George H.W. Bush (Bush #41) R.I.P.

Written by  //  December 5, 2018  //  Politics, U.S.  //  No comments

George H.W. Bush, 41st president of the United States, dies at 94

By Karen Tumulty
(WaPost) George H.W. Bush, the 41st president of the United States and the father of the 43rd, was a steadfast force on the international stage for decades, from his stint as an envoy to Beijing to his eight years as vice president and his one term as commander in chief from 1989 to 1993.
The last veteran of World War II to serve as president, he was a consummate public servant and a statesman who helped guide the nation and the world out of a four-decade Cold War that had carried the threat of nuclear annihilation.
His death, at 94 on Nov. 30, also marked the passing of an era.
Although Mr. Bush served as president three decades ago, his values and ethic seem centuries removed from today’s acrid political culture. His currency of personal connection was the handwritten letter — not the social media blast.
He had a competitive nature and considerable ambition that were not easy to discern under the sheen of his New England politesse and his earnest generosity. He was capable of running hard-edge political campaigns and took the nation to war. But his principal achievements were produced at negotiating tables.
… He ordered an attack on Panama in 1989 to overthrow strongman Manuel Antonio Noriega. After Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in the summer of 1990, Mr. Bush put together a 30-nation coalition — backed by a U.N. mandate and including the Soviet Union and several Arab countries — that routed the Iraqi forces with unexpected ease in a ground war that lasted only 100 hours.
However, Mr. Bush decided to leave Hussein in power, setting up the worst and most fateful decision of his son’s presidency a dozen years later.
The conservative wing of his party would not forgive him for breaking an ill-advised and cocky pledge: “Read my lips: No new taxes.” What cost him among voters at large, however, was his inability to express a connection to and engagement with the struggles of ordinary Americans or a strategy for turning the economy around.
That he was perceived as lacking in grit was another irony in the life of Mr. Bush. His was a character that had been forged by trial. He was an exemplary story of a generation whose youth was cut short by the Great Depression and World War II.

Doug Mills/The New York Times
Major Moments of President George Bush’s Funeral
The United States’ five living presidents, family, friends and dignitaries from around the country and the world filled Washington National Cathedral for a service on Wednesday to honor the 41st president, George H.W. Bush. Here are the major moments from the day’s events. [Find full coverage of the funeral here.]

History Will Remember George H.W. Bush Kindly
The United States owes a great debt to its 41st president.
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(Foreign Policy) Will Inboden:
In his book The Road to Character, David Brooks distinguishes between the “resume virtues” and the “eulogy virtues.” Resume virtues are those professional qualities of skills, accomplishments, qualifications, and successes that a curriculum vitae exists to highlight. Eulogy virtues are those that are spoken of at a funeral—the personal qualities and character that a person is to be remembered by, the things that matter most in a life well-lived. What is most notable about former President George H.W. Bush is that his remarkable life fused the resume virtues and the eulogy virtues. His many professional accomplishments, almost unsurpassed by any other American in public life, all stemmed from his sterling personal character. His fidelity to duty, honor, and country shaped his decades of national service and leadership, even as his integrity, resolve, discipline, and surpassing kindness and decency marked his conduct in all aspects of life. He represented the best of America, and it is much the better for having been led by him during some of the most consequential moments of the 20th century. During our troubled current era, may we dedicate ourselves anew to being worthy of his legacy.

‘I Love You, Too’: George Bush’s Final Days
(NYT) George Bush had been fading in the last few days. He had not gotten out of bed, he had stopped eating and he was mostly sleeping. For a man who had defied death multiple times over the years, it seemed that the moment might finally be arriving.
His longtime friend and former secretary of state, James A. Baker III, arrived at his Houston home on Friday morning to check on him.
Barely 13 hours later, Mr. Bush was dead. The former president died in his home in a gated community in Houston, surrounded by several friends, members of his family, doctors and a minister.  … Mr. Bush’s final days, as recounted on Saturday by Mr. Baker, who saw him repeatedly at the end and was in the room when he died, were remarkably peaceful after an eventful 94-year life that took him from the skies of the Pacific during World War II to the Oval Office at the end of the Cold War.

Masha Gessen: George H. W. Bush’s Presidency Erased People with AIDS. So Did the Tributes to Him
Bush has been celebrated for everything, it seems—even for doing something about AIDS, an assertion that can be made if seen in relationship to his predecessor’s near-total inaction, but not in the context of the AIDS activist movement, which has once again been disappeared. Bush is remembered for his niceness, kindness, gentleness, and gentlemanliness. His wars have also been remembered politely. This is possible because wars have traditionally been the province of gentlemen. Another province of gentlemen: the practice of not seeing an entire segment of the population
(The New Yorker) George H. W. Bush was the President while more than seventy thousand people died of complications of H.I.V. in the U.S. The single largest group among them were men who had sex with men. Many of them, though not all, died in the confines of the gay neighborhoods and communities of the largest American cities. They had come to the cities months, years, or decades earlier, often leaving behind families who wouldn’t have them. Some of these families came to take care of them as they died; many didn’t. The gay and lesbian community—lovers, friends, neighbors, volunteers—stepped in. In my early twenties, living in New York City, I often went to more than one memorial service a week. I was burying more of my peers than my grandparents were.
Unlike other disenfranchised groups, gay men with AIDS, many of whom were white and not poor and had been closeted, had experienced the shock of elision. George H. W. Bush consistently refused to see them. He followed in the footsteps of President Ronald Reagan, who didn’t publicly address AIDS until four years after the first cases were reported, and didn’t address the topic at any length until 1987. Bush made his first statement on AIDS more than a year after taking office. He called for compassion for people with AIDS, and promised to outlaw discrimination but made no promises regarding money to fight the epidemic. (Bush held to the view that what was needed was behavior eradication, not medical research on the infection itself.)

‘His example lives on’: Trump and Obama lead tributes after George HW Bush dies
Donald Trump praises ‘unwavering commitment to faith, family, and country’ while Barack Obama notes ‘legacy of service that may never be matched’

Obama Comments On Death Of ‘Patriot And Humble Servant’ George H.W. Bush
“George H.W. Bush’s life is a testament to the notion that public service is a noble, joyous calling. And he did tremendous good along the journey.”

Our friend, C. Uday Bhaskar’s tribute on his blog, highlights some different aspects of President Bush’s life and career:
George HW Bush: US President who oversaw the quiet end of the Cold War
– The distinctive features of Bush include the fact that he follows in the tradition of two ‘firsts’ in US electoral history after almost 150 years. He is listed as the second sitting VP to win an election and become President, and the second President whose son George Bush followed him in the White House. No other American politician has both these accomplishments to his credit — and this is unlikely to be matched in the near future.
– It is a historical anomaly that his son was the architect of the transmutation of the US-India relationship, from one of deep estrangement to that of cautious engagement in the 2005 – 08 period.
The lowest of low-points in India-US relations (and there were many) during the Cold War include the 1971 war for Bangladesh and the 1974 peaceful nuclear explosion under the stewardship of PM Indira Gandhi. It merits recall that Bush was the US ambassador to the UN in 1971 and had a ringside view of the deep animosity/dislike, bordering on hatred, that Nixon had for Indira Gandhi. This would have influenced his views about India.
– The stint in China as the US ambassador equivalent and the period spent as the head of the CIA (1976-77) would have given Bush a deeper comprehension of the seamy side of US foreign policy and the manner in which US security interests were being pursued. The current Trump embrace of Saudi Arabia and similar prioritisation of American strategic interest over normative principle has much deeper roots in US foreign policy — and Bush was privy clearly to much that never came into the public domain.

Brian Mulroney to give eulogy for George H.W. Bush

A ‘fine letter to be remembered by’: Read George H.W. Bush’s gracious letter to Bill Clinton
(USA Today) A letter penned by George Herbert Walker Bush for political rival Bill Clinton is being widely shared as a tribute to the late president.
Bush left the letter for Clinton in the Oval Office on the day of Clinton’s inauguration in January 1993. While other presidents have left similar letters, Bush’s has been lauded for its graciousness and civility.
Bill Clinton: George H.W. Bush’s Oval Office note to me revealed the heart of who he was

Bush’s single term shaped US history for decades
(RTE) He was president for only four years, but George HW Bush shaped US history for decades, taking on tough jobs from Beijing to the CIA, ousting Iraqi forces from Kuwait, sealing a breakthrough budget deal that cost him an election and fathering a future president.
His death at the age of 94 came seven months after the death of his wife, Barbara, to whom he was married for 73 years.
His presidency, which ran from 1989 to 1993, was defined by two events – his aggressive response to Iraqi President Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990, and the soon-to-be-broken “read my lips” pledge he made not to raise taxes while running for president in 1988.
At a time when the Cold War was ending and the influence of Soviet-style communism was withering, Bush’s military and diplomatic actions firmly cast the US as the world’s leading superpower.
After Bush emphatically said Saddam’s aggression “will not stand,” US-led forces routed Iraq’s army in the Gulf War, driving it from Kuwait while stopping short of taking Baghdad, Iraq’s capital.
Bush’s popularity rating among Americans soared to about 90%.
Twenty months later, in 1992, the Republican Bush lost his bid for re-election to Democrat Bill Clinton, whose folksy manner and focus on the economy struck a chord with many Americans and made Bush seem disconnected from voters for focusing on foreign policy over domestic issues.

Is History Being Too Kind to George H.W. Bush?
The 41st president put self-interest over principle time and time again.
(Politico) The urge to prettify a politician’s legacy upon his demise is understandable and in some ways reflects our finer selves. Bush’s family, friends and admirers deserve comfort in their grief.
But when it comes to presidents and historical actors of consequence, we also need critical dissent.
Respect for the dead must coexist with respect for the historical record.
In the case of George Bush, this balancing act means acknowledging not only his positive qualities and achievements—as so many news outlets have already copiously done—but also what may have been his defining political hallmark: his cynicism. From his opportunistic criticism of the 1964 Civil Right Act, to his 1980 election season embrace of supply-side economics and anti-abortion politics, to his last act as president—pardoning many of the Iran Contra crew in order to protect himself—there was a recurring tendency to place short-term gain above longstanding values.

23 April 2013

As George W. Bush library opens, a rare meeting of presidents and rivals
Their rivalries have helped to define American politics for more than a quarter-century.
And sometimes the complex relationships among the only five people alive who know what it’s like to be president of the United States have seemed to be straight out of a soap opera. They have called each other names and blamed one another for the nation’s problems.
But when they have a rare meeting in Dallas on Thursday for the opening of former president George W. Bush’s library and museum, there will be smiles for the cameras and friendly chatter by President Barack Obama and former presidents Bush, Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush and Jimmy Carter.
It will be the first time they have all been together since January 2009, when they met in Washington a few days before George W. Bush left office and Obama was sworn in as president.
The library’s dedication at Southern Methodist University will be something of a re-emergence for George W. Bush, who has preferred to stay out of the spotlight since leaving Washington after eight tumultuous years in office that followed six years as Texas governor.
“Fourteen years was enough for me,” Bush told People Magazine last week. “But I do want to stay engaged in issues that matter to me.”

A fascinating account of the special relationship between George H.W. Bush and James Baker from the NYT Magazine of 6 May 1990

Maureen Dowd & Thomas L. Friedman:

Trump to attend George H.W. Bush funeral, names Dec. 5 national day of mourning
(WaPost) Despite years of deep animosity between Trump and the Bush family, who represent divergent brands of Republicanism, Trump showered praise on Bush’s legacy as a World War II veteran and lifelong public servant.
Trump’s conciliatory gestures came from Argentina, where he is attending the Group of 20 summit in Buenos Aires. He canceled a planned news conference for Saturday afternoon, tweeting that he would not field questions from journalists “out of respect for the Bush family and former president George H.W. Bush.” And Trump said the death “puts a damper” on his scheduled high-stakes dinner Saturday with Chinese President Xi Jinping to continue trade negotiations.

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