George H.W. Bush: One-term president helmed political dynasty

WASHINGTON, Dec 1 (INP) – George H.W. Bush — the upper-crust war hero-turned-oilman ‎and diplomat who steered America through the end of the Cold War as president and led a political ‎dynasty that saw his son win the White House — died Friday. He was 94. ‎

‎ The 41st American president was a foreign policy realist who navigated the turbulent but largely ‎peaceful fall of the Soviet Union in 1989 and assembled an unprecedented coalition to defeat Iraqi ‎strongman Saddam Hussein two years later.‎

‎ But the decorated war pilot and former CIA chief suffered the ignominy of being a one-term ‎president, denied a second term over a weak economy when he lost the 1992 election to upstart ‎Democrat Bill Clinton.‎

‎ His favoring of stability and international consensus stands in sharp contrast to the provocative ‎bluster of fellow Republican and current White House occupant Donald Trump, a man whom Bush did ‎not vote for in 2016.‎

‎ Bush presided over economic malaise at home, and infuriated his fellow Republicans during a budget ‎battle with rival Democrats by famously breaking his vow: “Read my Lips: No new taxes.”‎

‎ But he was the respected patriarch of a blue-blood political dynasty — son George spent eight years ‎in the White House, and son Jeb served as governor of Florida.‎

‎ George W. Bush called his father a “man of the highest character and the best dad a son or daughter ‎could ask for,” in a statement announcing his death. ‎

‎ Bush’s passing comes just months after the death in April of his wife and revered first lady Barbara ‎Bush his “most beloved woman in the world” — to whom he was married for 73 years.‎

‎ At the time of his death, Bush was the American president to have lived the longest. Jimmy Carter ‎was born a few months later, so he could quickly reset the record.‎

‎George Herbert Walker Bush was born on June 12, 1924 in Milton, Massachusetts into a wealthy New ‎England political dynasty — the son of Prescott Bush, a successful banker and US senator for ‎Connecticut.‎

‎ Bush had a pampered upbringing and attended the prestigious Phillips Academy in Andover, but ‎delayed his acceptance to Yale University in order to enlist in the US Navy on his 18th birthday and ‎head off to war.‎

‎ He flew 58 combat missions during World War II. 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.‎

‎ Bush married Barbara Pierce in January 1945, shortly before the war ended, and the couple went on ‎to have six children, including one, Robin, who died as a child.‎

‎ Instead of joining his father in banking upon graduation from Yale, Bush headed to bleak west Texas ‎to break into the rough-and-tumble oil business.‎

‎ He surprised many with his success, and by 1958 had settled in Houston as president of an offshore ‎drilling company.‎

‎ In the 1960s, Bush, now independently wealthy, turned to politics. ‎

‎ He was a local Republican Party chairman, and in 1966 won a seat in the US House of Representatives. ‎He served there until 1970, when he lost a bid for the Senate.‎

‎ Over the next decade, he held several high-level posts that took him and Barbara around the world: ‎head of the Republican National Committee, US ambassador to the United Nations, envoy to China ‎and director of the Central Intelligence Agency, where he was praised for restoring morale after ‎revelations of widespread illegal activity.‎

‎ He served as vice president to Ronald Reagan after losing to him in the 1980 Republican primary, an ‎eight-year period of hands-on training for the top post he would go on to win by a solid margin in 1988, ‎as the Cold War was coming to an end.‎

‎In a major test of the post-Cold War order, Saddam’s million-man army invaded Kuwait in 1990 and ‎looked set to roll into Saudi Arabia, which would have given the Iraqi strongman more than 40 percent ‎of the world’s oil reserves.‎

‎ Bush famously vowed: “This will not stand, this aggression against Kuwait.”‎

‎ He assembled a coalition of 32 nations to drive Iraqi forces out in a matter of weeks with a lightning ‎air and ground assault.‎

‎ Some 425,000 US troops backed by 118,000 allied soldiers took part in Operation Desert Storm, ‎decimating Saddam’s military machine without ousting him from power — a task that would be ‎accomplished 12 years later by Bush’s son.‎

‎ Buoyed by his victory in the Gulf, Bush and his hard-nosed and widely respected secretary of state ‎James Baker cobbled together the 1991 Madrid Conference 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 sent US troops to Panama to oust strongman Manuel Noriega. He also set the ‎groundwork for the North American Free Trade Agreement.‎

‎ Domestically, however, the economy stalled and Bush broke his pledge not to raise taxes in order to ‎reach a budget deal with Democrats — a cardinal sin in the eyes of Republicans.‎

‎ In 1992, Bush lost his re-election bid to Clinton — whose aide coined the now famous slogan “It’s the ‎economy, stupid” — as eccentric third-party candidate Ross Perot syphoned off conservative votes.‎

‎ The elder Bush’s cautious realpolitik would later be contrasted to his son’s far more costly ambition ‎to transform the Middle East, but “Bush 41” refused to weigh in on the debate, insisting he was proud ‎of the presidency of “Bush 43.”‎

‎After retiring from public life, Bush fulfilled a wartime pledge to one day jump out of a plane for fun ‎and famously went skydiving on his 75th, 80th, 85th and 90th birthdays.‎

‎ He joined Clinton to raise funds for victims of the 2004 Asian tsunami and the 2010 Haiti earthquake. ‎In 2011, Obama awarded Bush the highest US civilian honor, the Medal of Freedom.‎

‎ He worked with Carter, Clinton, Obama and son George to raise money for hurricane victims in Texas ‎in 2017.‎

‎ In 2001, Bush became just the second US president after John Adams to see his son become ‎president.‎

‎ Son Jeb made his own presidential run in 2016, but fell short in the Republican primaries against ‎Trump.‎

Inp/khan