George Bush: The last US president nobody hated

George Bush: The last US president nobody hated
President George H.W. Bush on the field before game five of the 2017 World Series between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park. David J. Phillip/Pool Photo via USA TODAY

When former President George H.W.Bush passed away at 94, it was observed that he was the last President whom nobody hated. He lost his re-election after his dramatic victory over Iraq because of the state of the economy and the emergence of Bill Clinton. But during his presidency and after, he was universally respected, unlike his successors, who had to face hatred from some sections of the country. He had earned his place in history as the US President, who united the nations of the world using the opportunity of the end of the Cold War to liberate Kuwait and to secure US interests in the Gulf. If unchecked, Saddam Hussein would have invaded Saudi Arabia also in a bid to control 40% of the global oil wealth. He led a United Nations war against Saddam Hussein, to which more than 32 nations contributed. Having subdued and defanged him, he left Saddam Hussein alive to avoid a break-up of Iraq, which happened when George Bush Junior eliminated him and unleashed the forces loyal to Saddam Hussein who formed the core of the Islamic State. 

George H W Bush, the 41st US president, is no more

As the CIA Director, Ambassador to China and Ambassador to the UN and Vice President from 1981 to 1989, he had an exceptional record as a cold warrior and a patriot. The single-minded devotion with which he created the post-Soviet world came out of his long familiarity with the affairs of state and his ardent wish to dominate the world. He also displayed considerable diplomatic skills in cobbling together an international consensus. The grace with which he accepted defeat from Bill Clinton is also legendary. In a touching handwritten note, he said on Jan 20, 1993:

“When I walked into this office just now I felt the same sense of wonder and respect that I felt four years ago. I know you will feel that, too.

“I wish you great happiness here. I never felt the loneliness some Presidents have described.

“There will be very tough times, made even more difficult by criticism you may not think is fair. I’m not a very good one to give advice; but just don’t let the critics discourage you or push you off course.

A childhood photo of Bush
A childhood photo of Bush

“You will be our President when you read this note. I wish you well. I wish your family well.

“Your success is now our country’s success. I am rooting hard for you.”

What a contrast with Donald Trump, who refused to say he would accept the results if his opponent won.

Bush Junior paid him the ultimate compliment as a son when he said: “George H.W. Bush was a man of the highest character and the best dad a son or daughter could ask for.”

George Bush with wife Barbara
George Bush with wife Barbara

Bush is credited with shaping the post-Cold War world. But some historians believe that Bush also played a role in ending the Cold War on terms that Americans never could have dreamt possible for the 45 years of the Cold War,” Presidential historian Michael Beschloss told USA Today. “It would not have happened if George Bush hadn’t been there … He formed a relationship with  Mikhail Gorbachev of trust that encouraged Gorbachev to give up a lot of concessions.”

“America has lost a patriot and humble servant in George Herbert Walker Bush. While our hearts are heavy today, they are also filled with gratitude,” former president Barack Obama said in a statement.

A veteran of the Second World War, Bush senior flew 58 combat missions during the war. Shot down over the Pacific by Japanese anti-aircraft fire, he parachuted out and was rescued by a submarine after huddling in a life raft for four hours while enemy forces circled.

After his victory in the Gulf, Bush senior created the Madrid Conference in 1991 to launch the Arab-Israeli peace process. The conference was mainly symbolic, but it set the stage for the Oslo Accords two years later. In late 1989, Bush senior sent US troops to Panama to oust strongman Manuel Noriega. He also set the groundwork for the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Shockingly, Bush Senior was one of the many men in power who faced the Me-too movement. Several women came forward to make claims against him, with accusations dating as far back to 1992. A spokesman for Bush Senior said he apologised for any offence caused and that any inappropriate touching was “unintentional”.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi characterised Bush Senior as a leading statesman at a critical period of world history. "Former President George H. W. Bush was passionate about strong relations between India and USA. His presence will be missed.”  Perhaps, he was thinking also of Bush Junior, who steadfastly pursued the India-US nuclear deal, which opened the way for Indian nuclear cooperation, not only with the United States, but also with the other members of the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group. History has shown that it is the Republicans, not the Democrats, who have a vision of strong India-US ties.

Bush with son George Bush Junior
Bush with son George Bush Junior

Bush senior is reputed to have an elephantine memory about people who countered US policies in the past. In 1981 Salim Salim of Tanzania contested against Kurt Waldheim for the post of the UN Secretary General. China vetoed Waldheim and the US vetoed Salim repeatedly till a compromise candidate was found. Many African countries made repeated representations to the US Government to vacate the veto against Salim. They were then told that Bush senior who was Vice President at that time had not forgotten that Salim had danced in the aisle of the United Nations when China was admitted to the United Nations. As the US Ambassador to the United Nations at that time, Bush Senior had noted Salim’s sacrilege and vowed to avenge him! The US did recognise Communist China later, but Bush could not forget the moment of anguish for the US when China was admitted.