The 41st President of the United States of America, George Herbert Walker Bush, has died. He was 94.

His final words were sent over speaker phone to his son, President George Walker Bush: “I love you, too.”

I don’t remember anything from the Bush 41 Administration (obviously), but I do know that it was led by a successful and patriotic man. Even though he was only in the Oval Office for four years, he waged the ridiculously successful Operation Desert Storm, created of NAFTA, and ended the freaking Cold War, ended the Cold War, and supported the peaceful democratization and integration of Eastern Europe. He was an established conservative, but he was truly a pragmatist when he supported pragmatic new environmental and disability rights laws and made pragmatic changes to the tax code.
I get annoyed at the cliche where liberals (myself included) talk about a Republican by saying “I don’t agree with his policies, but I respect his character.” I’ve said that about people like John McCain and Mitt Romney, so I think it is important to note that I respect President Bush’s policies and his character – in other words, I believe the nation (and the world) is better off because President George Herbert Walker Bush was in the Oval Office. Maybe Bush was truly one of the unsung heroes of the American presidency. Maybe he’s a hero to a Democrat like me because the tides have shifted and, to paraphrase Bush himself, he represented a Republican Party that no longer exists. Maybe I’m just getting conservative influence. Maybe I was born with it.

Maybe it’s Maybelline.

President Bush’s background is fairly common knowledge by now, but here’s a refresher for those who aren’t fully up to speed. He was born with a silver foot in his mouth, the son of businessman (later Senator) Prescott Bush, who felt that he had to do more than just hang out with other rich people:

  • In World War II, Bush became a commissioned officer in the U.S. Navy, flying torpedo bombers in the South Pacific. LTJG Bush was the only survivor after his squadron of eight aviators was shot down, narrowly avoiding being killed and eaten (yes, eaten) by Japanese forces.
  • He left the Navy, got a BA in Economics (nice) from Yale (eh), then moved to Texas to cash in on the oil business, bringing his wife Barbara.
  • After becoming a millionaire oilman and leading a local group of Republicans, Bush spent two terms as a moderately conservative U.S. Representative, though he lost when he ran twice for one of Texas’ U.S. Senate seats (not that losing a Senate race in Texas can stop people from becoming POTUS).
  • Richard Nixon appointed him to become the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, where he stayed for two years before becoming the head of the Republican National Committee… where he had the strange honor of pushing Nixon to resign from office.
  • Gerald Ford then nominated Bush to become a proto-ambassador to communist China (I say “proto-ambassador” because technically he was the head of the U.S. Liaison Office, which was like the predecessor to the U.S. Embassy, but that’s a technicality).
  • After about a year of that, Ford made Bush the head of the CIA, where he served as the Director of Central Intelligence. That lasted from his 1976 nomination until Jimmy Carter became President in 1977. The CIA adored him, and its headquarters is named the George Bush Center for Intelligence in his honor.
  • Bush then ran for the Republican nomination with hopes of becoming the 40th President, but was defeated by Ronald Reagan and his “voodoo economics.” Reagan then made him his Vice President.
  • After two generally successful terms, Vice President Bush trounced Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis in 1988, becoming the 41st President of the United States. I noted his accomplishments above.
  • In 1992, President Bush lost his reelection bid to Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton. The campaign was bitter, but President Bush apparently later came to think of Bill Clinton as a surrogate son, a feeling returned by President Clinton. Clinton never knew his biological father and his stepfather was a violent alcoholic, whereas George and Barbara Bush projected feelings of parental warmth towards him. He and George W. Bush are basically the same age, so that probably didn’t hurt.
  • Oh, and his son George W. Bush became the 43rd President of the United States and held the Oval Office for 8 years, after having been Governor of Texas for 6 years, and his son Jeb! spent 8 years as Governor of Florida.
    • Of course, we all know what happened to Jeb!’s presidential ambitions. I guess “Jeb!” didn’t connote very much excitement.
      • By the way, everyone knows Jeb! makes some good guacamole, which is more than enough to be proud of. Donald Trump chose to be petty and insult Jeb!, and George H.W. Bush didn’t appreciate it (or Trump’s repeated insults of his charitable Points of Light program). At all. So he voted for Hillary, and branded himself as one of the “last Republican presidents.”
      • Same goes for George W., really. Yes, his presidency ended on a fairly awful note, but it’s not easy to make it through eight years of the Oval Office.

So where does that leave us? We have a man who created a major political dynasty that remains relevant even today through his children and grandchildren. This is a man who spent 73 years married to Barbara Bush spent even more time serving the United States of America, first as a Lieutenant, and last as the 41st President and father to the 43rd. He entered office with a broad array of legislative, executive, and military experience at a time when that sort of thing still garnered respect. Because of him, the air is cleaner and the world is freer.
I believe President Bush is generally somewhat underrated, being overshadowed by President Reagan and conflated with his son’s tenure, but that is not to say he died not knowing the depth of his success. Even though the current officeholder seeks to undo, or has undone, many of his accomplishments (NAFTA, Clean Air provisions, etc.), President Bush died knowing that his name is emblazoned across one of our currently-serving aircraft carriers, an international airport, and a graduate institution at Texas A&M, and he has the respect of much of our nation and of our allies. That much is an honor befitting a public servant, the 41st President of the United States. I could say more, but having never met him and never seen his tenure in action, I’d just be repeating more of his biography. Point is, he did pretty good.

This is a statement from the Office of President Barack Obama.
This is a statement from the Office of President George W. Bush.
This is a statement from the Office of President Bill Clinton.
Information on funeral services in Houston and Washington to be posted here.
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