George H. W. Bush

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George H. W. Bush
George H. W. Bush

In office
January 20, 1989 – January 20, 1993
Vice President Dan Quayle
Preceded by Ronald Reagan
Succeeded by Bill Clinton

In office
January 20, 1981 – January 20, 1989
President Ronald Reagan
Preceded by Walter Mondale
Succeeded by Dan Quayle

In office
January 30, 1976 – January 20, 1977
President Gerald Ford
Preceded by William E. Colby
Succeeded by Adm. Stansfield Turner

In office
September 26, 1974 – December 7, 1975
President Gerald Ford
Preceded by David K. E. Bruce
Succeeded by Thomas S. Gates, Jr.

In office
1973 – 1974
Preceded by Bob Dole
Succeeded by Mary Louise Smith

In office
1971 – 1973
President Richard Nixon
Preceded by Charles W. Yost
Succeeded by John A. Scali

In office
January 3, 1967 – January 3, 1971
Preceded by John V. Dowdy
Succeeded by Bill Archer

Born June 12, 1924 (1924-06-12) (age 84)
Milton, Massachusetts
Birth name George Herbert Walker Bush
Political party Republican
Spouse Barbara Pierce Bush
Children George Walker Bush
Pauline Robinson Bush
John Ellis Bush
Neil Mallon Bush
Marvin Pierce Bush
Dorothy Bush Koch
Alma mater Yale University
Occupation Businessman


Religion Episcopalian
Signature George H. W. Bush's signature
Website George Bush Presidential Library and Museum
Military service
Service/branch United States Navy
Years of service 1942–45
Rank Lieutenant, Junior Grade
Unit Fast Carrier Task Force
Awards Distinguished Flying Cross
Air Medal (3)
Presidential Unit Citation

George Herbert Walker Bush (born June 12, 1924) served as the 41st President of the United States from 1989 to 1993. Bush held a variety of political positions prior to his presidency, including Vice President of the United States in the administration of Ronald Reagan (1981–1989) and Director of Central Intelligence (DCI) under Gerald R. Ford.

Bush was born in Massachusetts to Senator Prescott Bush and Dorothy Walker Bush. Following the attacks on Pearl Harbor in 1941, at the age of 18, Bush postponed going to college and became the youngest naval aviator in the US Navy at the time.[1] He served until the end of the war, then attended Yale University. Graduating in 1948, he moved his family to West Texas and entered the oil business, becoming a millionaire by the age of 40.

He became involved in politics soon after founding his own oil company, serving as a member of the House of Representatives, among other positions. He ran unsuccessfully for president of the United States in 1980, but was chosen by party nominee Ronald Reagan to be the vice presidential nominee; the two were subsequently elected. During his tenure, Bush headed administration task forces on deregulation and fighting drug abuse.

In 1988, Bush launched a successful campaign to succeed Reagan as president, defeating Democratic opponent Michael Dukakis. Foreign policy drove the Bush presidency; operations were conducted in Panama and the Persian Gulf at a time of world change; the Berlin Wall fell in 1989 and the Soviet Union dissolved two years later. 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 economic concerns, he lost the 1992 presidential election to Democrat Bill Clinton.

Bush is the father of George W. Bush, the 43rd President of the United States, and Jeb Bush, former Governor of Florida. He was the last World War II veteran to serve as U.S. president, and the last president to have fought in a war before being elected.


Early years

Young George H. W. Bush taking his first steps at his grandfather's house in Kennebunkport, Maine ca. 1925.

George Herbert Walker Bush was born at 173 Adams Street in Milton, Massachusetts[2] on June 12, 1924. The Bush family moved from Milton to Greenwich, Connecticut shortly after his birth.

Bush began his formal education at the Greenwich Country Day School in Greenwich.[3] Beginning in 1936, he attended Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts,[3] where he held a large number of leadership positions including being the president of the senior class and 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.[4]

World War II

Following the attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941, Bush decided to join the US Navy,[1] so after graduating from Phillips Academy earlier in 1942,[4] he became a naval aviator at the age of 18.[3] After completing the 10-month course, he was commissioned as an ensign in the U.S. Naval Reserve at Corpus Christi, Texas on June 9, 1943, just three days before his 19th birthday, which made him the youngest naval aviator to that date.[1]

He was assigned to Torpedo Squadron (VT-51) as the photographic officer in September 1943.[1] The following year, his squadron was based on the USS San Jacinto as a member of Air Group 51, where his lanky physique earned him the nickname 'Skin'.[5] 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.[1]

After Bush's promotion to Lieutenant Junior Grade on August 1, the 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.[6] His crew for the mission, which occurred on September 2, 1944, included Radioman Second Class John Delaney and Lieutenant Junior Grade William White.[1] During their attack, the Avengers encountered intense anti-aircraft fire; Bush's aircraft was hit by flak[7] and his engine caught on fire.[1] Despite his plane being on fire, Bush completed his attack and released bombs over his target, scoring several damaging hits.[1] With his engine afire, Bush flew several miles from the island, where he and one other crew member on the TBM Avenger bailed out of the aircraft;[7] the other man's parachute did not open.[1] It has not been determined which man bailed out with Bush[1] as both Delaney and White were killed as a result of the battle.[7] 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.[1] For the next month he remained on the Finback, and participated in the rescue of other pilots.

George Bush in his TBM Avenger on the carrier USS San Jacinto in 1944

Bush subsequently returned to San Jacinto in November 1944 and participated in operations in the Philippines[1] until his squadron was replaced and sent home to the United States. Through 1944, he flew 58 combat missions[7] for which he received the Distinguished Flying Cross, three Air Medals, and the Presidential Unit Citation awarded to San Jacinto.[1]

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, Vermont-153. Upon the Japanese surrender in 1945, Bush was honorably discharged in September of that year.

Marriage and college years

George Bush married Barbara Pierce on January 6, 1945, only weeks after his return from the war. Their marriage produced six children: George Walker Bush (born 1946), Pauline Robinson Bush ("Robin", 1949–1953, died of leukemia), John Ellis "Jeb" Bush (born 1953), Neil Mallon Bush (born 1955), Marvin Pierce Bush (born 1956), and Dorothy Bush Koch (born 1959).[8]

Bush had been accepted to Yale University prior to his enlistment in the military, but decided to fight in World War II instead of going to college.[9] He took up the offer after his discharge and marriage, however. While at Yale, he was enrolled in an accelerated program that allowed him to graduate in two and a half years, rather than four.[9] He was a member of the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity and was elected president. He also captained the Yale baseball team, and as a left-handed first baseman, played in the first two College World Series.[9] As the team captain, Bush met Babe Ruth before a game during his senior year. Late in his junior year he was, like his father Prescott Bush (1917), initiated into the Skull and Bones secret society. He graduated as a member of the Phi Beta Kappa from Yale in 1948 with a Bachelor's degree in economics.[10]

Oil ventures

After graduating from Yale, Bush moved his family to West Texas. His father's business connections proved useful when he ventured into the oil business, starting as a sales clerk[11] with Dresser Industries,[12] a subsidiary of Brown Brothers Harriman. His father had served on the board of directors there for 22 years. Bush started the Bush-Overby Oil Development company in 1951[13] and co-founded the Zapata Petroleum Corporation, an oil company which drilled in the Permian Basin in Texas, two years later. He was named president of the Zapata Offshore Company, a subsidiary which specialized in offshore drilling, in 1954.[11] The subsidiary became independent in 1958, so Bush moved the company from Midland, Texas to Houston.[12] He continued serving as president of the company until 1964, and later chairman until 1966, but his ambitions turned political.[12] By that time, Bush had become a millionaire.[11]

Political career (1964–1980)

Congressional years

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 stakes high: he aimed for a US Senate seat from Texas.[12] After winning the Republican primary, Bush faced his opponent, incumbent Democrat Ralph Yarborough. Yarborough attacked Bush as a right-wing extremist, and Bush lost the general election.[14]

Bush with President Dwight D. Eisenhower

Bush did not give up on elective politics and was elected in 1966 to a House of Representatives seat from the 7th District of Texas, defeating Democrat Frank Briscoe with 57% of the vote;[15] he became the first Republican to represent Houston.[12] His voting record in the House was generally conservative:[12] Bush opposed the public accommodations contention in the 1964 Civil Rights Act, and supported open-housing legislation, something generally unpopular in his district.[12] He supported the Nixon administration's Vietnam policies, but broke with Republicans on the issue of birth control.[12] Despite being a first-term congressman, Bush was appointed to the powerful House Ways and Means Committee,[11] where he voted to abolish the military draft.[11] He was elected to a second term in 1968.[16]

In 1970, Nixon convinced Bush to relinquish his House seat to again 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 percent to 12.4 percent.[17] However, former Congressman Lloyd Bentsen, a more moderate Democrat and native of Mission, Texas, defeated Yarborough in the Democratic primary.[11] Yarborough then endorsed Bentsen, who defeated Bush 54 percent to 43 percent.[18]


Ambassador to the United Nations

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.[11] Nixon noticed and appreciated the sacrifice Bush had made of his Congressional position,[12] so he appointed him Ambassador to the United Nations.[10] He was confirmed unanimously by the Senate, and served for two years, beginning in 1971.[12]

Chairman of the Republican National Committee

Amidst the Watergate scandal, Nixon asked Bush to become chairman of the Republican National Committee in 1973.[10] Bush accepted, and held this position when the popularity of both Nixon and the Republican Party plummeted.[19] 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.[12] As chairman, Bush formally requested that Nixon eventually resign for the good of the Republican party.[12] 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... [ Ford's swearing-in offered] indeed a new spirit, a new lift."[20]

Envoy to China

Gerald Ford, Nixon's successor, appointed Bush to be Chief of the US 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 time that he spent in China — 14 months — were seen as largely beneficial for US-Chinese relations.[12]

After Ford's accession to the presidency, Bush was under serious consideration for being nominated as Vice President. Senator Barry Goldwater of Arizona declined to be considered and endorsed Bush, who, along with his supporters, reportedly mounted an internal campaign to get a nomination.[citation needed] Ford eventually narrowed his list to Nelson Rockefeller and Bush. However, White House Chief of Staff Donald Rumsfeld reportedly preferred Rockefeller over Bush.[21] Rockefeller was finally named and confirmed.

Director of Central Intelligence

In 1976, Ford brought Bush back to Washington to become Director of Central Intelligence. He served in this role for 355 days, from January 30, 1976 to January 20, 1977.[22] The CIA had been rocked by a series of revelations, including those based on investigations by Senator Frank Church's Committee regarding illegal and unauthorized activities by the CIA, and Bush was credited with helping to restore the agency's morale.[23] 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[24] but it was not to be.

Other positions

After a Democratic administration took power in 1977, Bush became chairman on the Executive Committee of the First International Bank in Houston.[25] He later spent a year as a part-time professor of Administrative Science at Rice University[26] in the 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."[26] Between 1977 and 1979, he was a director of the Council on Foreign Relations foreign policy organization.[27]

1980 presidential campaign

Bush (far right) in the Nashua debate with Reagan (far left) and the moderator

Bush had decided in the late 1970s that he was going to run for president in 1980;[21] 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.[21] In the contest for the Republican Party nomination, Bush stressed his wide range of government experience, while competing against rivals Howard Baker, Bob Dole, John Anderson (who would later run as an independent), Phil Crane, John Connally, and the front-runner Ronald Reagan, former actor and Governor of California.[21]

In the primary election, Bush focused almost entirely on the Iowa caucuses, while Reagan ran a more traditional campaign.[21] 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 percent to Reagan's 29.4 percent.[21] After the win, Bush stated that his campaign was full of momentum, or "Big Mo".[21] 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.[21] The debate proved to be a pivotal moment in the campaign; when the moderator, John Breene, ordered Reagan's microphone turned off, his angry response, "I am paying for this microphone Mr. Greene" [sic], struck a chord with the public.[21] Bush ended up losing New Hampshire's primary with 23 percent to Reagan's 50 percent.[21] Bush lost most of the remaining primaries as well, and formally dropped out of the race in May of that year.[21]

With his political future seeming dismal, Bush sold his house in Houston and bought his grandfather's estate in Kennebunkport, Maine, known as "Walker's Point."[28] At the Republican Convention, however, Reagan selected Bush as his Vice Presidential nominee, placing him on the winning Republican presidential ticket of 1980.

Vice Presidency (1981–1989)

As Vice President, Bush generally took on a low-profile while recognizing the constitutional limits of the office; he avoided decision-making or criticizing Reagan in any way.[21] 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. 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.[21] 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."[21] As the President of the Senate, Bush stayed in contact with members of Congress, and kept the president informed on occurrences on Capitol Hill.[21]

Bush with President Ronald Reagan

On March 30, 1981, early into the administration, Reagan was shot and seriously wounded in Washington, D.C. Bush, second in command by the presidential line of succession, was in Dallas, Texas and flew back to Washington immediately. 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.[21] Bush rejected the idea, responding, "only the president lands on the South Lawn."[21] This made a positive impression on Reagan,[21] who recovered and returned to work within two weeks. From then on, the two men would have regular Thursday lunches in the Oval Office.[21]

In his position, Bush chaired a special task force on deregulation, reviewing hundreds of rules and making specific recommendations on which ones to amend or revise, in order to curb the size of the federal government.[21] The Reagan administration introduced new policies in the War on Drugs, and Bush was part of this by heading another task force, this one on international drug smuggling and federal efforts to stop the spread of drugs from entering the US.[21] Both were popular issues with conservatives, and Bush, largely a moderate, began courting them through his work.[21]

Reagan and Bush ran for reelection in 1984. The Democratic opponent, Walter Mondale, made history by choosing a woman as his running mate, New York Representative Geraldine Ferraro. She and Bush squared off in a single televised Vice Presidential debate.[29] Serving as a contrast to the Ivy-League educated Bush, Ferraro represented a "blue-collar" district in Queens, New York; this, coupled with her popularity among female journalists, left Bush at a disadvantage.[21] However, 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 raised for Bush.[21] Bush became the first Vice President to become Acting President when, on July 13, 1985, Reagan underwent surgery to remove polyps from his colon. Bush served as Acting President for approximately eight hours.

The administration was shaken by a scandal in 1986, when it was revealed that administration officials had secretly arranged weapon sales to Iran, and had used the proceeds to fund the anticommunist Contras in Nicaragua, a direct violation of the law.[21] When the Iran-Contra Affair, as it became known, broke to the media, Bush, like Reagan, stated that he had been "out of the loop" and unaware of the diversion of funds,[30] although this was later questioned.[31] Public opinion polls taken at the time indicated that the public questioned Bush's explanation of being an "innocent bystander" while the trades were occurring; this led to the notion that he was a "wimp".[21] However, his fury during an interview with CBS' Dan Rather largely put the "wimp" issue to rest.[21]

1988 presidential campaign

President Ronald Reagan endorses Bush in May 1988 at the President's dinner in Washington, DC; First Lady Nancy Reagan is at left and Barbara Bush on the right
Bush in Nashua, New Hampshire in 1987

Bush had been planning a presidential run since as early as 1985,[21] and entered the Republican primary for President of the United States in October 1987. His challengers for the Republican presidential nomination included US Senator Bob Dole of Kansas, US Representative Jack Kemp of New York, former Governor Pete DuPont of Delaware, and conservative Christian televangelist Pat Robertson.

Though considered the early frontrunner for the nomination, Bush came in third in the Iowa caucus, behind winner Dole and runner-up Robertson.[32] Much like Reagan did in 1980, Bush reorganized his staff and concentrated on the New Hampshire primary.[21] With Dole ahead in New Hampshire, Bush ran television commercials portraying the senator as a tax raiser;[33] he rebounded to win the state's primary. Bush continued seeing victory, winning many Southern primaries as well.[12] 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.[11]

Leading up to the 1988 Republican National Convention, there was much speculation as to Bush's choice of running mate. Bush chose little-known US Senator Dan Quayle of Indiana, favored by conservatives.[11] Despite Reagan's popularity, Bush trailed Democratic nominee Michael Dukakis, then Governor of Massachusetts, in most polls.[34]

Bush campaigns in Omaha, Nebraska, 1988

Bush, occasionally criticized for his lack of eloquence when compared to Reagan,[21] delivered a well-received speech at the 1988 Republican National Convention.[34] Known as the "thousand points of light" speech, this described Bush's vision of America: he endorsed the Pledge of Allegiance, prayer in schools, capital punishment, gun rights, and his opposition to abortion.[34] The speech at the convention included Bush's famous pledge: "Read my lips: no new taxes".[35]

The 1988 presidential electoral votes by state

The general election campaign between the two men has been described as one of the nastiest in modern times.[35] Bush blamed Dukakis for polluting the Boston Harbor as the Massachusetts governor.[12] Bush also pointed out that Dukakis was opposed to the law that would require all students to say the Pledge of Allegiance,[11] a topic well covered in Bush's nomination acceptance speech.[34]

Dukakis's unconditional opposition to capital punishment led to a pointed question during the presidential debates. Moderator Bernard Shaw asked Dukakis hypothetically if Dukakis would support the death penalty if his wife, Kitty, were raped and murdered.[36] Dukakis's response of no, as well as the Willie Horton ad, contributed toward Bush's characterization of him as "soft on crime."[12]

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).[35] In the nationwide popular vote, Bush took 53.4 percent of the ballots cast[12] while Dukakis received 45.6 percent. Bush became the first serving Vice President to be elected President since Martin Van Buren in 1836.[21]

As Vice President, Bush officially opened the 1987 Pan American Games in Indianapolis.

Presidency (1989–1993)

Chief Justice William Rehnquist administering the oath of office to Bush during Inaugural ceremonies at the United States Capitol, January 20, 1989.

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 and the collapse of Soviet Union came early in his presidency.[37] He ordered military operations in Panama and the Persian Gulf[37] and, at one point, was recorded as having a record-high approval rating of 89 percent.[38] However, economic recession and breaking his "no new taxes" pledge caused a sharp decline in his approval rating, and Bush was defeated in the 1992 election.[37]

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.[39]
The Bush Cabinet
Office Name Term
President George H. W. Bush 1989–1993
Vice President Dan Quayle 1989–1993
Secretary of State James Baker 1989–1992
Lawrence Eagleburger 1992–1993
Secretary of Treasury Nicholas Brady 1989–1993
Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney 1989–1993
Attorney General Dick Thornburgh* 1989–1991
William Barr 1991–1993
Secretary of the Interior Manuel Lujan 1989–1993
Secretary of Agriculture Clayton Yeutter 1989–1991
Edward Madigan 1991–1993
Secretary of Commerce Robert Mosbacher 1989–1992
Barbara Hackman Franklin 1992–1993
Secretary of Labor Elizabeth Dole 1989–1990
Lynn Martin 1991–1993
Secretary of Health and
Human Services
Louis Sullivan 1989–1993
Secretary of Education Lauro Cavazos 1989–1990
Lamar Alexander 1990–1993
Secretary of Housing and
Urban Development
Jack Kemp 1989–1993
Secretary of Transportation Samuel Skinner 1989–1992
Andrew Card 1992–1993
Secretary of Energy James Watkins 1989–1993
Secretary of Veterans Affairs Ed Derwinski 1989–1993
Chief of Staff John H. Sununu 1989–1991
Samuel Skinner 1991–1992
James Baker 1992–1993
Administrator of the
Environmental Protection Agency
William Reilly 1989–1993
Director of the Office of
Management and Budget
Richard Darman 1989–1993
Director of the Office of
National Drug Control Policy
Bob Martinez 1993–1993
United States Trade Representative Carla Anderson Hills 1989–1993

Domestic policy


Early in his term, Bush faced the problem of what to do with leftover deficits spawned by the Reagan years. At $220 billion in 1990, the deficit had grown to three times its size since 1980.[11] Bush was dedicated to curbing the deficit, believing that America could not continue to be a leader in the world without doing so.[11] He began an effort to persuade the Democratic controlled Congress to act on the budget;[11] 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.[11]

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.[11] 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.[11] 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.[12] Bush would later say that he wished he had never signed the bill.[11] 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.[12] Despite demands for a reduction in the capital gains tax, Bush relented on this issue as well.[12] 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.[12]

Bush's approval ratings (red) compared to his disapproval ratings (blue) for his four year presidency.

Coming at around the same time as the budget deal, America entered into a mild recession, lasting for six months.[11] Many government programs, such as welfare, increased.[11] As the unemployment rate edged upward in 1991, Bush signed a bill providing additional benefits for unemployed workers.[12] 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.[11] By 1992, interest and inflation rates were the lowest in years, but by midyear the unemployment rate reached 7.8 percent, the highest since 1984.[12] In September 1992, the Census Bureau reported that 14.2 percent of all Americans lived in poverty.[12] At a press conference in 1990, Bush told reporters that he found foreign policy more enjoyable.[11]

Major initiatives

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.[11] He worked to increase federal spending for education, childcare, and advanced technology research.[11] In dealing with the environment, Bush reauthorized the Clean Air Act, requiring cleaner burning fuels.[11] 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.[11]

Judicial appointments

Supreme Court

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

Other courts

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. Bush also experienced a number of judicial appointment controversies, as 11 nominees for 10 federal appellate judgeships were not processed by the Democratic-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee.[40]

Foreign policy

Bush speaks on the telephone regarding Operation Just Cause with General Brent Scowcroft and Chief of Staff John H. Sununu, 1989


In the 1980s, Panamanian leader Manuel Noriega, a once US-supportive leader who was later accused of spying for Fidel Castro and using Panama to traffic drugs into the US, was one of the most recognizable names in the United States, being constantly covered by the press. The struggle to remove him from power began in the Reagan administration,[41] when economic sanctions were imposed on the country;[42] this included prohibiting US companies and government from making payments to Panama and freezing $56 million in Panamanian funds in US banks.[42] Reagan sent more than 2,000 US troops to Panama as well.[42] 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.[41]

In May 1989, Panama held democratic elections, in which Guillermo Endara was elected president; the results were then annuled by Noriega's government.[43] 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).[42] Bush then removed an embassy and ambassador from the country, and dispatched additional troops to Panama to prepare the way for an upcoming invasion.[42] Noriega suppressed an October military coup attempt and massive protests in Panama against him, but after a US 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;[43] "Operation Just Cause" was a large-scale American military operation, and the first in more than 40 years that was not Cold War related.[41]

The mission was controversial,[44] but American forces achieved control of the country and Endara assumed the Presidency. Noriega surrendered to the US and was convicted and imprisoned on racketeering and drug trafficking charges in April 1992.[45] President Bush and First Lady Barbara Bush visited Panama in June 1992, to give support to the first post-invasion Panamanian government.

Persian Gulf War

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

On August 1, 1990, Iraq, led by Saddam Hussein, invaded its oil-rich neighbor to the south, Kuwait; Bush condemned the invasion[46] and began rallying opposition to Iraq in the US and among European, Asian, and Middle Eastern allies.[11] 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.[46] The request was met initially with Air Force fighter jets. Iraq made attempts to negotiate with Bush through 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.[11] The planning of a ground operation by US-led coalition forces began forming in September 1990, headed by General Norman Schwarzkopf.[46] Bush spoke before a joint session of the US 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."[47] With the United Nations Security Council opposed to Iraq's violence, Congress authorized the use of military force,[46] with a set goal of returning control of Kuwait to the Kuwaiti government, and protecting America's interests abroad.[11]

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.[11] This pace would continue for the next four weeks, until a ground invasion was launched on February 24. 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.[11] 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 US casualties.[11] Opponents further charged that Bush should have continued the attack, pushing Hussein's army back to Baghdad, then remove him from power.[11] 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."[48]

Bush's approval ratings skyrocketed after the successful offensive.[11] 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.[49]

Soviet Union

Bush and Gorbachev meet at a summit in Malta

In 1989, just after the fall of the Berlin Wall, Bush met with Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev in a conference at the Mediterranean island of Malta. The administration had been under intense pressure to meet with the Soviets,[50] 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 Dr. Condoleezza Rice, "expectations [would be] set that something was going to happen, where the Soviets might grandstand and force [the US] into agreements that would ultimately not be good for the United States."[50] But European leaders, including François Mitterrand and Margaret Thatcher, encouraged Bush to meet with Gorbachev,[50] something that he did between December 2 and 3, 1989.[51] 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."[52] The meeting was received as a very important step to the end of the Cold War.[53]

Another summit was held in July 1991, where the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START I) was signed by Bush and Gorbachev in Moscow.[54] 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 US's and USSR's strategic nuclear weapons by about 35% over seven years, and the Soviet Union's land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles would be cut by 50%.[54] Bush described START as "a significant step forward in dispelling half a century of mistrust."[54] After the dissolution of the USSR in 1991, President Bush and Gorbachev declared a US-Russian strategic partnership, marking the end of the Cold War. President Bush declared that US-Soviet cooperation during the Persian Gulf War in 1990–1991 had laid the groundwork for a partnership in resolving bilateral and world problems.


From left to right: (standing) President Carlos Salinas, President Bush, Prime Minister Brian Mulroney; (seated) Jaime Serra Puche, Carla Hills, and Michael Wilson at the NAFTA Initialing Ceremony, October 1992

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.[55] The treaty also restricts patents, copyrights, and trademarks, and outlines the removal of investment restrictions among the three countries.[55]

The agreement came under heavy scrutiny amongst mainly Democrats, who charged that NAFTA resulted in a loss of US jobs.[11] NAFTA also contained no provisions for labor rights;[56] 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.[56] 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.[56] 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.[57]

The treaty has since been defended as well as criticized further. The American economy has grown 54 percent 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 US.[58] 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."[58] But John J. Sweeney of The Boston Globe argues that "the US trade deficit with Canada and Mexico ballooned to 12 times its pre-NAFTA size, reaching $111 billion in 2004."[59]


The official White House portrait of President George H.W Bush

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.[60] Weinberger, who had been scheduled to stand trial on January 5, 1993, for charges related to Iran-Contra, was described by Bush as a "true American patriot".[60]

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 an Independent Counsel headed by Lawrence Walsh.[61]

1992 presidential campaign

Bush announced his reelection bid in early 1992; with a coalition victory in the Persian Gulf War and high approval ratings, reelection initially looked likely. But an economic recession, and doubts of whether Bush ended the Gulf War properly, reduced his popularity.

Conservative political columnist Pat Buchanan challenged Bush for the nomination, and shocked political pundits by finishing second, with 37% of the vote, in the New Hampshire primary.[11] Bush responded by adopting more conservative positions on issues, in an attempt to undermine Buchanan's base.[11] Once he had secured the nomination, Bush faced his challenger, Democrat William Jefferson "Bill" Clinton. Clinton attacked Bush as not doing enough to assist the working middle-class[11] 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.[62]

The 1992 presidential electoral votes by state

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.[63] Perot later bowed out of the race for a short time, then reentered.[64]

Clinton had originally been in the lead, until Perot reentered, tightening the race significantly.[65] Nearing election day, polls suggested that the race was a dead-heat,[12] but Clinton pulled out on top, defeating Bush in a 43% to 38% popular vote margin. Perot won 19% of the popular vote, one of the highest totals for a third party candidate in US history, drawing equally from both major candidates, according to exit polls.[66][11] Bush received 168 electoral votes to Clinton's 370.[67]

Several factors were key in Bush's defeat, including agreeing in 1990 to raise taxes despite 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. Of the voters who cited Bush's broken "No New Taxes" pledge as "very important", two thirds voted for Bill Clinton.[68] 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. In addition to these factors, the ailing economy which arose from recession may have been the main factor in Bush's loss, as 7 in 10 voters said on election day that the economy was either "not so good" or "poor".[69][70] On the eve of the 1992 election against these factors, Bush's approval rating stood at just 37%[71] after suffering low ratings throughout the year.[72] Despite his defeat, Bush climbed back from election day approval levels to leave office in 1993 with a 56% job approval rating.[73]


Bush delivers a eulogy to Ronald Reagan, June 11, 2004 in the Washington National Cathedral
Bush, along with George W. Bush, Laura Bush, Bill Clinton, Condoleezza Rice, and Andrew Card pay their respects to Pope John Paul II before the pope's funeral, 2005
Bush with golfer Tiger Woods, July 4, 2007
George H. W. Bush with son George W. Bush dedicating the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, Peoples Republic of China, August 8, 2008

Since his 1992 election campaign, Bush has retired with his wife, Barbara, to their home in the exclusive neighborhood of Tanglewood in Houston, with a presidential office nearby. They spend the summer at Walker's Point in Kennebunkport, Maine. Bush holds his own fishing tournament in Islamorada, an island in the Florida Keys.

In 1993, Bush was awarded an honorary knighthood (GCB) by Queen Elizabeth II. He was the third American president to receive the honor, the others being Dwight D. Eisenhower and Ronald Reagan.[74]

In 1993, Bush visited Kuwait to commemorate the coalition's victory over Iraq in the Gulf War, where he was supposedly 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 commenced, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. 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."[75]

His eldest son, George W. Bush, was inaugurated as the 43rd President of the United States on January 20, 2001. 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.

To date, Bush has not produced a presidential memoir.

Presidential library

The George Bush Presidential Library and Museum 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.[76] It was dedicated on November 6, 1997 and opened to the public shortly thereafter; the complex was designed by the architectural firm of Hellmuth, Obata and Kassabaum.

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. It is situated on a plaza adjoining the Presidential Conference Center and the Texas A&M Academic Center. The Library operates under the administration of the NARA under the provisions of the Presidential Libraries Act of 1955.

Another institute was named in his honor: the George 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 Administration and International Affairs) and two certificate programs (Advanced International Affairs and Homeland Security). The Masters program in International Affairs (MPIA) program offers a choice of concentration on either National Security Affairs or International Economics and Development.

Recent activities

The former president continues to make many public appearances. He 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. Bush was also present in various ceremonies during the construction of the USS George H. W. Bush, which is the last Nimitz class supercarrier of the United States Navy, and one of the few that are named after persons that are living at the time of the vessel's christening. Despite his political differences with Bill Clinton, it has been acknowledged that he and Clinton have managed to become friends.[77] He and Clinton appeared together in television ads in 2005, encouraging aid for victims of Hurricane Katrina and the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.[78]

On February 18, 2008, Bush formally endorsed Senator John McCain for the presidency of the United States.[79] The endorsement offered a boost to McCain's campaign, as the Arizona Senator had been facing criticism among many conservatives.[80]

Bush garnered further media attention on April 21, 2008, when it was reported that he caught a 134-pound mammoth tarpon while on a fishing trip off the coast of Florida.[81] The 83-year-old former president noted that it was the largest fish that he had ever caught, but chose to release it back into the ocean.[81]

On January 10, 2009, Bush and his son were both present at the commissioning of the USS George H. W. Bush (CVN-77), the tenth and last Nimitz class supercarrier of the United States Navy.[82][83]

Electoral history


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  22. ^ The George Bush Center for Intelligence - CIA, accessed February 26, 2006
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  49. ^ Middle East Review of International Affairs Journal Volume 6, No. 1 - March 2002 Underwriting Peace in the Middle East: U.S. Foreign Policy and the Limits of Economic Inducements
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  51. ^ See Malta Summit for more information
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  55. ^ a b "Frequently Asked Questions: NAFTA". Federal Express. Retrieved on 2008-04-11. 
  56. ^ a b c "The NAFTA Labor Side Accord". Human Rights Watch. Retrieved on 2008-04-11. 
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Further reading

  • Barilleaux, Ryan J.; Stuckey, Mary E. (1992). Leadership and the Bush Presidency: Prudence or Drift in an Era of Change. New York: Praeger. ISBN 0-275-94418-2. 
  • Bush, George H. W. (1999). All the Best, George Bush: My Life in Letters and Other Writings. New York: Scribner. ISBN 0-684-83958-X. 
  • Bush, George H. W.; Scowcroft, Brent (1998). A World Transformed. New York: Knopf. ISBN 0-679-43248-5. 
  • Ducat, Stephen J. (2004). The Wimp Factor: Gender Gaps, Holy Wars, and the Politics of Anxious Masculinity. Boston: Beacon Press. ISBN 0-8070-4344-3. 
  • Duffy, Michael; Goodgame, Dan (1992). Marching in Place : The Status Quo Presidency of George Bush. New York: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0-671-73720-1. 
  • Fitzwater, Marlin (1995). Call the Briefing. New York: Times Books. ISBN 9780738834580. 
  • Green, John Robert (2000). The Presidency of George Bush. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas. ISBN 0-7006-0993-8. 
  • Hyams, Joe (1991). Flight of the Avenger: George Bush at War. San Diego: Harcourt Brace Jovanovic. ISBN 0-15-131469-1. 
  • Kelley, Kitty (2004). The Family: The True Story of the Bush Dynasty. London: Doubleday. ISBN 0-385-50324-5. 
  • Podhoretz, John (1993). Hell of a Ride: Backstage at the White House Follies, 1989-1993. New York: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0-671-79648-8. 
  • Smith, Jean Edward (1992). George Bush's War. New York: Henry Holt & Company. ISBN 0-8050-1388-1. 
  • Tarpley, Webster G.; Chaitkin, Anton (1991). George Bush: The Unauthorized Biography. Washington: Executive Intelligence Review. ISBN 0-943235-05-7. 
  • (25). UFOs and the Whitehouse [Documentary]. History Channel. Retrieved on 26.

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United States House of Representatives
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January 20, 1981 – January 20, 1989
Acting President: July 13, 1985
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President of the United States
January 20, 1989 – January 20, 1993
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Party political offices
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1988, 1992
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United States order of precedence
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Rudy Giuliani
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Natan Sharansky
NAME Bush, George Herbert Walker
SHORT DESCRIPTION 41st president of the United States (1989-1993)
DATE OF BIRTH 12 June 1924 (1924-06-12) (age 84)
PLACE OF BIRTH Milton, Massachusetts
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