Sun | Feb 16, 2020

American mourns George HW Bush

Published:Sunday | December 2, 2018 | 12:00 AM
George H.W. Bush
In this November 10, 2007, file photo provided by the US Army Golden Knights, former President George H.W. Bush free falls with Golden Knights parachute team member Sgt 1st Class Mike Elliott.


He was the man who sought a "kinder, and gentler nation", and the one who sternly invited Americans to read his lips - he would not raise taxes.

He was the popular leader of a mighty coalition that dislodged Iraq from Kuwait, and was turned out of the presidency after a single term. Blue-blooded and genteel, he was elected in one of the nastiest campaigns in recent history.

George Herbert Walker Bush was many things, including only the second American to see his son follow him into the nation's highest office. But more than anything else, he was a believer in government service. Few men or women have served America in more capacities than the man known as 'Poppy'.

"There is no higher honour than to serve free men and women, no greater privilege than to labour in government beneath the Great Seal of the United States and the American flag," he told senior staffers in 1989, days after he took office.

Bush, who died at age 94 - nearly eight months after his wife of 73 years died at their Houston home - was a congressman, an ambassador to the United Nations and envoy to China, chairman of the Republican National Committee, director of the CIA, two-term vice-president and, finally, president.

He was no ideologue - he spoke disparagingly of "the vision thing", and derided the supply-side creed of his future boss, Ronald Reagan, as "voodoo economics".

He is generally given better marks by historians for his foreign policy achievements than for his domestic record, but assessments of his presidency tend to be tepid.

"Was George Bush only a nice man with good connections, who seldom had to wrest from life the honours it frequently bestowed on him?" journalist Tom Wicker asked in his Bush biography.

Wicker's answer: Perhaps. But he said Bush's actions in Kuwait "reflect moments of courage and vision worthy of his office".


The Persian Gulf War - dubbed 'Operation Desert Storm' - was his greatest mark on history.

In a January 2011 interview marking the war's 20th anniversary, he said the mission sent a message that "the United States was willing to use force way across the world, even in that part of the world where those countries over there thought we never would intervene".

"I think it was a signature historical event," he added. "And I think it will always be."

After Iraq invaded Kuwait in August 1990, Bush quickly began building an international military coalition that included other Arab states. After freeing Kuwait, he rejected suggestions that the US carry the offensive to Baghdad, choosing to end the hostilities a mere 100 hours after the start of the ground offensive.

Bush, an avid outdoors man who took Theodore Roosevelt as a model, sought to safeguard the environment, signing the first improvements to the Clean Air Act in more than a decade. It was activism with a Republican cast, allowing polluters to buy others' clean air credits and giving industry flexibility on how to meet tougher goals on smog.

He also signed the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act to ban workplace discrimination against people with disabilities and require improved access to public places and transportation.

Barbara and George Bush had four sons and another daughter: John, known as Jeb, the former Florida governor who sought the Republican presidential nomination in 2016; Neil, Marvin, Dorothy; and George, president 43 to his father's 41. The day George W. Bush took office, the elder Bush signed a letter "the proudest father in the whole wide world".

Mostly, he stayed out of the public eye.