POTUS #41 George H. W. Bush turns 89 today. He hasn’t been in the best of health this past year, spending a considerable time this winter in the hospital down in Houston. George H.W. Bush had a hard act to follow in Dutch Reagan. I think in the long run history will be somewhat kind to the senior Bush. His greatest accomplishment had to have been putting together the coalition to defeat Saddam in Gulf War I. His popularity was through the roof when the war ended in the spring of 1991. It seemed like every day there was a leading democratic candidate possibility deciding that 1992 wasn’t the year to run. At the time it looked like a wasted effort. No one was going to beat GHW Bush.
I can remember the moment when I knew he was cooked. That summer I was out in the car going somewhere and I could tell you the spot on the road I was-when I heard on the radio news that GHW Bush had decided to break his oath of “No New Taxes.” I knew he was toast at that moment.
A couple things on that 1992 race against Bill Clinton. I will always believe it Lee Atwater hadn’t gotten brain cancer and died that it would have turned out differently. The Bush campaign lacked the killer instinct that year. The impression I got from GHW Bush himself was, he was tired. On the campaign trail he seemed wore out. The fire wasn’t in the belly. Not saying he wanted to lose but I think when it was all over and he went home in January 1993, he was happy to go home. If Atwater had lived, he would have destroyed Clinton. Atwater was ruthless. The Bush campaign without him was much too gentleman-like to win against a candidate who had a lot you could use against him. In the end, I think the people after 8 years of Dutch and 4 of his VP Bush, just wanted a change.
I think it says a lot about GHW Bush-and about Clinton too-how in the past decade or so they have become friends. GW jokes that Bill is his brother. A Jimmy Carter for example still hasn’t gotten over the ass-kicking he got in 1980. GHW- just moved on.
As far as history goes I think GHW Bush will be rated as an average president. Not a great one but I do think he has been underrated. Now the son is a different matter. I do not think history is going to be kind to him. Nor should it.