President George Herbert Walker Bush was the 41st President of the United States of America. President Bush assumed office on January 20 1989, serving for one term until January 20 1993. Prior to winning the presidency, Bush had served as the vice president under President Ronald Reagan from 1981 to 1989 (“George Herbert Walker Bush”, 2010, p.1).
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President Bush ran on a Republican Party ticket, a party he joined early on in his business as well as political career. He is the father of President George W. Bush, the 43rd President of the United States of America.
George Herbert Walker Bush was born on June 12 1924, in Massachusetts to Prescott and Dorothy Bush. His father was the US senator for Connecticut from 1959 to 1963. George H. W. Bush attended schools within Massachusetts, and at eighteen years, he was accepted into Yale University. However, the Pearl Harbor attack of 1941 saw him halt his plans to join the prestigious University and enlist in the US navy, where at 18, he was one of the youngest enlistees in the Navy’s history.
George H. W. Bush served in the navy until the end of the Second World War in 1945. (“George Herbert Walker Bush”, 2010, p.1). Upon his return home, he soon married Barbara Bush, and he subsequently rejoined Yale University and completed his degree studies in two through an accelerated program.
He later moved his family to Texas, where he wanted to establish a career in the oil industry. He worked for several oil companies as he established contacts that enabled him establish an oil drilling company with a partner. He made a fortune in the oil business and then set his sights on a political career, a step he had desired to take for a long time.
The political Offices Held and Appointive Posts Occupied Prior to His Vice Presidency
In 1966, while he was still chairperson of the Republican Party in Texas’ Harris County, he ran for the office of the congressional representative for Texas’ seventh district and won. He was re-elected to the same seat in 1968. Because this was his first political office on a national scale, the political views, beliefs, and policies that would shape his presidency began to emerge.
Even this early, George H. W. Bush identified with the conservative policies of the Republican Party to which he belonged (Solomon, 2011, p.51). He identified with the President Nixon’s policies in the Vietnam War, a war that was hugely unpopular with the American public in its later stages. His position on the military draft leaned on its abolition, and he voted to support the same.
Although a conservative, he broke ranks with the Republican Party on the issue of birth control, which he supported. George H. W. Bush as the first republican to represent Houston in the House of Representatives, all the previous posts having been held by Democrats.
Bush then set his sights on Texas senate seat, and contested in the 1970 elections, after resigning from his Congressional representative position. Although he easily won his party’s primary elections to earn a ticket for the senate contest, democrat Lloyd Bentsen subsequently defeated him.
US ambassador to the United Nations
Following his electoral defeat by congressional representative Bentsen, Bush was jobless on the political front, having relinquished his seat as the congressional representative for Texas’ seventh District.
However, by this time he had sufficiently raised his political profile on the national scene, and he was widely known throughout the country. He had also gained political friends in the highest of offices, and he was close to President Nixon.
President Nixon subsequently nominated him to the post of US ambassador to the UN, and his subsequent unanimous confirmation by the Senate was testament to the bi-partisan appeal that he radiated as a politician (Wiener, 2010, p.29). He served as the US ambassador to the UN for two years, and he ably represented the nation in during his brief tenure.
Nominal Head of the Republican Party
George H. W. Bush’s profile in the Republican Party, beginning with his years as the Chairman of the Republican Party for Harris County in Texas had risen over the years.
He was a vigorous campaigner, contributed funds, and spent his time advocating for the party’s various causes. Therefore, in 1973, he was the Republican Party’s unanimous choice for leadership, and he assumed the position of chairman of the Republican National Committee.
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The Watergate scandal soon came to the public’s attention, and Bush was split between supporting his friend President Nixon, and saving the public face of the Republican Party as more investigations revealed Nixon’s culpability (Wiener, 2010, p.29). As chair of the party’s national committee, Bush asked President Nixon to resign in order to save the Party, and Nixon soon resigned.
US ambassador to China
Having proved his mettle as the US envoy to the United Nations, Bush was appointed as the US ambassador to China. His office was based in Taiwan and he initiated relations with the People’s Republic of China, with set the stage for full diplomatic relations between the US and China in later years, which prior to his appointment was non existent.
The experiences he underwent, in his various postings in foreign nations, would give him an edge in foreign policy when he eventually ran for president in 1989. George H. W. Bush served as US envoy to China for slightly over a year, before returning to the US to serve as Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), a post appointed by Nixon’s successor President Gerald Ford.
His appointment as head of the CIA replicates a pattern in Bush’s political career that indicates his trustworthiness, as he was continuously appointed to politically sensitive positions that required reasonable judgment and focused leadership. Interestingly, he was also on President Ford’s shortlist for the Vice Presidency, although Nelson Rockefeller was the eventual appointee.
Director of Central Intelligence
George H. W. Bush worked as the Director of Central Intelligence (now the office of Director of The Central Intelligence Agency) for about one year. As the holder of this post, Bush was the principal security advisor to the President and the National Security Council, which comprises various heads of the country’s military and domestic intelligence bodies. Yet again, his appointment to such a sensitive post was testament to Bush’s increasing political profile, and his personal integrity – vital elements for winning the US presidency.
During his tenure, Bush restored the high status of the CIA, which had taken a hit due to revelations of the agency’s illegal involvements in the political activities of sovereign nations, in South America and other parts of the developing world. Following the election of Jimmy carter in 1977, Bush was replaced as the Director of Central Intelligence, and he subsequently undertook various duties both in the political and civil spheres, including a stint as a professor at Rice University.
He announced his candidature for the US presidential election of 1980, and vied for the Republican Party ticket which he lost to Ronald Reagan, who went on to become the president. After losing the party’s presidential ticket, Reagan appointed him as his Vice Presidential running mate (Beinart, 2010, p. 29).
He served under President Reagan as Vice President from 1981-1989, after which he finally secured the Republican Party’s presidential ticket with support from Reagan and a host of other influential members of the party, whose contacts he had established and maintained throughout his stint as Vice President.
George H. W. Bush’s Presidential campaign of 1988
Prior to winning his Party’s nomination, Bush faced off with Republican senators and leaders in a quest to win the ticket. He quickly stated his beliefs and the campaign promises to be fulfilled if he were to win the Presidency. His opposition to tax increases, or new taxes for Americans was his highlight promise. This position endeared him to the Republican Party faithful, and he won the nomination.
The Democratic nominee for president was Michael Dukakis, with whom Bush had to compete against for the Presidency (Dayton, 1988, p. 643). Bush reiterated his earlier positions, most of which he had espoused during his entire career as a politician. He believed in combating increased crime rates (he derided his opponent for being soft on crime), and that Americans should be able to own guns.
His Christian background led to his belief that prayers in schools were significant, and so was the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance. He was opposed to abortion rights, as he had been since the Supreme Court legalized abortion in 1973. Bush also supported capital punishment for deserving offenders.
The George H. W. Bush Presidency
George H. W. Bush defeated Michael Dukakis to take up the high office of President on January 20 1989. Bush won 53.4 % of the popular vote and received 426 out of 537 electoral votes.
President Bush inherited a large budget deficit from his predecessor (Muris, 2000, p.365), and his efforts to reduce the benefits would prove to be the most challenging endeavors of his presidency, ultimately leading to his loss in the Presidential election of 1991.
Successes of George H. W. Bush’s Presidency
The foreign policy experience of his years in politics as a political appointee to various posts proved decisive during his presidency (Greenstein, 2001, p.386). President Bush successfully led the United Nations (UN) coalition attack on Iraq after Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, threatening the political and military stability of the Persian Gulf region in 1991 (Brands 2011, p. 870).
A similar intervention in Panama in 1989 to install the democratically elected government of President Endara, after the incumbent Manuel Noriega refused to acknowledge defeat, was also successful (Gilboa, 1995, p.539).
During his Presidency, the Berlin Wall was destroyed, and the Soviet Union disintegrated, effectively ending the Cold War, and President Bush, as the leader of the US, was involved in varying degrees in the precipitation of these hugely significant world events (Engel, 2010, p.26).
President Bush initiated and signed numerous other policies and laws that had significant positive impact on ordinary Americans. “The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), signed with Canada and Mexico opened up trade opportunities for American businesspersons” (Bolton, 2011, p. 34), while the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, which granted equality to persons with disabilities, and sheltered them from discrimination.
Failures of George H. W. Bush’s Presidency
Despite his long career in political offices that culminated in his eight year Vice Presidency under President Reagan, the experiences gained were still not enough to gain Bush a second term.
President Bush’s first term was politically tainted by his inability to cut deals with the Democratic Party, which controlled the Congress. Bush was forced, by Democrats, to raise taxes in order to reduce government deficits, a move which alienated a significant number of his supporters. By increasing taxes, he had effectively reneged on his campaign promise not to raise taxes or introduce new ones.
President Bush did not do enough to protect Americans from the economic recession that was coincidental to the 1991 presidential campaigns. This happening made him appear incompetent in handling the economy, especially when his suave handling of foreign policy issues was considered.
Therefore, he appeared to have a firm grasp on foreign policy, but unable to manage the economy. The economy was a serious issue for the American voters, and when his challenger Bill Clinton of the Democratic Party exploited this perceived weakness of the President, he gained more supporters (Whip & Fletcher, 1993, p.50). President Bush ultimately lost the election to Clinton.
George H. W. Bush’s long and distinguished public career serving the American people in various capacities, prior to his presidency, prepared him for the task of high office.
His distinguished service as a lieutenant in the Navy during the Second World War, Texan Congress Representative, US envoy to the UN and China, and even as the Director of Central Intelligence all served to ensure the foreign policy actions of his presidency put America in a positive light.
The end of the Cold War under his watch restored hope to millions of persons across the entire globe, and the fall of the Berlin wall heralded a new world order, full of hope and promise. However, deliberately or through coincidence, the American economy failed to prosper under his watch, ultimately costing him a second term.
His service, to the American people in the posts he held, allude to a passionate and dedicated servant, and for that, the American people will always be grateful.
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