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George H.W. Bush a stark contrast to Trump

/ 04:34 PM December 04, 2018
George H.W. Bush

In this photo, taken May 11, 2008, former President George H.W. Bush arrives on the South Lawn of White House in Washington. AP

BANGKOK – Civility was the rule at the White House during the 41st US president’s tenure. How times have changed.

George Herbert Walker Bush, the 41st president of the United States who steered America through turbulence world affairs during his presidency from 1989-93, died on Friday night.

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He was the father of the two-term 43rd American president who shared his name. His other son, Jeb Bush, was twice elected governor of Florida but failed in his bid for the White House in 2016, losing to Donald Trump. Bush Senior was denied a second term when American voters opted for the then little-known Arkansas governor Bill Clinton, who campaigned on uplifting the nation from a serious economic downturn.

Bush’s death came less than eight months after that of his wife, Barbara. The couple was married for 73 years.

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Bush spent more than 40 years in public service before entering politics as a member of the Republican Party. He was the vice president under President Ronald Reagan. Bush came to the White House with an impressive résumé. His years in public service included two terms in Congress, ambassadorships to China and the United Nations, chairmanship of the Republican National Committee and director of the Central Intelligence Agency, as well as vice president.

Bush was a decorated navy pilot who was shot down in the Pacific in 1944. He was one of the youngest pilots in the war and flew 58 combat missions in the Pacific theater. He was the last of the World War II generation to become president.

The world will remember him as a skilled diplomat who steered the US through the end of the Cold War and the collapse of Soviet Union, not to mention the freeing of Eastern Europe from Moscow’s sphere of influence. But the fall of the Iron Curtain did not mean the US would retreat from the Middle East and other world affairs.

Two years after the Berlin Wall came down, Iraq invaded Kuwait, a key American ally in the Middle East. Bush succeeded in assembling a global coalition to push the Iraqi army out of Kuwait in a military campaign that helped America put to rest the ghosts of Vietnam War. But the victory paved the way for decades of US preoccupation with Iraq and the Middle East.

The republicanism that Bush represented, compared to the current generation, was much gentler. Bush’s conservatism was more moderate compared to the party of today. During Bill Clinton’s presidency, Bush and his son George W Bush joined him in raising funds for the victims of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami that devastated the Thai coast and other areas.

Americans often compared the 41st and 43rd presidents, painting the father as a more seasoned leader who exercised a high degree of restraint in the US use of force in the Middle East. His son’s administration, in contrast, was filled by hard-liners including Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

The Bush family’s standing in the eyes of much of the American public rose when father and son declined to attend the 2016 Republican National Convention where Trump was formally nominated as presidential candidate.

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Many Americans opposed Bush Senior’s policies, but few would argue that he displayed integrity and humility in office. The campaign pitting him against Clinton was bitter, but Bush never let the defeat get the better of him. On inauguration day in 1993, he left in the Oval Office a letter for his successor saying, “Your success now is our country’s success. I am rooting hard for you.” In short, he was a citizen, not a partisan.

“Because you run against each other, that doesn’t mean you’re enemies,” Bush once said. “Politics doesn’t have to be uncivil and nasty.”

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TAGS: Asia, Donald Trump, George H.W. Bush, politics, US
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