In all reality, perhaps that what made George Herbert Walker Bush an average to mediocre politician. The fact that the man was regularly putting service to his nation above himself was sure to open up avenues of attack in the dog eat dog world of politics. It has hard to imagine any other President uttering the now infamous “Read my lips. No new taxes” and then subsequently raising taxes. In doing so George H.W. Bush is either one of the greatest liars of our time or a self-sacrificing President who will always put the good of the nation above his own political ambitions. Truth be told, Bush wasn’t very good at winning elections as he lost two Senate campaigns, a bid for the Republican nomination in 1980 and subsequently the Presidency in 1992. Thankfully for the world in the aftermath of the Cold War there was no better man for the job than the quintessential public servant, George Herbert Walker Bush.
A Nation Mourns the Genuine Man
It is easy for a nation to romanticize a man and President in his death, particularly as we all look back and yearn for a more civil time in politics. The truth of the matter is that Bush was far from perfect and while he led the nation well his aristocratic upbringing no doubt had him on the wrong side of many social issues of his day. He was a product of his time and yet, one that stood out against the worst of those times as well. He may have been born into wealth, but that didn’t stop him from going toe to toe in the Pacific with the Japanese in World War II. When a Japanese Zero had Bush in its sights, his wealth and privilege meant very little in that moment.
Returning from the war, he married his sweetheart in what by all accounts seems to be one of the more public love affairs in politics. George and Barbara likely struggled from time to time as most married couples do, but one could trust George around the interns and that is saying something in modern politics. It was a genuine marriage and it was clear that family meant a great deal to the man. As far as Presidents go, if you could pick one in modern memory to the patriarch of your own family and your very own grandfather George H.W. Bush seems like a solid first round choice. The man himself was genuine and liked by even his political foes. There is an authenticity to adore with this President and the fact that he enamored us just 4 years as opposed to eight speaks to that fact alone.
A Presidency Etched in History
Even if one can dismiss the romanticized remembrance of this particular President, the mark he made on history is beyond dispute. George H.W. Bush was President of the United States in an era when the world undergoing a ground shaking change in global order. The end of the Cold War was fraught with peril and risk of catastrophe and yet, it might have been ordained that the most qualified President in international affairs was in office during this season. The Soviet Union collapsed for a great number of reasons, but the world did not descend into chaos because George H.W. Bush was leader of the only superpower left on the planet.
Then, let’s not forget the excursion in Middle East known as the Operation Desert Storm. I think modern history has done enough to instruct us just how perilous this operation was. George H. W. Bush organized a global coalition and stuck to the mandate given him by the United Nations. Current Secretary of Defense James Mattis labels the Gulf War as one of America’s most decisive military victories because we achieved the military and diplomatic objectives and then got out. There was tremendous pressure for Bush to go to Baghdad and yet, Bush stood firm. When the next Bush did decide to go to Baghdad we see what ensued. George H.W. Bush was brilliant for the war he ordered and most certainly for the one he avoided.
The Moment of Public Service Heard Around the World
I’ll confess that as a moderate conservative, it is hard for me to admit that raising taxes could be considered a moment of public service. I like to cozy up to the notion that all taxation is theft while being pragmatic that they are indeed necessary. With the Democrats in Congress, Bush lacked the ability to completely control and cut spending. Facing a mounting economic crisis and the cost of war with Iraq, Bush refused to pass the bill down to a later generation. At great political cost to himself, Bush went back on his word and paid the ultimate political price. One can argue whether or not taxes were indeed in the best interest of the nation, but one can’t argue that George H.W. Bush genuinely thought they were. As such, he fell on his sword as perhaps the greatest and last public servant President of the United States of America.