George H.W. Bush
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|Hail to the Chief?|
|Persons of interest|
Prior to his presidency, he was Ronald Reagan's
Saint Peter vice-president for eight years, ran the CIA, and unlike his boy, was an actual pilot who was shot down by the Japanese and just barely escaped having his liver eaten. He later got them back by vomiting right in the Japanese PM's lap.
The Bush family have been a thorn in the side of the New Right all the way back to his father in the '60s. Prescott Bush and Nelson Rockefeller were mortal enemies of Goldwater, and Bush 41 was the one who called Reagan's economic proposals "voodoo economics" in the '80 primaries, before he was tapped to be the VP nominee in order to present a unified party front. (Rather like if Trump had made Kasich or Rubio his running mate.) He recognized that Reagan's policies were unsustainable and would damage the nation's financial and economic standing, even before Reagan was even President.  When Vice-President he kept his mouth shut but after he became President, he did the one thing he had to in order to help the US: raise taxes. This lost him votes with conservatives and won him no new votes. Which is unfortunate because it was a huge nail in the bipartisanship coffin and helped create the popularity of the anti-tax mentality.
Probably the last Republican to give a damn about stewardship of the earth. (Cap and trade was his idea.) Reagan was such a supporter of the environment that he ripped down the solar panels Carter put on the White House roof.
During that ridiculous "Lizard vs. Wizard" runoff in '91, where David Duke (R) and Edwin Edwards (D) ended up getting the most votes in the jungle primary, Bush threw his hands in the air and endorsed Edwards. Thus, unusually for a Republican president, Bush pretty much came out in favor of a Democratic candidate against a Republican.
H.W. was big on stability over anything else. His actions during the fall of the Eastern Bloc, particularly his support of Wojocech Jaruzelski (both as dictator and, after the collapse, as President) are good examples of this. The Gulf War seems to have been much closer to what liberal internationalism is actually supposed to be. Bush was summoned by Kuwait, had U.N. approval, got together an enormous coalition force and executed a successful plan which addressed the problem (Iraq invading Kuwait) without overstretching resources and doing something he wasn't tasked to do. Also, they had some pretty vigorous debate in Congress and the Senate; it only passed 52-47. Considering that was only 12 years before 2003, seeing people act as if the run up to the Iraq War was equivalent is real "piss on my leg" stuff.
The fact that a post-Saddam Hussein Iraq would lead to Iranian hegemony due to the Shi'a majority (after a nasty sectarian conflict that the American public would inevitably get sick of and demand withdrawal from) and mass revenge on the Sunnis, which in return might have triggered a response from the Sunnis, was among the reasons why Bush Senior refused to boot Saddam out of Baghdad−while sinking his own reelection prospects in doing so. So it's not as if no one knew uprooting Saddam was a bad idea.
He was elected over second place finisher Michael Dukakis in 1988 by resorting to moral panics ("If Kitty Dukakis were raped and murdered...") and attack ads ("Willie Horton"), in one of the nastiest one-sided presidential campaigns in recent history. Ironically Bush campaigned on a vague platform of making the U.S. a "kinder, gentler nation." American politics have never really recovered.
Manuel Noriega, the unelected military strongman of Panama, was ousted by Bush after it became public knowledge that Noriega made drug deals with the US as part of the funding given to the Contras. Bush, as Director of the CIA, blocked investigations into
Reagan's Noriega's shadiness. Bush forced him to stand trial, but not for murder, and instead for drug trafficking, money laundering, and (we aren't kidding) racketeering. As we just hinted, Noriega had been paid by the CIA to do the things he was accused and convicted of. Eventually, Noriega was tried for murder and convicted... by France.
Bush managed to respond to the winding down of the Cold War by getting the U.S. deeply embroiled in the Middle East quagmire from which the country has yet to get out over two decades later, angered his own conservative base by going back on his "no new taxes" pledge, and lasted only one term. Angry middle class Republican base voters more worried about their jobs going overseas while the Republican Party wanted to play culture wars flocked to Ross Perot in 1992 while Bill Clinton ran a very different campaign from Dukakis to win in 1992.
Bob Woodward's George Jr.'s Decision Points came out, George Sr. put out a memoir entitled 41. By all indications, it fundamentally denies the truth about the man and his life, however it does shed some light on his son's presidency. According to H.W., Cheney and Rumsfeld never had the respect for 43 that they had for 41. They just saw Dubya as a spoiled kid with a silver spoon and figured they could walk all over him. They were right. This would be scathing if he had expressed his opinion while those people had influence. Maybe Bush 45 will do better! (Bush 41, Bush 43. Makes it sound like they're from a production line.)
Things that happened during his administration
The Satanic panic peaked just around the time he was elected. The Cold War officially ended on his watch, and aside from his "Chicken Kiev" speech the USSR thankfully fell apart with all the nukes in their place. In 1991-1992, a economic recession occurred due to a spike in oil prices post-Gulf War, and the bursting of the Reagan-era housing bubble from the '80s, leading to three million people being unemployed. This gave Clinton an electoral advantage.
During his time in government, the checkout scanner/UPC bar code system was widely implemented, but no one told him in an elaborate practical joke to make him look clueless while running for re-election in 1992 against an upstart hillbilly who went on to win, using the slogan "It's ... stupid!"
Perhaps thirsty from all these money-as-water metaphors, the Bush family purchased 100,000 acres in the Paraguayan Chaco, giving them access to the Guarani aquifer, one of the largest fresh water reserves in the world.
Before his promotion to Bush 41, Poppy was involved in a laundry list of crimes that permanently blackened the Agency's reputation. As CIA honcho under Ford, he was put in charge of "Crisis Management" e.g. mopping up after the Agency's involvement in coup d'etats and assassinations, including the 'first' September 11 — the 1973 murder of Salvador Allende which plunged Chile into a 17-year fascist dictatorship — and the Iran Contra affair. Over the next decade Langley spent over $3 billion establishing the Taliban, the Mujahadeen, and Osama bin Laden as CIA assets. He may also be responsible with rigging the 1980 US Presidential election in an operation called the "October Surprise", though nothing was really proven.
- "41" (around the compound at holidays, to distinguish him from "43")
- "Mad Dog", a nickname given to him by John Judge
- Bush I's resignation from the NRA, once again proving the stopped clock theorem
- George H.W. Bush and the End of the Cold War, Crash Course
- Blake, Aaron, "The cautionary tale of George Bush’s tax hike – in one chart", WaPo 11.27.12.
- Warrick, Joby, "Reagan, Bush 41 memos reveal sharp contrast with today’s GOP on climate and the environment", WaPo (12.3.15).
- Suro, Robertp, "THE 1991 ELECTION: Louisiana; Bush Denounces Duke As Racist and Charlatan", New York Times 7 Nov. 1991 page B18.
- "Remarks at the Solidarity Workers Monument in Gdansk," Gdansk, Poland, 11 July 1989, Bush Presidential Library, Documents and Papers, Bush Library.
- "Why We Didn't Remove Saddam", George Bush [Sr.] and Brent Scowcroft, Time 3.2.98.
- Moyer, Justim Wm., "George H.W. Bush slams ‘iron-ass’ Cheney, ‘arrogant’ Rumsfeld in new biography. Also faults Bush 43.", WaPo 11 May 2015.
- Jim Mann, "As CIA Director, Bush Sought to Restrict Probe of Agency Officials by Justice Dept.", LA Times.
- See Operation Condor
- Andre Marshall, "Terror 'blowback' burns CIA", The Independent.
- David Johnston, "Bush Pardons 6 in Iran Affair, Aborting a Weinberger Trial; Prosecutor Assails 'Cover-Up'", The New York Times.
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*Ran for VP on the "National Union" ticket together with Lincoln but was otherwise a lifelong Democrat