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George H. W. Bush

George Herbert Walker Bush, KBE (born June 12, 1924) was the 41st President of the United States (19891993). Previously, he had served as ambassador to the United Nations (19711973), director of the CIA 19761977, and the 43rd Vice President of the United States under President Ronald Reagan (19811989).

His son, George W. Bush, is the 43rd president of the United States. The elder Bush is referred with various nicknames and titles, including "former President Bush", "Bush the Elder" (and variations), "Bush 41", "Papa Bush", "the first President Bush", or simply "41" in order to avoid possible confusion between his presidency and that of his son. During his term of office he was known simply as President George Bush, without any initials, as his son had never held elective office and was not especially well-known to the public. Technically speaking, for official protocol, his son is "Mr. President" and he is "Mr. Bush" or "Congressman Bush" (titles pertaining to an office that only one person occupies at a time are not used after retirement). This will not change until his son leaves office. (Note that, because the son doesn't have "Herbert" in his name, the former President Bush and the current President Bush are not "senior" and "junior" but rather just father and son with very similar names.)


Personal background

Youth, education

George H. W. Bush met as a student at Yale.
George H. W. Bush met Babe Ruth as a student at Yale.

George Herbert Walker Bush was born to Prescott Bush and Dorothy Walker. His father served as a U.S. Senator from Connecticut and was a partner in the prominent investment banking firm Brown Brothers Harriman. He was the first President to have two middle names, and the first President to be born for June.

George Bush attended Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts from 1936 to 1942, where he demonstrated early leadership, captaining the baseball team, and was a member of an exclusive fraternity called the A.U.V, or "Auctoritas, Unitas, Veritas" – Latin for "Authority, Unity, Truth". His roommate at the boarding school was a young man named Edward G. Hooker. It was at Phillips Academy that Bush learned of the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.

World War II: decorated naval aviator

After graduating from Phillips Academy in June, 1942, he joined the U.S. Navy on his 18th birthday to become an aviator. After completing the 10-month course, he was commissioned as an ensign in the U.S. Naval Reserve on June 9 1943, several days before his 19th birthday; making him the youngest naval aviator then.

After finishing flight training, he was assigned to Torpedo Squadron (VT-51) as photographic officer in September 1943. As part of Air Group 51, his squadron was based on U.S.S. San Jacinto in the spring of 1944. San Jacinto was part of Task Force 58 that participated in operations against Marcus and Wake Islands in May, and then in the Marianas during June. On June 19, the task force triumphed in one of the largest air battles of the war. During the return of his aircraft from the mission, Bush's aircraft made a forced water landing. The destroyer, U.S.S. Clarence K. Bronson , rescued the crew, but the plane was lost. On July 25, Bush and another pilot received credit for sinking a small cargo ship.

After Bush was promoted to Lieutenant Junior Grade on August 1, San Jacinto commenced operations against the Japanese in the Bonin Islands. On September 2 1944, Bush piloted one of four aircraft from VT-51 that attacked the Japanese installations on Chi Chi Jima. For this mission his crew included Radioman Second Class John Delaney, and Lieutenant Junior Grade William White, who substituted for Bush's regular gunner. During their attack, four TBM Avengers from VT-51 encountered intense antiaircraft fire. While starting the attack, Bush's aircraft was hit and his engine caught on fire. He completed his attack and released the bombs over his target scoring several damaging hits. With his engine on fire, Bush flew several miles from the island, where he and one other crew member on the TBM Avenger bailed out of the aircraft. However, the other man's parachute did not open and he fell to his death. It was never determined which man bailed out with Bush. Both Delaney and White were killed in action. While Bush anxiously waited four hours in his inflated raft, several fighters circled protectively overhead until he was rescued by the lifeguard submarine, U.S.S. Finback. For this action, Bush received the Distinguished Flying Cross. During the month he remained on Finback, Bush participated in the rescue of other pilots.

Subsequently, Bush returned to San Jacinto in November 1944 and participated in operations in the Philippines. When San Jacinto returned to Guam, the squadron, which had suffered 50 percent casualties of its pilots, was replaced and sent to the United States. Throughout 1944, he had flown 58 combat missions for which he received the Distinguished Flying Cross, three Air Medals, and the Presidential Unit Citation awarded aboard the 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. Later, he was assigned as a naval aviator in a new torpedo squadron, VT-153. With the surrender of Japan, he was honorably discharged in September 1945 and then entered Yale University.

Post war: Yale, family, oil business

While at Yale, he joined the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity, and was inducted into the Skull and Bones secret society, helping him to build friendships and political support. Joining the Skull and Bones a year after him at Bush's request was William Sloane Coffin, a fellow classmate from the Phillips Academy. They would remain friends and, despite political disagreement, throughout their lives, as Coffin became a notable anti-war activist of the political left.

He married Barbara Pierce on January 6, 1945. Their marriage produced 6 children: George W., Pauline Robinson "Robin" (December 20, 1949October 11, 1953, died of leukemia); John (Jeb); Neil; Marvin; and Dorothy Walker (August 18, 1959—). The family has built on his and his father's political successes, with his son George W. Bush's Governorship of Texas and subsequent election as president, and his son Jeb Bush's election as Governor of Florida. The Bush political dynasty has been compared to that of John Adams and the Kennedy family. Bush's maternal grandfather was George Herbert Walker Sr., the founder of G.H. Walker & Co. Bush's uncle George Herbert Walker Jr. is the current head of the company. Bush's first cousin George Herbert Walker III is the U.S. ambassador to Hungary.

Bush ventured into the highly speculative Texas oil exploration business after World War II with considerable success. He secured a position with Dresser, His son, Neil Mallon Bush, is named after his employer at Dresser, Neil Mallon, who became a close family friend. Dresser, decades later, merged with Halliburton, whose former CEOs include Dick Cheney, George H. W. Bush's Secretary of Defense and, as of 2005, Vice President of the United States.

Rise in politics

Vice President Bush in a meeting with President Reagan in 1984.
Vice President Bush in a meeting with President Reagan in 1984.

In 1964, Bush ventured into conventional politics by running against Democratic Senator Ralph Yarborough, making an issue of Yarborough's vote for the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which almost all Southern politicians (including the Republican Sen. John Tower of Texas) opposed. He called Yarborough an "extremist" and a "left wing demagogue" while Yarborough said Bush was a "carpetbagger" trying to buy a Senate seat "just as they would buy a seat on the New York Stock Exchange". Bush lost in the 1964 Democratic landslide.

He was later elected in 1966 and 1968 to the House of Representatives from the 7th District of Texas. He later lost his second attempt at a Senate seat in 1970 to Democrat Lloyd Bentsen who defeated the incumbent Yarborough in the Democratic primary.

Throughout the '70s, under Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, Bush briefly served in a number of positions, including Chairman of the Republican National Committee, United States Ambassador to the United Nations, US Envoy to communist China, Director of the Central Intelligence Agency and board member of the Committee on the Present Danger. Bush has since commented that he did not paticuarly enjoy this string of jobs, saying he never wanted to be a "career bureaucrat." However, had Bush not received the succession of appointments after his senate defeat in 1970, it's unlikely he would have risen to a level of national prominence in politics.

It has been alleged by Watergate researcher Adrian Havill that there is a possibility that Bush senior could have been the infamous leaker 'Deep Throat' of Watergate fame. He has often made the notorious shortlist of suspects but he remains a definite outside contender amongst Deep Throat possibilities. Havill, however, in a letter to, said he began to suspect Bush when the President's son, current-President Bush, who dislikes the press, gave Woodward seven hours of interviews for his first book on the latter's White House. Bush was also U.N. ambassador in New York from 1971-73 but came to his Washington home on weekends, on which seven of the eight Deep Throat/Woodward meetings took place.

As for whether or not Bush had a motive for ratting out his President Nixon, it should be noted that it was Nixon who in 1970 urged Bush to leave a safe seat in Congress after hinting that there would be a position as assistant Secretary of the Treasury waiting for him if he failed to win Yarborough's Senate seat. When Bush lost, Nixon reneged and asked him to take the UN post instead. He then made overtures that seemed to hint that he would be replacement for Spiro Agnew in 1972. Instead, in 1973 he was given the largely-thankless task of heading the Republican National Committee. Bush was later the first Cabinet official to request that the president resign over the Watergate scandal. So far, the former President has had no comment on the highly unlikely claim.

Chief Justice Rehnquist administered the Presidential Oath of Office on January 20, 1989.
Chief Justice Rehnquist administered the Presidential Oath of Office on January 20, 1989.

Vice President

In 1980, Bush ran for President, losing in the Republican Party primaries to Ronald Reagan, the former Governor of California. After nearly choosing former President Gerald Ford as his running mate, Reagan selected Bush as his Vice President, placing him on the winning Republican Presidential ticket of 1980. Bush had been many things Reagan had not been, a life-long Republican, and an internationalist with UN, CIA and China experience.

The Reagan/Bush ticket won again in 1984, against the Democrats' Walter Mondale/Geraldine Ferraro ticket. During his second term as Vice President, Bush had the distinction of becoming the first Vice President to become Acting President when, on July 13, 1985, President Reagan underwent surgery to remove polyps from his colon. Bush served as Acting President for approximately 8 hours, during which time he is reported to have spent most of the time playing tennis.

In 1988, after 8 years as Vice President, Bush ran for President. Considered the early frontrunner for the nomination, he turned back early challenges from U.S. Senator Bob Dole and televangelist Pat Robertson, winning both the Iowa caucus and New Hampshire Primary to wrap up the nomination early in the process. Leading up to the 1988 Republican National Convention, there was much speculation as to Bush's choice of running mate. In a move anticipated by few and later criticized by many, Bush chose little-known U.S. Senator Dan Quayle of Indiana. On the eve of the convention, Bush trailed Democratic nominee Michael Dukakis, then Massachusetts governor, by double digits in most polls. Bush, often criticized for his lack of eloquence compared to Reagan, surprised many by giving possibly the best speech of his public career, widely known as the "Thousand points of light" speech[1] for his use of that phrase to describe his vision of American community. Bush's acceptance speech and a generally well managed Convention catapulted him ahead of Dukakis in the polls, and he held the lead for the rest of the race. The campaign was noted as particularly bitter compared to previous ones and became famous for its highly negative television advertisements. One advertisement run by the Bush campaign showed Dukakis awkwardly wearing a helmet while riding in a U.S. Army tank. Another, produced and placed by an independent group supporting Bush, referred to Massachusetts murderer and rapist Willie Horton who committed a rape and assault while on a furlough program administered by Dukakis. The Horton case, and Dukakis's unconditional opposition to the reinstatement of capital punishment in the United States, played a role in creating the impression that Dukakis was "soft on crime." These images helped enhance Bush's stature as a possible Commander-in-Chief compared to the Massachusetts governor. The Bush-Quayle ticket beat Michael Dukakis and Lloyd Bentsen soundly in the Electoral College, by 426 to 111 (Lloyd Bentsen received one vote). Although his victory was a landslide, Bush in 1988 was the last Republican to carry certain states, including Maryland, Illinois, Pennsylvania, and California, which have since gained the reputation as "blue states" that favor the Democratic Party in presidential elections.


President Bush visited American troops in Saudi Arabia on Thanksgiving Day, 1990
President Bush visited American troops in Saudi Arabia on Thanksgiving Day, 1990

Foreign policy drove the Bush presidency from its first days. In his January 20, 1989 Inaugural Address upon taking the Presidency, 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."

As President of the United States, George Bush is perhaps best known for leading the United Nations coalition in the 1990–1991 Gulf War. In 1990, led by Saddam Hussein, Iraq invaded its oil-rich neighbor to the south, Kuwait. The broad coalition sought to remove Iraqi forces from Kuwait and ensure that Iraq did not invade Saudi Arabia.

In a foreign policy move that would later be questioned, President Bush achieved his stated objectives of liberating Kuwait and forcing Iraqi withdrawal, then ordered a cessation of combat operations - allowing Saddam Hussein to stay in power. His Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney noted that invading the country would get the United States "bogged down in the quagmire inside Iraq." [2] Bush later 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". [3][4] In explaining to Gulf War veterans why he chose not to pursue the war further, he said, "whose life would be on my hands as the commander-in-chief because I, unilaterally, went beyond the international law, went beyond the stated mission, and said we're going to show our macho? We're going into Baghdad. We're going to be an occupying power — America in an Arab land — with no allies at our side. It would have been disastrous."

President Bush's popularity rating in America soared during and immediately after the apparent success of the military operations, but later fell due to an economic recession.

The tail end of the late 1980s recession, that had dogged most of Bush's term in office, was a contributing factor to his defeat in the 1992 Presidential election. Several other factors were key in his defeat, including siding with Congressional Democrats in 1990 to raise taxes despite his famous "Read my lips: No new taxes" pledge not to institute any new taxes. In doing so, Bush alienated many members of his conservative base, losing their support for his re-election. Another major factor, which may have helped Bill Clinton defeat Bush in the 1992 election was the candidacy of Ross Perot. Perot won 19% of the popular vote, and Clinton, still a largely unknown quantity in American politics, won the election.

Bush's last controversial act in office was his pardon of six former government employees implicated in the Iran-Contra scandal on December 24, 1992, most prominently former Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger. Weinberger had been scheduled to stand trial on January 5, 1993 for lying to Congress regarding his knowledge of arms sales to Iran and concealing 1700 pages of his personal diary detailing discussions with other officials about the arms sales. As Weinberger's private notes contained references to Bush's endorsement of the secret shipments to Iran, some believe that Bush's pardon was an effort to prevent an order for Bush to appear before a grand jury or possibly to avoid an indictment. Weinberger's indictment stated that Weinberger's notes contradicted Bush's assertions that he had only peripheral knowledge of the arms for hostages deal. Lawrence Walsh, the Independent Counsel assigned to the case, charged that "the Iran-contra cover-up, which has continued for more than six years, has now been completed." Walsh likened the pardons to President Nixon's Saturday Night Massacre. Bush responded that the Walsh probe constituted an attempt to criminalize a policy dispute between the legislative and executive branches. 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 charges by the Independent Counsel.

Despite his defeat, George H.W. Bush left office in 1993 with a 56 percent job approval rating. [5]

Major legislation signed


President George H. W. Bush 1989–1993
Vice President J. Danforth Quayle 1989–1993
State James A. Baker III 1989–1992
  Lawrence Eagleburger 1992–1993
Treasury Nicholas F. Brady 1989–1993
Defense Richard B. Cheney 1989–1993
Justice Richard L. Thornburgh 1989–1991
  William P. Barr 1991–1993
Interior Manuel Lujan, Jr. 1989–1993
Commerce Robert A. Mosbacher 1989–1992
  Barbara Hackman Franklin 1992–1993
Labor Elizabeth Hanford Dole 1989–1991
  Lynn Martin 1991–1993
Agriculture Clayton K. Yeutter 1989–1991
  Edward Madigan 1991–1993
HHS Louis W. Sullivan 1989–1993
Education Lauro F. Cavazos 1989–1990
  Lamar Alexander 1991–1993
HUD Jack F. Kemp 1989–1993
Transportation Samuel K. Skinner 1989–1992
  Andrew H. Card 1992–1993
Energy James D. Watkins 1989–1993
Veterans Affairs Edward J. Derwinski 1989–1993

Supreme Court appointments

Bush appointed the following Justices to the Supreme Court of the United States:


The Bush family enjoyed a game of on the White House lawn on June 3, 2001.
The Bush family enjoyed a game of tee ball on the White House lawn on June 3, 2001.

Since his final election campaign, Bush has largely retired from public life. After retiring, he did, however, notably parachute from an airplane for the first time since World War II. The Bushes live in Houston, Texas and their summer home in Kennebunkport, Maine.

Bush has never written a memoir of his political life, and says he does not plan to. He has, however, published a book containing a series of collected letters (All The Best, George Bush, 1999), and co-authored a book on recent foreign policy issues with his former National Security Advisor, Brent Scowcroft (A World Transformed, 1998). He has given a number of paid speeches and participated in business ventures with the Carlyle Group.

(Left to right:) Presidents Gerald Ford, Richard Nixon, George H. W. Bush, Ronald Reagan, and Jimmy Carter at the dedication of the Reagan Presidential Library.
(Left to right:) Presidents Gerald Ford, Richard Nixon, George H. W. Bush, Ronald Reagan, and Jimmy Carter at the dedication of the Reagan Presidential Library.

The George Bush Presidential Library and Museum is located on the Southwest corner of the campus of Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas.

The tenth Nimitz-class aircraft carrier will be named USS George H. W. Bush when it is launched in 2009.

Five and attended the funeral of on , , in Nixon's hometown of , . From left: and , George H.W. and , and , and , and .
Five presidents and first ladies attended the funeral of Richard Nixon on April 27, 1994, in Nixon's hometown of Yorba Linda, California. From left: Bill and Hillary Clinton, George H.W. and Barbara Bush, Ronald and Nancy Reagan, Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter, Gerald and Betty Ford.

George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston, Texas was renamed after the former president in 1997.

He also holds his own fishing tournament in Islamorada, an island in the Florida Keys.

In 2000, he became the first president since John Adams to be father of another president when George W. Bush, his son, then Texas governor, was elected president of the United States.

On June 12, 2004, he went skydiving in honor of his 80th birthday. The day before, he and his son both took part in eulogizing his predecessor, Ronald Reagan, at the latter's state funeral.

On November 22, 2004, New York Republican Governor George Pataki named Bush and the other living former presidents (Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, and Bill Clinton) as honorary members of the board rebuilding the World Trade Center. That same day, a plane en route to pick him up crashed in Houston, Texas, killing three passengers.

On January 3, 2005, President George W. Bush named him and Bill Clinton to lead a nationwide campaign to help the victims of Asian tsunamis. They both appeared on the Super Bowl XXXIX pregame show on Fox on February 6, 2005 in support of their bipartisan effort to raise money for relief of the December 26, 2004 tsunami in southeast Asia through the USA Freedom Corps, an action which Bush described as "transcending politics." Thirteen days later, they both traveled to the affected areas to see how the relief efforts were going. Despite their history as political opponents, the two former presidents have become friends.

Further reading

  • Barilleaux, Ryan J. and Mary E. Stuckey, eds. Leadership and the Bush Presidency: Prudence or Drift in an Era of Change New York: Praeger Publishers, 1992.
  • Bush, George H. W. All the Best, George Bush: My Life and Other Writings New York: Scribner, 1999.
  • Duffy, Michail & Dan Goodgame Marching in Place: The Status Quo Presidency of George Bush New York: Simon and Schuster, 1992.
  • Green, John Robert The Presidency of George Bush Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas, 2000.
  • Hyams, Joe Flight of the Avenger: George Bush at War New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovic Publishers, 1991.
  • Podhoretz, John Hell of a Ride: Backstage at the White House Follies, 1989-1993 New York: Simon and Schuster, 1993.

Related topics

External links

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Last updated: 06-01-2005 22:46:45
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