George Herbert Walker Bush (1924-) served as America
's 41st President from 1989 to 1993. Coming from a very affluent family dedicated to political service, it seemed to be Bush's destiny
to claim a life of political and economic success. Though he eventually did become the President
, he was one of the least popular Presidents in American history. Though he led the United States through the Gulf War
, he was criticized for leaving Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein
in power. Many other foreign policy decisions of his were also unpopular. Despite his claim to create no new taxes, Bush increased taxes during his administration and the national budget deficit
Bush was born in Milton, Massachusetts, on July 12, 1924, to parents Prescott Sheldon Bush and Dorothy Walker Bush. He was named after his maternal grandfather, George Herbert Walker. His father was a very wealthy man who had made his fortune in investment banking and also served as a United States Senator. Bush's early life was very easy. He attended none but the finest private schools. When World War II reared its ugly head, Bush decided to enter the Navy instead of heading straight to Yale. His family objected and tried to persuade him to get an education and serve his country as a politician instead, but young George was adamant.
Bush completed flight training and was sent to be an aviator in the Pacific Theater. Having completed his training at such a young age, he was the youngest aviator in the Navy's ranks at that time. He promised Barbara Pierce, a young woman who he had met and fallen in love with, that he would return and marry her. Bush flew in a total of 58 missions during his term of service. On a mission on September 2, 1944, Bush's plane was shot down over the Bonin Islands of Japan. After receiving fire, the three-man crew completed their mission objectives and parachuted from their aircraft into the water below. Bush was the only man from this aircraft to survive. Bush was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for his valor on this day. By the time he had resigned, Bush had been awarded the Flying Cross, three Air Medals, a Presidential Unit Citation (awarded to the crew of the aircraft carrier on which he served), and promotion to the rank of Lieutenant.
Bush returned home as a war hero. He married Barbara and enrolled at Yale. He continued to distinguish himself as a scholar during his time at Yale, and joined the secret society of Skull and Bones. He graduated with his degree in economics, and considered taking a job with his father's investment banking firm. Bush felt that it was necessary to make his own fortune, and left to take part in the oil business in Texas. Though he took advantage of connections he had made through his father, Bush truly became a self-made man. He started at the bottom, working menial jobs, but eventually rose to speculation and the selling of oil drilling equipment. Having made a name for himself in the business world, Bush decided to conquer politics next.
Bush's early political career was shaky. As a moderate Republican, he found it hard to break the Democratic tradition present in Texas. He first tried to follow in his father's footsteps and become a Senator. He ran in 1964 against a man named Ralph Yarborough and lost. Unfazed, he won terms to the House of Representatives in 1966 and 1968. Trying again to break into the Senate in 1970, he was defeated by Lloyd Bentsen, a man whose name Bush would see again years later when he became the running mate of Michael Dukakis.
Though he was not terribly successful in his early political career, Bush gained a lot of attention from some very important people. Richard Nixon appreciated Bush's support, and more importantly, his funding. When Nixon became President, he made Bush the ambassador to the United Nations. This position served as a springboard for Bush to other appointed positions. Gerald Ford made Bush the ambassador to China in 1974. A year later, Bush would accept the appointment as Director of the Central Intelligence Agency.
Bush climbed rapidly up the American political ladder. He decided that he would make a run for the Presidency in 1980. Ronald Reagan ended up winning the Republican nomination. Bush had run a negative campaign against Reagan, giving his economic policy the unflattering name "voodoo economics". Upon receiving the nomination, Reagan chose Bush as his running mate. Bush accepted and seemingly changed his opinion on several of Reagan's policies. Up until this point in his political career, Bush had played his cards right. But this 180 degree turn in thinking caused some of his critics to label him a yes-man and a spineless wimp. This would haunt him in his later campaigns, but it had no effect on him immediately. Reagan and Bush easily defeated the incumbent Democrat, Jimmy Carter.
Bush's vice presidency was spent in Reagan's shadow. He forsook the beliefs he had held earlier and supported Reagan in everything he did. Bush was involved in the handling of the aftermath of the Iran-Contra affair. Though he originally said that he was not involved with any of the scandalous dealings surrounding the affair, it was later revealed that this was not the case. Other than this, Bush kept very quiet during his tenure as Vice President.
When it came time for Bush to run for President himself, the American public did not know what to make of him. Though he tried to portray himself in a popular light like Reagan did, it did not work as well for him. Thanks to his gigantic amount of funding and his status as Vice President, he did not face much opposition for the Republican Party nomination. Though Bush was not a strong candidate, the Democratic Party did not have a clear champion either. They chose Michael Dukakis, governor of Massachusetts, as their candidate. Lloyd Bentsen was his running mate.
George Bush ran an intensively negative campaign against Dukakis. Bush won support with the promise, "Read my lips: no new taxes", which he ended up breaking. Dukakis and Bentsen were more than holding their own in debates against Bush and his running mate, the infamous Dan Quayle. Bush's incredible financial resources came to his rescue, however, and Bush ended up winning the election by a comfortable margin.
Bush faced many problems and saw many major world events during his four years in office. In 1990, the Soviet Union collapsed, Germany was reunited, and all of the former Soviet countries became independent. The Cold War had ended. Bush and new President of Russia Boris Yeltsin negotiated the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START). Bush cut defense spending dramatically, which may have been a mistake. During Bush's term, the American economy was in a big recession. Bush and his administration thought it was sufficient to let the market sort itself out naturally. This plan did not immediately work and the economy did not turn up until Bill Clinton's administration. This may very well have been a result of the actions of Bush's administration, reflected later because of economic lag.
Bush enjoyed moderate success in portraying himself as a strong-willed war hero. When push came to shove, he did not act in foreign affairs, which weakened his image. He accepted Chinese action in Tiananmen Square without protest. His administration also had no active role in the stabilizing of the old Soviet nations, while war raged in the areas of the former Yugoslavia. Bush's advisors realized that these timid actions were bad for his image, and convinced him to be more aggressive in his foreign dealings. When Saddam Hussein invaded the nation of Kuwait, Bush took a more aggressive stance. He saw Hussein as a threat to Saudi Arabia, a nation which was friendly to America and very influential with regard to oil supply. He obtained the support of the United Nations and began Operation Desert Shield, a defensive operation for the benefit of Saudi Arabia. Later, Operation Desert Storm was started. This op was offensive in nature and helped Kuwait regain its independence. Following the intense success of this operation, Bush's popularity soared. Bush made the decision to pull troops out of the area after Kuwait regained its independence, which was an unpopular decision. The American public thought it would be a good idea to kill Saddam Hussein to prevent further actions. Once again, Bush was seen as a weak leader. This decision, combined with a further sinking economy, made Bush's popularity plummet.
When it came time for re-election, Bush didn't have a very strong image. He had broken his promise not to raise taxes and the economy was still hurting. The nation had been through a war, but the dictator of Iraq remained in power. The energetic governor of Arkansas, Bill Clinton, came with promises of a balanced budget and social reform. Bush fought back with attacks as he did four years earlier, claiming that Clinton was unfaithful to his wife and a draft dodger. Mudslinging tactics did not work for Bush this time. Clinton defeated the incumbent Bush.
Having been defeated, Bush faded away from the political scene. His sons have launched successful political careers. George W. Bush, his oldest son, was elected President in 2000. Jeb Bush holds the office of Governor of Florida. George himself has written memoirs and an autobiography, which have not been published.