Just the Facts
Five Facts on George Herbert Walker Bush’s Legacy
By Emma Petasis
December 3, 2018 | Blog
Former President George H. W. Bush passed away Friday, November 30, at his home in Houston. He will lie in state at the U.S. Capitol until Wednesday morning when services will be held at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., and Thursday at Saint Martin’s Episcopal Church in Houston. President Bush is being remembered as a global leader and advocate for bipartisanship. Here are five facts on his tenure as a public servant.
George H.W. Bush’s service to the United States began long before his presidency.
Before being elected president, Bush served in the U.S. House of Representatives from Texas’ 7th District, as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations from 1967 to 1971, chairman of the Republican National Committee, chief of the U.S. Liaison Office in the People’s Republic of China, CIA director from 1976 to 1977, and for eight years as vice president in the Reagan Administration. Bush joined the Navy on his 18th birthday in 1942 and was once the youngest aviator in the Navy, flying 58 missions off the carrier USS San Jacinto.
George H.W. Bush navigated several historic events during his presidency, including the end of the Cold War and the First Gulf War.
From 1989 to 1993, Bush navigated negotiations surrounding the collapse of the Soviet Union and the subsequent creation of 15 new, Post-Soviet states in 1991. During these years, Bush was a major figure in unifying Germany following the fall of the Berlin Wall and bringing Germany into the NATO alliance, while establishing relationships with Soviet leaders like Mikhail Gorbachev and first Russian President Boris Yeltsin. From 1990 to 1991, Bush was also responsible for organizing the global coalition of 35 nations that defeated Saddam Hussein in the First Gulf War in response to Iraq’s invasion and annexation of Kuwait.
Under Bush’s leadership, landmark bipartisan legislation passed.
Despite the overwhelming Democratic majorities in the House and Senate during all four years of his presidency, Bush was able to pass sweeping bipartisan legislation such as the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Clean Air Act Amendments, and the 1990 Budget Agreement. His tenure was not without controversy. Bush’s work with Democrats on deficit reduction (which subsequently raised taxes), angered congressional Republicans, but paved the way for an economic boom under the Clinton Administration.
Bush is remembered for meeting with political adversaries—and befriending them.
Within a week of being elected president in 1988, Bush established a relationship with then-Senate Majority Leader Robert C. Byrd (D-WV). The two would go on to speak often during Bush’s presidency. He also established working relationships with other prominent Democrats such as Sen. Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts and Illinios Congressman Dan Rostenkowski. Bush would later go on to cultivate a warm friendship with President Bill Clinton, who defeated his re-election bid in 1992. Famously, Bush’s Inauguration Day letter of support to President Clinton as he took office in 1993 cemented an ongoing tradition in the transfer of presidential power.
Many members of the White House press corps remember Bush as good-humored and regularly providing colorful moments.
In 1990, Bush publicly declared his personal distaste for broccoli, saying he didn’t have to eat it because he was president and prompting an outcry from the American broccoli lobby. Many staffers and members of the press remember his regular, handwritten thank you notes, and that he treated his traveling press photographers to “weenie roasts.” During his final Christmas in the White House, he invited comedian Dana Carvey—who impersonated Bush on Saturday Night Live—to address a holiday party in character. In his post-presidency years, Bush celebrated his 75th, 80th, 85th, and 90th birthdays by skydiving.