but one of the defendants. Two months later, in retaliation, Clinton ordered the firing of 23 cruise missiles at Iraqi Intelligence Service headquarters in Baghdad. The day before the strike, U.S. Ambassador to the UN Madeleine Albright went before the Security Council to present evidence of the Iraqi plot. After the missiles were fired, Vice President Al Gore said the attack "was intended to be a proportionate response at the place where this plot" to assassinate Bush "was hatched and implemented".
In the 1994 elections, his sons George W. and Jeb concurrently ran for Governor of Texas and Governor of Florida. The elder Bush frequently telephoned their headquarters for updates on the race. George W. won his race against Ann Richards while Jeb lost to Lawton Chiles. After the results came in, the elder Bush told ABC, "I have very mixed emotions. Proud father, is the way I would sum it all up."
On September 28, 1994, Bush said he was opposed to sending American troops to Haiti, citing his loss of confidence in President of Haiti Jean-Bertrand Aristide while speaking to business and civic leaders in Houston.
In an October 22, 1994 speech in Cancun, Mexico, Bush said history would vindicate him for not attempting to force Saddam Hussein out of power while in office: "The Mideast peace talks that offer hope to the world would never have started if we had done that. The Arabs would never have talked to us."
On July 17, 1995, Bush returned to the White House for the unveiling of his official portrait in an East Room ceremony attended by former members of his administration.
In September 1995, Bush met with President of Vietnam Lê Đức Anh and party secretary Đỗ Mười in Vietnam. On September 2, Bush and his son George W. participated in a parade commemorating World War II in Fredericksburg, Texas, where the elder Bush reasoned the US had become united in the aftermath of the Pearl Harbor attack and stressed America would have to stay involved in world affairs to continue its unity.
On July 26, 1996, Bush met with Republican presidential candidate Bob Dole and pledged he would do everything in his power to aid in securing a victory for Dole in the presidential election. On October 6, Bush and Dole lunched together during a preparation for upcoming debates with President Clinton, Bush's experience with debating Clinton prompting Dole to seek out his advice.
In 1997, the Houston Intercontinental Airport was renamed George Bush Intercontinental Airport.
In February 1997, Bush endorsed the chemical weapon banning treaty supported by United States Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, saying the US would need to approve the treaty ahead of the April deadline.
In April 1997, Bush gave a speech at a convocation of a weekend conference analyzing his presidency and joined President Bill Clinton, former President Ford, and Nancy Reagan in signing the "Summit Declaration of Commitment" in advocating for participation by private citizens in solving domestic issues within the United States.
In August 1997, Bush agreed to be interviewed by the New York Times, so long as his portrayal not appear to be giving credit to himself, over the balanced budget deal composed by President Clinton and House Speaker Newt Gingrich, stating his belief that history would show his administration laid the groundwork for the agreement during a telephone interview.
In January 1999, Bush spoke in the Old Senate chamber as part of a lecture series for Senators in an address warning against the collapse of political decorum and invasions into the privacy of individuals.
His eldest son, George W. Bush, was inaugurated as the 43rd president of the United States on January 20, 2001, and re-elected in 2004. Through previous administrations, the elder Bush had ubiquitously been known as "George Bush" or "President Bush", but following his son's election the need to distinguish between them has made retronymic forms such as "George H. W. Bush" and "George Bush senior" and colloquialisms such as "Bush 41" and "Bush the Elder" much more common. H.W. Bush was traveling to Minnesota for a speaking engagement on the day of the September 11 attacks. George W. made multiple calls to get in contact with his father before the two men reconnected after the elder Bush had gone to a Brookfield, Wisconsin motel. Bush told biographer Jon Meacham that his son's vice president, Dick Cheney, underwent a change following the September 11 attacks: "His seeming knuckling under to the real hard-charging guys who want to fight about everything, use force to get our way in the Middle East.”
In December 2002, George W. sought counsel from the elder Bush regarding Iraq and informed him of "my efforts to rally the Saudis, Jordanians, Turks, and others in the Middle East".
In April 2003, following the fall of Baghdad, Bush praised George W. in an email to the incumbent president. In a September 14, 2003 interview with BBC, Bush stated his support for a continuation of his son's war against terrorism and the US was in a better state in terms of protecting itself from terrorism than two years prior. While visiting Houston VA Medical Center on December 17, Bush told reporters of his satisfaction with the capture of Saddam Hussein.
President and Mrs. Bush attended the state funeral of Ronald Reagan in June 2004, and of Gerald Ford in January 2007. One month later, he was awarded the Ronald Reagan Freedom Award in Beverly Hills, California, by former First Lady Nancy Reagan. Despite Bush's political differences with Bill Clinton, reports have acknowledged that the two former presidents have become friends. He and Clinton appeared together in television ads in 2005, encouraging aid for victims of Hurricane Katrina and the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.
In September 2006, Bush campaigned for New Jersey Senate candidate Thomas Kean Jr., praising him as well as stating his respect for Kean calling on the resignation of US Defense Secretary Rumsfeld. Kean went on to lose the election. The following month, he was honored by the National Italian American Foundation (NIAF) with the NIAF One America Award for fundraising, with Bill Clinton, for the victims of the 2004 tsunami and Hurricane Katrina.
On February 18, 2008, Bush formally endorsed Senator John McCain for President of the United States. The endorsement offered a boost to McCain's campaign, as the Arizona Senator had been facing criticism among many conservatives. During a trip to Tokyo, Japan, Bush said that he would campaign vigorously against Senator Hillary Clinton were she to initiate a presidential bid.
On January 10, 2009, both George H. W. and George W. Bush were present at the commissioning of USS George H.W. Bush (CVN-77), the tenth and last Nimitz-class supercarrier of the United States Navy. Bush paid a visit to the carrier again on May 26, 2009.
In June 2009, Bush came out in support for Sonia Sotomayor to receive fair hearings in her nomination for Associate Justice of the Supreme Court. "She was called by somebody a racist once. That's not right. I mean, that's not fair. It doesn't help the process. You're out there name-calling. So let them decide who they want to vote for and get on with it."
In October 2009, Bush criticized the rampant criticism of the current times, reflecting that he did not receive such "day in and day out" during his presidency and named Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow of MSNBC as examples; he called the two "sick puppies." Also during that month, on October 16, Bush joined President Barack Obama onstage at Texas A&M University for a promotion of volunteering.
On March 29, 2012, Bush endorsed Mitt Romney for the Republican presidential nomination in the 2012 Presidential election, NBC News reporting that Bush had chosen to support Romney three months prior.
In July 2013, Bush had his head shaved in a show of support for the two-year-old son of a member of his security detail, who had leukemia. On July 7, Bush met with Gabrielle Giffords for part of her week-long Rights and Responsibilities Tour advocating expanded background checks in relation to firearm purchases.
In April 2014, Frederick D. McClure, chief executive of the Bush library foundation, organized a three-day gathering in College Park, Texas, to mark the 25th anniversary of the Bush administration. Also in early 2014, the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation presented the Profile in Courage Award to Bush and Mount Vernon awarded him its first Cyrus A. Ansary Prize. The Kennedy foundation award was presented by Jack Schlossberg, the late president's grandson, to Lauren Bush Lauren, who accepted on her grandfather's behalf. The Ansary prize was presented in Houston with Ansary, Barbara Lucas, Ryan C. Crocker, dean of the Bush school since January 2010, Barbara Bush, and Curt Viebranz in attendance with the former president. Bush directed $50,000 of the prize to the Bush school at Texas A&M, and $25,000 will fund an animation about the Siege of Yorktown for Mt. Vernon. Viebranz and Lucas represented Mount Vernon at the presentation.
On June 12, 2014, Bush fulfilled a long-standing promise by skydiving on his 90th birthday. He made the parachute jump from a helicopter near his home at 11:15 a.m. in Kennebunkport, Maine. The jump marked the eighth time the former president had skydived, including jumps on his 80th and 85th birthday as well. He had tweeted about the incident prior to the jump, saying "It's a wonderful day in Maine — in fact, nice enough for a parachute jump."
In November 2014, George W. confirmed that his father wanted Jeb to launch a presidential bid in 2016. Jeb decided to run for president, but struggled and withdrew from the Republican primary in the wave of anti-establishment sentiment led by Donald Trump. Both Bushes emerged as frequent critics of Trump's policies and speaking style, with Trump frequently criticizing George W. Bush's presidency. George H.W. Bush later said that he voted for the Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, in the general election instead of Trump. After Trump won the election, Bush sent him a congratulatory message.
On May 18, 2017, after the death of Roger Ailes, Bush tweeted, "He wasn't perfect, but Roger Ailes was my friend & I loved him. Not sure I would have been President w/o his great talent, loyal help. RIP."
On September 7, 2017, Bush partnered with former presidents Carter, Clinton, George W. Bush, and Obama to work with One America Appeal to help the victims of Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma in the Gulf Coast and Texas communities.
On February 24, 2000, Bush was standing at a reception for 90 minutes when he felt lightheaded. He was admitted to a hospital with an irregular heartbeat. When Bush was released three days later, his doctors said that he had retained the irregularity in his heartbeat.
In July 2015, Bush suffered a severe neck injury. At age 91 in October that year, he was wearing a neck brace in his first public engagement since the accident when he threw the ceremonial first pitch for the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park.
Bush sent a letter to president-elect Donald Trump in January 2017 to inform him that because of his poor health, he would not be able to attend Trump's inauguration on January 20; he gave him his best wishes. On January 18, he was admitted to the intensive care unit at Houston Methodist Hospital, where he was sedated for a procedure to treat an acute respiratory problem stemming from pneumonia. He was discharged on 30 January, after surgery successfully removed a blockage from his lungs.
On April 14, 2017, Bush experienced a recurrence of pneumonia and was admitted to a Houston hospital.
In October 2017, during the #MeToo movement, actress Heather Lind accused Bush of groping her and telling an inappropriate joke. Eight other women subsequently made similar allegations, including Christina Baker Kline and Roslyn Corrigan, who was 16-years-old at the time of the alleged incident. Bush has apologized for these incidents through his spokesman, Jim McGrath.
On November 25, 2017, Bush became the longest-lived U.S. president, when he surpassed the 93 years and 165 days lifespan of Gerald Ford, who died in 2006. Upon Ford's death, Bush had become the nation's oldest living president. Currently 93 years, 298 days old, he is also the nation's oldest-living vice president (the third longest-lived overall).
The George Bush Presidential Library is the presidential library named for Bush. This tenth presidential library was built between 1995 and 1997 and contains the presidential and vice presidential papers of Bush and the vice presidential papers of Dan Quayle. It was dedicated on November 6, 1997, and opened to the public shortly thereafter; the architectural firm of Hellmuth, Obata and Kassabaum designed the complex.
The George Bush Presidential Library and Museum is located on a 90-acre (360,000 m2) site on the west campus of Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas, on a plaza adjoining the Presidential Conference Center and the Texas A&M Academic Center. The Library operates under NARA's administration and the Presidential Libraries Act of 1955's provisions.
The Bush School of Government and Public Service is a graduate public policy school at Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas. The graduate school is part of the presidential library complex, and offers four programs: two master's degree programs (Public Service and Administration, and International Affairs) and three certificate programs (Advanced International Affairs, Nonprofit Management, and Homeland Security). The Master in International Affairs (MIA) degree program offers concentrations in either National Security and Diplomacy or International Development and Economic Policy.
Bush delivers a eulogy to Ronald Reagan, June 11, 2004, in the Washington National Cathedral
George H. W. Bush with son President George W. Bush and China's President Hu Jintao in Beijing, People's Republic of China, August 10, 2008
Capt. Kevin E. O'Flaherty, commanding officer of the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush, escorts former President George H. W. Bush, 2009
Bush meets President Barack Obama in the Oval Office, January 30, 2010
The new bundle of joy is named after Jenna's grandfather and former President George H.W. Bush, whose nickname growing up was "Poppy."
So, what we talk about in the America 2000 strategy, you put into action. And the ideas for implementing a lot of our strategy has got to come from you all and thousands like you across this country. It can't succeed -- we cannot dictate from Washington. I am not anti-Washington. I am not antibureaucracy. We've got some wonderful people who have given their lives in these Departments, but this program, America 2000, cannot succeed if we try to do it from Washington itself.
Literally hundreds of thousands of Jews from Ethiopia and from the former Soviet Union now make their homes in Israel; and this, more than anything else, is what the Jewish state is all about. In this regard, I am extremely pleased to announce that we were able to reach agreement on the basic principles to govern the granting of up to billion in loan guarantees. I've long been committed to supporting Israel in the historic task of absorbing immigrants, and I'm delighted that the Prime Minister and I have agreed to an approach which will assist these new Israelis without frustrating the search for peace. We can thus pursue these two humanitarian goals at one and the same time.
It's a wonderful day in Maine -- in fact, nice enough for a parachute jump.
Speeches and statements