President George Herbert Walker Bush
President Bush was a thoroughly decent man and a wonderful father, husband, grandfather and public servant. He embodied the role model that we expected from our Presidents. This has been lost and needs to be rediscovered in the next election.
Two of my college roommates were close to some of his younger relatives. They were a raucous and fun loving bunch – much like the Kennedy clan. President Bush had a wonderful sense of adventure and humor paired to the serious statesman. I think that’s why President Clinton and he became so close in their later years. He was fundamentally a wise and effective diplomat and international statesman, but not a visionary on the domestic front and the national economy.
He embodied what used to be the Republican Party – WASP, Northeastern, Ivy League, internationalist, CIA – the Rockefeller wing of the party, even though he moved his family to Texas and became a Texas oilman. That wing of the party has nearly disappeared in Congress and on the national scene, but still persists in a few local New England Governors like Charley Baker of Massachusetts and Phil Scott of Vermont.
The electoral losses of Rockefeller and Bush in the 60s’, and 70’s to the forces of Goldwater, Nixon and Reagan symbolized the passing of the Republican Party’s torch to the more conservative elements of the party then centered in California and Arizona. President Bush adapted, served Ronald Reagan loyally as his Vice President, and finally secured the Presidency for himself in 1988.
As President, his work with President Gorbachev helped reunite Germany, ease the transitions in Eastern Europe from Soviet-style central planning towards democracy and economic liberalism and build partnerships between Russia and the US. He amassed a grand coalition to drive Saddam Hussein out of Iraq. He negotiated NAFTA with Canada and Mexico. He pushed the Israelis and Palestinians towards peace negotiations. He was one of our most forward thinking and skilled Presidents in international affairs.
He also negotiated with Democrats to reduce the large Reagan inherited federal budget deficits by increasing taxes and cutting spending. He signed far-reaching immigration reforms sponsored by Senator Kennedy to assist family reunification, increase the caps on legal immigration, and provide temporary protected status for refugees from civil wars and natural disasters. This earned him the undying enmity of the more conservative elements of the party and fostered the rise of the respective candidacies of Pat Buchanan and Ross Perot, which led to his defeat in 1992.
After President Bush’s defeat in 1992, the torch passed to the far more conservative Newt Gingrich/Jerry Falwell/Pat Buchanan wing as Southern evangelicals increasingly took over the Republican Party in partnership with far right populists and immigration hardliners. That grand alliance persists today and is responsible for the resistible rise of Donald J. Trump. President Trump has cemented in place the new Republican Party’s support for foreign authoritarians, toxic nationalism, nativism, isolationism, and international bullying --policies that President Bush so abhorred.
He was a wise, courageous and kind statesman; we need more of his kind in our nation today.
Prepared by: Lucien Wulsin