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George Herbert Walker Bush (born June 12, 1924) served as the 41st President of the United States from 1989 to 1993. Bush held a variety of political positions prior to his presidency, including Vice President of the United States in the administration of Ronald Reagan (1981–1989) and Director of Central Intelligence (DCI) under Gerald R. Ford. Bush was born in Massachusetts to Senator Prescott Bush and Dorothy Walker Bush. Following the attacks on Pearl Harbor in 1941, at the age of 18, Bush postponed going to college and became the youngest naval aviator in the US Navy at the time. He served until the end of the war, then attended Yale University. Graduating in 1948, he moved his young family to West Texas and entered the oil business, becoming a millionaire by the age of 40. He became involved in politics soon after founding his own oil company, serving as a member of the House of Representatives, among other positions. He ran unsuccessfully for president of the United States in 1980, but was chosen by party nominee Ronald Reagan to be the vice presidential nominee; the two were subsequently elected. During his tenure, Bush headed administration task forces on deregulation and fighting drug abuse. In 1988, Bush launched a successful campaign to succeed Reagan as president, defeating Democratic opponent Michael Dukakis. Foreign policy drove the Bush presidency; operations were conducted in Panama and the Persian Gulf at a time of world change; the Berlin Wall fell in 1989 and the Soviet Union dissolved two years later. Domestically, Bush reneged on a 1988 campaign promise and after a struggle with Congress, signed an increase in taxes that Congress had passed. In the wake of economic concerns, he lost the 1992 presidential election to Democrat Bill Clinton. Bush is the father of George W. Bush, the 43rd President of the United States, and Jeb Bush, former Governor of Florida. He was the last World War II veteran to serve as U.S. president, and the last president to have fought in any other war before getting elected.

George H. W. Bush, President of the United States, 1989 official portrait

Early yearsEdit

George Herbert Walker Bush was born at 173 Adams Street in Milton, Massachusetts on June 12, 1924. The Bush family moved from Milton to Greenwich, Connecticut shortly after his birth. Bush began his formal education at the Greenwich Country Day School in Greenwich. Beginning in 1936, he attended Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts, where he held a large number of leadership positions including being the president of the senior class and secretary of the student council, president of the community fund-raising group, a member of the editorial board of the school newspaper, and captain of both the varsity baseball and soccer teams.

World War IIEdit

Following the attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941, Bush decided to join the US Navy so after graduating from Phillips Academy earlier in 1942, he became a naval aviator at the age of 18. After completing the 10-month course, he was commissioned as an ensign in the U.S. Naval Reserve at Corpus Christi, Texas on June 9, 1943, just three days before his 19th birthday, which made him the youngest naval aviator to that date. He was assigned to Torpedo Squadron (VT-51) as the photographic officer in September 1943. The following year, his squadron was based on the USS San Jacinto as a member of Air Group 51, where his lanky physique earned him the nickname 'Skin'. During this time, the task force was victorious in one of the largest air battles of World War II: the Battle of the Philippine Sea. After Bush's promotion to Lieutenant Junior Grade on August 1, the San Jacinto commenced operations against the Japanese in the Bonin Islands. Bush piloted one of four Grumman TBM Avenger aircraft from VT-51 that attacked the Japanese installations on Chichijima. His crew for the mission, which occurred on September 2, 1944, included Radioman Second Class John Delaney and Lieutenant Junior Grade William White. During their attack, the Avengers encountered intense anti-aircraft fire; Bush's aircraft was hit by flak and his engine caught on fire. Despite his plane being on fire, Bush completed his attack and released bombs over his target, scoring several damaging hits. With his engine afire, Bush flew several miles from the island, where he and one other crew member on the TBM Avenger bailed out of the aircraft; the other man's parachute did not open. It has not been determined which man bailed out with Bush as both Delaney and White were killed as a result of the battle. Bush waited for four hours in an inflated raft, while several fighters circled protectively overhead until he was rescued by the lifeguard submarine USS Finback. For the next month he remained on the Finback, and participated in the rescue of other pilots.

TBF GeorgeBush

George Bush in his TBM Avenger on the carrier USS San Jacinto in 1944.


Bush subsequently returned to San Jacinto in November 1944 and participated in operations in the Philippines until his squadron was replaced and sent home to the United States. Through 1944, he flew 58 combat missionsfor which he received the Distinguished Flying Cross, three Air Medals, and the Presidential Unit Citation awarded to San Jacinto. Because of his valuable combat experience, Bush was reassigned to Norfolk Navy Base and put in a training wing for new torpedo pilots. He was later assigned as a naval aviator in a new torpedo squadron, Vermont-153. Upon the Japanese surrender in 1945, Bush was honorably discharged in September of that year.

Marriage and college yearsEdit

George Bush married Barbara Pierce on January 6, 1945, only weeks after his return from the war. Their marriage produced six children: George Walker Bush (born 1946), Pauline Robinson Bush ("Robin", 1949–1953, died of leukemia), John Ellis "Jeb" Bush (born 1953), Neil Mallon Bush (born 1955), Marvin Pierce Bush (born 1956), and Dorothy Bush Koch (born 1959). Bush had been accepted to Yale University prior to his enlistment in the military, but decided to fight in World War II instead of going to college. He took up the offer after his discharge and marriage, however. While at Yale, he was enrolled in an accelerated program that allowed him to graduate in two and a half years, rather than four. He was a member of the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity and was elected president. He also captained the Yale baseball team, and as a left-handed first baseman, played in the first two College World Series. As the team captain, Bush met Babe Ruth before a game during his senior year. Late in his junior year he was, like his father Prescott Bush (1917), initiated into the Skull and Bones secret society. He graduated as a member of the Phi Beta Kappa from Yale in 1948 with a Bachelor's degree in economics.

Oil venturesEdit

After graduating from Yale, Bush moved his young family to West Texas. His father's business connections proved useful when he ventured into the oil business, starting as a sales clerk with Dresser Industries, a subsidiary of Brown Brothers Harriman. His father had served on the board of directors there for 22 years. Bush started the Bush-Overby Oil Development company in 1951 and co-founded the Zapata Petroleum Corporation, an oil company which drilled in the Permian Basin in Texas, two years later. He was named president of the Zapata Offshore Company, a subsidiary which specialized in offshore drilling, in 1954. The subsidiary became independent in 1958, so Bush moved the company from Midland, Texas to Houston. He continued serving as president of the company until 1964, and later chairman until 1966, but his ambitions turned political. By that time, Bush had become a millionaire.

Political career (1964–1980)Edit

Congressional yearsEdit

Bush served as Chairman of the Republican Party for Harris County, Texas in 1964, but wanted to be more involved in policy making, so he set his stakes high: he aimed for a US Senate seat from Texas. After winning the Republican primary, Bush faced his opponent, incumbent Democrat Ralph Yarborough. Yarborough attacked Bush as a right-wing extremist, and Bush lost the general election.

George Herbert Walker Bush and Eisenhower 1

Bush with President Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Bush did not give up on elective politics and was elected in 1966 to a House of Representatives seat from the 7th District of Texas, defeating Democrat Frank Briscoe with 57% of the vote; he became the first Republican to represent Houston. His voting record in the House was generally conservative:[12] Bush opposed the public accommodations contention in the 1964 Civil Rights Act, and supported open-housing legislation, something generally unpopular in his district. He supported the Nixon administration's Vietnam policies, but broke with Republicans on the issue of birth control. Despite being a first-term congressman, Bush was appointed to the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, where he voted to abolish the military draft. He was elected to a second term in 1968. In 1970, President Nixon convinced Bush to relinquish his House seat to again run for the Senate against Ralph Yarborough, a fierce Nixon critic. In the Republican primary, Bush easily defeated conservative Robert J. Morris, by a margin of 87.6% to 12.4%. However, former Congressman Lloyd Bentsen, a more moderate Democrat and native of Mission, Texas, defeated Yarborough in the Democratic primary. Yarborough then endorsed Bentsen and Bentsen defeated Bush 54% to 43%.

Ambassador to the United NationsEdit

Following his 1970 loss, Bush was well known as a prominent Republican businessman from the "Sun Belt", a group of states in the Southern part of the country. President Nixon noticed and appreciated the sacrifice Bush had made of his Congressional position, so he appointed him Ambassador to the United Nations. He was confirmed unanimously by the Senate, and served for two years, beginning in 1971.

Chairman of the Republican National CommitteeEdit

Amidst the Watergate scandal, Nixon asked Bush to become chairman of the Republican National Committee in 1973. Bush accepted, and held this position when the popularity of both Nixon and the Republican Party plummeted.[19] He defended Nixon steadfastly, but later as Nixon's complicity became clear, Bush focused more on defending the Republican Party, while still maintaining loyalty to Nixon. As chairman, Bush formally requested that Richard Nixon eventually resign for the good of the Republican party President Nixon did this on August 9, 1974; Bush noted in his diary that "There was an aura of sadness, like somebody died... The [resignation] speech was vintage Nixon — a kick or two at the press — enormous strains. One couldn't help but look at the family and the whole thing and think of his accomplishments and then think of the shame... [Ford's swearing-in offered] indeed a new spirit, a new lift."

Envoy to ChinaEdit

Gerald Ford, Nixon's successor, appointed Bush to be Chief of the US Liaison Office in the People's Republic of China. Since the United States at the time maintained official relations with the Republic of China on Taiwan and not the People's Republic of China, the Liaison Office did not have the official status of an embassy and Bush did not formally hold the position of "ambassador", though he unofficially acted as one. The time that he spent in China—14 months—were seen as largely beneficial for US-Chinese relations. After Ford's accession to the presidency, Bush was under serious consideration for being nominated as Vice President. Senator Barry Goldwater of Arizona declined to be considered and endorsed Bush, who, along with his supporters, reportedly mounted an internal campaign to get a nomination.[citation needed] Ford eventually narrowed his list to Rockefeller and Bush. However White House Chief of Staff Donald Rumsfeld reportedly preferred Rockefeller over Bush. Rockefeller was finally named and confirmed.

Director of Central IntelligenceEdit

In 1976, Ford brought Bush back to Washington to become Director of Central Intelligence. He served in this role for 355 days, from January 30, 1976 to January 20, 1977. The CIA had been rocked by a series of revelations, including those based on investigations by Senator Frank Church's Committee regarding illegal and unauthorized activities by the CIA, and Bush was credited with helping to restore the agency's morale. In his capacity as DCI, Bush gave national security briefings to Jimmy Carter both as a Presidential candidate and as President-elect, and discussed the possibility of remaining in that position in a Carter administration but it was not to be. After a Democratic administration took power in 1977, Bush became chairman on the Executive Committee of the First International Bank in Houston. He later spent a year as a part-time professor of Administrative Science at Rice University in the Jones School of Business beginning in 1978, the year it opened; Bush said of his time there, "I loved my brief time in the world of academia." Between 1977 and 1979, he was a director of the Council on Foreign Relations foreign policy organization.

1980 presidential campaignEdit

See also: United States presidential election, 1980


Bush had decided in the late 1970s that he was going to run for president in 1980; in 1979, he attended 850 political events and traveled more than 250,000 miles (400,000 km) to campaign for the nation's highest office. In the contest for the Republican Party nomination, Bush stressed his wide range of government experience, while competing against rivals Howard Baker, Bob Dole, John Anderson (who would later run as an independent), Phil Crane, John Connally, and the front-runner Ronald Reagan, former actor and Governor of California. In the primary election, Bush focused almost entirely on the Iowa caucuses, while Reagan ran a more traditional campaign. Bush represented the centrist wing in the GOP, whereas Reagan represented conservatives. Bush famously labeled Reagan's supply side-influenced plans for massive tax cuts "voodoo economics." His strategy proved useful, to some degree, as he won in Iowa with 31.5% to Reagan's 29.4%. After the win, Bush stated that his campaign was full of momentum, or "Big Mo". As a result of the loss, Reagan replaced his campaign manager, reorganized his staff, and concentrated on the New Hampshire primary. The two men agreed to a debate in the state, organized by the Nashua Telegraph, but paid for by the Reagan campaign. Reagan invited the other four candidates as well, but Bush refused to debate them, and eventually they left. The debate proved to be a pivotal moment in the campaign; when the moderator, John Breene, ordered Reagan's microphone turned off, his angry response, "I am paying for this microphone Mr. Greene" [sic], struck a chord with the public. Bush ended up losing New Hampshire's primary with 23% to Reagan's 50%. Bush lost most of the remaining primaries as well, and formally dropped out of the race in May of that year. With his political future seeming dismal, Bush sold his house in Houston and bought his grandfather's estate in Kennebunkport, Maine, known as "Walker's Point."[28] At the Republican Convention, however, Reagan selected Bush as his Vice Presidential nominee, placing him on the winning Republican presidential ticket of 1980.

Vice Presidency (1981–1989)Edit

As Vice President, Bush generally took on a low-profile while recognizing the constitutional limits of the office; he avoided decision making or criticizing Reagan in any way As had become customary, he and Barbara Bush moved into the Vice President's residence at Number One Observatory Circle, a few blocks from the White House. The Bushes attended a large number of public and ceremonial events in their positions, including many state funerals, which became a common joke for comedians.[21] Mrs. Bush found the funerals largely beneficial, saying, "George met with many current or future heads of state at the funerals he attended, enabling him to forge personal relationships that were important to President Reagan." As the President of the Senate, Bush stayed in contact with members of Congress, and kept the president informed on occurrences on Capitol Hill.


1988 presidential campaignEdit

Main article: United States presidential election, 1988



Bush had been planning a presidential run since as early as 1985,] and entered the Republican primary for President of the United States in October 1987. His challengers for the Republican presidential nomination included US Senator Bob Dole of Kansas, US Representative Jack Kemp of New York, former Governor Pete DuPont of Delaware, and conservative Christian televangelist Pat Robertson. Though considered the early frontrunner for the nomination, Bush came in third in the Iowa caucus, behind winner Dole and runner-up Robertson. Much like Reagan did in 1980, Bush reorganized his staff and concentrated on the New Hampshire primary. With Dole ahead in New Hampshire, Bush ran television commercials portraying the senator as a tax raiser; he rebounded to win the state's primary. Bush continued seeing victory, winning many Southern primaries as well. Once the multiple-state primaries such as Super Tuesday began, Bush's organizational strength and fundraising lead were impossible for the other candidates to match, and the nomination was his. Leading up to the 1988 Republican National Convention, there was much speculation as to Bush's choice of running mate. In a move anticipated by few, Bush chose little-known US Senator Dan Quayle of Indiana, favored by conservatives. Despite Reagan's popularity, Bush trailed Democratic nominee Michael Dukakis, then Governor of Massachusetts, in most polls.




The general election campaign between the two men has been described as one of the nastiest in modern times. Bush blamed Dukakis for polluting the Boston Harbor as the Massachusetts governor. Bush also pointed out that Dukakis was opposed to the law that would require all students to say the Pledge of Allegiance, a topic well covered in Bush's nomination acceptance speech. Dukakis's unconditional opposition to capital punishment led to a pointed question during the presidential debates. Moderator Bernard Shaw asked Dukakis hypothetically if Dukakis would support the death penalty if his wife, Kitty, were raped and murdered. Dukakis's response of no as well as the Willie Horton ad contributed toward Bush's characterization of him as "soft on crime." Bush defeated Dukakis and his running mate, Lloyd Bentsen, in the Electoral College, by 426 to 111 (Bentsen received one vote from a faithless elector). In the nationwide popular vote, Bush took 53.4% of the ballots cast while Dukakis received 45.6%. Bush became the first serving Vice President to be elected President since Martin Van Buren in 1836. As Vice President, Bush officially opened the 1987 Pan American Games in Indianapolis.

Presidency (1989–1993)Edit

Bush was inaugurated on January 20, 1989, succeeding Ronald Reagan. He entered office at a period of change in the world; the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of Soviet Union came early in his presidency.[37] He ordered military operations in Panama and the Persian Gulf and, at one point, was recorded as having a record-high approval rating of 89%.[38] However, economic recession and breaking his "no new taxes" pledge caused a sharp decline in his approval rating, and Bush was defeated in the 1992 election.

Foreign policyEdit

PanamaEdit

In the 1980s, Panamanian leader Manuel Noriega, a once US-supportive leader who was later accused of spying for Fidel Castro and using Panama to traffic drugs into the US, was one of the most recognizable names in the United States, being constantly covered by the press. The struggle to remove him from power began in the Reagan administration, when economic sanctions were imposed on the country; this included prohibiting US companies and government from making payments to Panama and freezing $56 million in Panamanian funds in US banks. Reagan sent more than 2,000 US troops to Panama as well. Unlike Reagan, Bush was able to remove Noriega from power, but his administration's unsuccessful post-invasion planning hindered the needs of Panama during the establishment of the young democratic government.

Gulf WarEdit

On August 1, 1990, Iraq, led by Saddam Hussein, invaded its oil-rich neighbor to the south, Kuwait; Bush condemned the invasion and began rallying opposition to Iraq in the US and among European, Asian, and Middle Eastern allies. Secretary of Defense Richard Bruce "Dick" Cheney traveled to Saudi Arabia to meet with King Fahd; Fahd requested US military aid in the matter, fearing a possible invasion of his country as well.[46] The request was met initially with Air Force fighter jets. Iraq made attempts to negotiate with Bush through a deal that would allow the country to take control of half of Kuwait. Bush rejected this proposal and insisted on a complete withdrawal of Iraqi forces.[11] The planning of a ground operation by US-led coalition forces began forming in September 1990, headed by General Norman Schwarzkopf. Bush spoke before a joint session of the US Congress regarding the authorization of air and land attacks, laying out four immediate objectives: "Iraq must withdraw from Kuwait completely, immediately, and without condition. Kuwait's legitimate government must be restored. The security and stability of the Persian Gulf must be assured. And American citizens abroad must be protected." He then outlined a fifth, long-term objective: "Out of these troubled times, our fifth objective — a new world order — can emerge: a new era — freer from the threat of terror, stronger in the pursuit of justice, and more secure in the quest for peace. An era in which the nations of the world, East and West, North and South, can prosper and live in harmony[...] A world where the rule of law supplants the rule of the jungle. A world in which nations recognize the shared responsibility for freedom and justice. A world where the strong respect the rights of the weak." With the United Nations Security Council opposed to Iraq's violence, Congress authorized the use of military force, with a set goal of returning control of Kuwait to the Kuwaiti government, and protecting America's interests abroad. Early on the morning of January 17, 1991, allied forces launched the first attack, which included more than 4,000 bombing runs by coalition aircraft. This pace would continue for the next four weeks, until a ground invasion was launched on February 24. Allied forces penetrated Iraqi lines and pushed toward Kuwait City while on the west side of the country, forces were intercepting the retreating Iraqi army. Bush made the decision to stop the offensive after a mere 100 hours. Critics labeled this decision premature, as hundreds of Iraqi forces were able to escape; Bush responded by saying that he wanted to minimize US casualties. Opponents further charged that Bush should have continued the attack, pushing Hussein's army back to Baghdad, then remove him from power.Bush explained that he did not give the order to overthrow the Iraqi government because it would have "incurred incalculable human and political costs.... We would have been forced to occupy Baghdad and, in effect, rule Iraq." Bush's approval ratings skyrocketed after the successful offensive. Additionally, President Bush and Secretary of State Baker felt the coalition victory had increased U.S. prestige abroad and believed there was a window of opportunity to use the political capital generated by the coalition victory to revitalize the Arab-Israeli peace process. The administration immediately returned to Arab-Israeli peacemaking following the end of the Gulf War; this resulted in the Madrid Conference, later in 1991.


1992 presidential electionEdit

In early 1992, the race took an unexpected twist when Texas billionaire H. Ross Perot launched a third party bid, claiming that neither Republicans nor Democrats could eliminate the deficit and make government more efficient. His message appealed to voters across the political spectrum disappointed with both parties' perceived fiscal irresponsibility. Perot later bowed out of the race for a short time, then reentered. Clinton had originally been in the lead, until Perot reentered, tightening the race significantly. Nearing election day, polls suggested that the race was a dead-heat, but Clinton pulled out on top, defeating Bush in a 43% to 38% popular vote margin. Perot won 19% of the popular vote, one of the highest totals for a third party candidate in US history, drawing equally from both major candidates, according to exit polls. Bush received 168 electoral votes to Clinton's 370. Several factors were key in Bush's defeat, including agreeing in 1990 to raise taxes despite his famous "Read my lips: no new taxes" pledge. In doing so, Bush alienated many members of his conservative base, losing their support for his re-election. Of the voters who cited Bush's broken "No New Taxes" pledge as "very important", two thirds voted for Bill Clinton. Bush had raised taxes in an attempt to address an increasing budget deficit, which has largely been attributed to the Reagan tax cuts and military spending of the 1980s. In addition to these factors, the ailing economy which arose from recession may have been the main factor in Bush's loss, as 7 in 10 voters said on election day that the economy was either "not so good" or "poor". On the eve of the 1992 election against these factors, Bush's approval rating stood at just 37%[71] after suffering low ratings throughout the year.] Despite his defeat, Bush climbed back from election day approval levels to leave office in 1993 with a 56% job approval rating.

Post-PresidencyEdit

JPII on bier

Bush, along with George W. Bush, Laura Bush, Bill Clinton, Condoleezza Rice, and Andrew Card pay their respects to Pope John Paul II before the pope's funeral, 2005.




Since his 1992 election campaign, Bush has retired with his wife, Barbara, to their home in the exclusive neighborhood of Tanglewood in Houston, with a presidential office nearby. They spend the summer at Walker's Point in Kennebunkport, Maine. Bush holds his own fishing tournament in Islamorada, an island in the Florida Keys. In 1993, Bush was awarded an honorary knighthood (GCB) by Queen Elizabeth II. He was the third American president to receive the honor, the others being Dwight D. Eisenhower and Ronald Reagan.[74] In 1993, Bush visited Kuwait to commemorate the coalition's victory over Iraq in the Gulf War, where he was supposedly targeted in an assassination plot. Kuwaiti authorities arrested 17 people allegedly involved in using a car bomb to kill Bush. Through interviews with the suspects and examinations of the bomb's circuitry and wiring, the FBI established that the plot had been directed by the Iraqi Intelligence Service. A Kuwaiti court later convicted all but one of the defendants. Two months later, in retaliation, President Clinton ordered the firing of 23 cruise missiles at Iraqi Intelligence Service headquarters in Baghdad. The day before the strike commenced, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Madeleine Albright went before the Security Council to present evidence of the Iraqi plot. After the missiles were fired, Vice President Al Gore said the attack "was intended to be a proportionate response at the place where this plot" to assassinate Bush "was hatched and implemented." [75] His eldest son, George W. Bush, was inaugurated as the 43rd President of the United States on January 20, 2001. Through previous administrations, the elder Bush had ubiquitously been known as "George Bush" or "President Bush", but following his son's election the need to distinguish between them has made retronymic forms such as "George H. W. Bush" and "George Bush senior." — and colloquialisms such as "Bush 41" and "Bush the Elder" much more common. To date, Bush has not produced a presidential memoir.

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