Bush now commands a style, generic but efficient, of thick, summary brushwork that aims to capture expression as well as physiognomy. But they look honestly observed and persuasively alive. Ex-President Bush met them in the course of running a charity, the George W. A leitmotif of the stories is the apparently terrific therapeutic value of joining Bush in his hobbies of mountain biking and golf.
Having obliviously made murderous errors, Bush now obliviously atones for them. What do you do with someone like that? Recommended Stories. Sign in. Get the best of The New Yorker in your in-box every day. Despite his success, there was no immediate reward. Reagan for the Republican nomination, Ford chose Sen. Bob Dole of Kansas as his running mate instead of Bush. Dole was a product of small-town, Depression-scarred America who overcame severe combat injuries to reach the main stage of American power.
George H. W. Bush’s letters show his “kinder, gentler” side
Through eight consecutive presidential cycles, from to , every GOP presidential ticket would include the name Bush or Dole. But the real Republican winner in was Reagan, whose near-miss only whetted the appetite of conservatives for their smooth and polished hero. Unlike Bush, Reagan never muted his rhetoric, nor did he flinch from offending liberal sensibilities. Reagan relied on his movie star charm to put a friendly patina on hardline politics, and success in California gave him a record of executive achievement.
By challenging Ford, Reagan may have doomed him, but the election of the dark horse Democrat Jimmy Carter made Reagan the immediate frontrunner to lead the GOP ticket in Bush decided to take him on. He knew there were Republicans who found Reagan too extreme, and others who worried that he was too old. Bush could be the younger, more moderate alternative.
Bush proved to be a tireless campaigner, racking up nearly campaign days in and Capitalizing on his vigor and energy, Bush was frequently seen jogging as local television crews tried to keep up. Surging past a field of rivals, Bush aimed to be the last opponent standing against Reagan, the one to beat him if he proved beatable—but not so fierce a foe that Reagan would not pick him as a running mate if the frontrunner won the nomination. But the result jolted Reagan like a hard left hook, and with more than a week of campaign days before the New Hampshire primary, the older man had time for a comeback.
Reagan threw himself into the Granite State with eye-popping energy. On a single day, he made 11 separate appearances. It was an event in Nashua that swung the Big Mo away from Bush. Sponsored by Reagan and billed as a head-to-head debate with the Iowa winner, the evening forum saw Reagan arrive with a number of the uninvited candidates in tow. The former movie star had created a memorable scene in which he could play the hero, standing up for free speech and openness.
In most campaigns, there is only one chance to unhorse the frontrunner, and Bush had missed his.
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Quitting did not come easily for Bush, but Baker insisted that his friend quit before the California primary. Reluctantly, Bush agreed. And yet, the gesture seemed pointless when the GOP convened in Detroit and Bush watched dejectedly as Reagan tried to woo former President Ford into joining the ticket. The idea was unprecedented; no former president had ever come back to run for vice-president.
Nevertheless, Reagan pursued it to the 11th hour, and when the deal finally fell apart, the nominee was unsure where to turn. He gut told him not to pick Bush. But the whole idea behind the Ford gambit was to reassure moderates. Bush had proved he could do that in key parts of the country. The decision was made.
Reagan-Bush steamrolled Carter and his running mate Walter Mondale. Now he was one step removed from the top of the pile, and his chance of taking the final step depended less on his own competitiveness and discipline than on the success of the new president. But first came the office at hand, which has often been a humiliation for the men who have held it.
The Vice President was put in charge of the international crisis-management team, to the dismay of volatile Secretary of State Alexander Haig. Bush was on a routine trip to deliver a speech in Texas on March 30, , when an assassin fired on Reagan and his entourage outside a Washington hotel. The country could have only one president at a time, Bush reminded the White House team, and their task was to keep things running smoothly while that president recuperated.
This self-effacing calm only strengthened his relationship with Reagan, Bush believed, because he had proved his loyalty as a subordinate when the chips were down. But that loyalty also opened Bush to caricature by his opponents on both ends of the political spectrum. Liberals in the Democratic party and the press added variations on the theme. Undeterred, after the team was reelected with the largest Electoral College landslide since George Washington, Bush moved plans for his own campaign into high gear. The prominence of his office and the extent of his political network, built up over decades and generations, made him the betting favorite but hardly a sure thing.
It was soon clear that Bob Dole was going to renew their rivalry. New York Congressman Jack Kemp—like Reagan a sunny hero of economic conservatives—came bounding into the race. Television evangelist Pat Robertson, a favorite of social conservatives, took on the role of spoiler.
Al Haig swaggered into the race. Just as his bid started rolling down the runway, the wheels threated to come off. After six relatively scandal-free years, the Reagan administration blundered into a doozy, which came to be known as Iran-Contra. That was bad. But it got worse when the public learned that a White House staffer, Marine Col. Oliver North, had funneled the proceeds from the secret arms sales to the Contra rebels in Nicaragua—in violation of a law known as the Boland Amendment. Wittingly and unwittingly, Bush had played various parts in this tangled tale of hypocrisy, deception, and illegality.
Many leading Republicans doubted that he could survive it. Still, it was a more vulnerable George Bush who took to the campaign trail. It was not a race for the faint of heart. Early in the contest, Democratic frontrunner Gary Hart of Colorado was hounded from the field by allegations of adultery. His extraordinary collapse opened up the sex lives of other leading candidates. As wisps of smoke began to rise from the incendiary gossip, George W. Bush finally demanded the truth from his father, who denied any impropriety. The younger Bush sought to stamp the matter out.
So it would be a campaign of sharp elbows. Bush armed himself for combat by hiring two of the toughest operatives in the Republican party: strategist Lee Atwater and media man Roger Ailes. They pitched in furiously after Robertson stunned Bush with an easy win in the Iowa caucuses, where Bush finished third behind Dole. With Dole polling well in New Hampshire, Bush now faced potential disaster, and there was nothing to do but attack. With Atwater hatching schemes and Ailes firing off tough TV ads, the Bush campaign hammered Dole so hard that the laconic Kansan finally exploded.
Even more damaging, Dole would muse in later years, were the photo ops cooked up by Atwater and Ailes after a massive snowstorm hit the Granite State. Bush was pictured driving a snowplow, wielding a shovel, helping to push stuck cars from towering drifts. Because of his war wounds, Dole could do none of those things. No new taxes! The environmentalist from Massachusetts was charged with polluting Boston Harbor.
The budget-balancing governor was painted as an out-of-control spender. Toughest of all, Dukakis was saddled with the story of Willie Horton, a violent felon who attacked a family while on furlough from a Bay State prison. With crime at near-record levels across the country, it was fatal for a candidate to appear soft on criminals. The campaign reached a nadir when a debate moderator asked Dukakis how he would react to the rape and murder of his wife. But lose he did, and badly, as Bush and his youthful running mate, Indiana Sen.
Dan Quayle, notched victories in 40 states. George Bush was 64 years old, and he had finally won the biggest game of all. President Bush found himself in a role few modern presidents have faced: succeeding a popular two-term president from his own party. By electing him, voters had endorsed continuity, but success required him to establish his own identity. That was easy enough in terms of style: compared to the Hollywood Reagans, the Bushes projected an easy down-to-earthiness. In matters of policy, Bush knew he was no Reagan.
Unless it was tamed, the country was headed for a shock. And with Democrats in control of Congress, a deal on the deficit would have to include more tax revenue.
The new President also wanted changes in foreign policy to reflect his deep experience of the world. With characteristic caution, he declared a pause in foreign initiatives to set the new course.
Text of George Bush's speech | US news | The Guardian
John Tower as Secretary of Defense—with the seasoned Washington hand Brent Scowcroft as his national security adviser. The Tower nomination was a disaster. Years of hard drinking and sexual harassment could be forgiven in Washington indeed, had been forgiven many times. Dick Cheney. This reboot had lasting implications, because plucking Cheney from Congress made room in the leadership for Georgia Rep.
By the time Bush had his team was in place, world events were ripping through his putative pause. Thousands of protesters rose up in Czechoslovakia just days before Bush took office. Authorities jailed hundreds of them, including the playwright Vaclav Havel. A few weeks later, in February , Poland gave in to popular pressure and recognized the pro-reform Solidarity party, with striking dockworker Lech Walesa as its leader.
Nationalist Georgians took to the streets in Tbilisi in April, sparking a confrontation with Soviet troops that left 19 protesters dead. Hungary threw open its border with Austria, rending the Iron Curtain. In China, thousands of students poured into Tiananmen Square to welcome a visit by Gorbachev, and refused to leave when he departed. Their protest camp would soon feature a handmade version of the Statue of Liberty.
Allies and friends urged Bush to take the initiative. He judged that the moment required subtlety. Too much pressure could lead Soviet hardliners to replace Gorbachev with a reactionary leader. Too little could leave the U. Calling for a 20 percent reduction in NATO forces if the Soviet Union would match the cuts, Bush managed to assert his leadership while cooling tensions.
As an added bonus, the lowered temperature between West and East allowed him to slow the deployment of new nuclear weapons in Western Europe—a Reagan initiative that was hugely controversial in many NATO countries. This first step marked the path Bush would follow in handling the crumbling Cold War adversary. Though he marveled at the speed with which the world was changing, Bush never took the end result for granted. He knew that Gorbachev could reverse course or be ousted in an anti-reform coup.
So he moved cautiously and gave Gorbachev plenty of ways to save face. This same caution dictated his muted response to the massacre in Tiananmen Square on June 4, Liberal and conservative leaders in the U. But here, too, he worried that too strong a denunciation would only provoke a backlash in Beijing. Bush preferred to assert American strength in ways that would not threaten the emerging post-Cold War order. When a U. In the largest deployment of U. Perhaps the most delicate steps in his diplomatic dance were taken after the Berlin Wall came down. Though the barrier had symbolized oppression and division, to European leaders it also represented a stable status quo, in which Germany—where two world wars were hatched—was subjugated and split while the rival superpowers balanced each other out.
Now the dying Soviet Union lacked the strength to control East Germany, and the West Germans asserted a right to reunification. During the six months after the fall of the Wall came down, Bush convened two summits with Gorbachev to wrestle with this issue.
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But more important may have been the cold, hard choice he made between the two meetings, when he acquiesced as Soviet troops suppressed reform protests in the Baltic states. And he soon felt vindicated when Gorbachev came to Washington in May for a series of discussions that ended with his agreement to a unified Germany that would take its place as a member of NATO. Like many presidents, Bush found the chessboard of foreign relations more satisfying than the grind of domestic legislation. Still, his term saw the passage of a number of important laws.
The Americans With Disabilities Act guaranteed wider access to opportunities and public places for individuals and groups too-long isolated. The Immigration Act of opened the country to the largest influx of legal immigrants in history over the ensuing decade. The Civil Rights Act of expanded protections against workplace discrimination. The High Performance Computing Act of provided funding and public access to the nascent Internet. Believing that he was getting a pragmatic conservative, Bush was disappointed to see Souter move steadily to the left during his 20 terms on the high court.
In , Bush promoted federal appeals court Judge Clarence Thomas to succeed Thurgood Marshall and become the second African-American to serve on the court.
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Though he was narrowly confirmed, the episode left a sour cloud over Thomas that has never entirely lifted. The bipartisan agreement infuriated conservative Republicans, led by the firebrand Gingrich. Never a favorite of the right wing, Bush had no well of sympathy to draw on. Instead, the conservatives felt confirmed in their belief that he was an unprincipled moderate, and Bush was sure to get a damaging challenge from the right when he ran for reelection.
It was August 1, It was a sign of how far the world had come that Baker quickly persuaded him that the Soviet Union—a longtime supporter of Saddam—should cast its vote in the Security Council to condemn the invasion. The unanimous vote might have been a warning to the Iraqi, but Saddam boasted the fourth-largest army in the world, and felt his grip on Kuwait was a fait accompli.
As Bush gathered information and mulled the situation over the next 24 hours, he became convinced that something much more than a U. Iraq must be driven back. And only the United States could project enough force to move such a large enemy. But how? An effective response would require hundreds of thousands of American troops, thousands of vehicles, hundreds of aircraft, a naval armada. They had to be gathered somewhere, and Arab leaders feared a backlash from their own people if they welcomed the Americans. Since most of the force would have to concentrate in Saudi Arabia, Bush began a flurry of quiet negotiations focused on a reluctant King Fahd, who was initially inclined to explore a deal of some kind with Saddam.
Only after Bush explained that no nation would be safe in a world where rogue regimes could invade their neighbors—and promised that the U. Now Bush was confident that he could mount a counterattack. His public statement on August 5 dispelled growing complaints that he was being wishy-washy. But at the same time, Bush saw that the U. Feeling his way toward a coalition that would have been impossible just a few years earlier, Bush found himself inventing the future. Just as remarkable, Bush gathered most of the Arab world into his coalition. He welcomed nations large and small into the effort.
For former Soviet satellites like Poland, Czechoslovakia, and Hungary, participation in the coalition was a declaration of liberty; for Senegal, Niger, and Afghanistan, it was their claim to a seat at the table. After months of diplomacy and deployment—and a narrow win in Congress backing the action—Bush gave the order to start bombing on Jan. Saddam responded to the air war by lobbing Scud missiles at Israel, hopeful that he might draw the Israelis into the conflict and thus put an end to Arab cooperation. Shamir bought what Bush was selling, keeping Israel on the sideline under the protection of U.
Patriot anti-missile batteries. When Saddam was still defiant after more than five weeks of aerial assaults, Bush unleashed the ground attack. Motorized troops—equipped with protective gear in the event of a chemical attack—roared across the Saudi border into Kuwait. A feared bloodbath was instead a virtual cakewalk, and voices in Washington and among the ground commanders urged Bush to keep going all the way to Baghdad.
Bush, too, wanted to topple the dictator—but he decided the prudent course was to stick to his original demands.
George W. Bush
He had organized the world around the goal of liberating Kuwait, and that job was finished. Bush knew that number would sink, and he knew why: while attention was focused on the Persian Gulf, the American economy had tipped into recession for the first time since Unemployment was up. Tax revenue was down—which meant that his painful budget compromise would yield no immediate victory in terms of a shrinking deficit.
The ups and downs of the economic cycle were old hat to a Texas oilman. But Bush understood that voters weigh their wallets before casting their ballots.
And if the economy did not improve by the middle of , he would be in trouble. A personal depression rolled in after the war. Gripped by gloom, Bush considered retirement instead of running for reelection. Saddam still ruled Iraq. An uprising against the regime—which Bush encouraged—was brutally crushed while America watched from the sidelines. Painfully aware of all that could go wrong in the morass of Iraqi politics, he nevertheless was haunted by the untaken risks that might have paid off.
But not all. Even after he was treated for the hormonal imbalance, Bush never regained the full measure of his competitive fire. And it showed: his re-election effort would die its symbolic death when he was caught on camera checking his watch with a bored look in the middle of a presidential debate. It was as if he realized that his entire life had been pointed to the diplomacy and leadership, the exquisite balancing of risk and caution, that he had brought to the effort in Kuwait. Having done his best when it counted, a seed of doubt crept in: did he really want to grind out a less dramatic second act?
The coup attempt by Soviet hardliners that he had been dreading for years finally came in August and tested his sense of balance anew. To overreact—by mobilizing NATO troops, for example—might solidify the plot, which had stirred strong internal resistance led by a Russian politician named Boris Yeltsin. To underreact might suggest that the U.
Again, Bush found a delicate middle ground. The coup failed. Gorbachev returned to Moscow, and the next phase of history in the soon-to-be former Soviet Union clearly belonged to Yeltsin. It was another win for Bush. There would not be many more.