George Herbert Walker Bush
41st President of the United States
January 20, 1989 – January 20, 1993
Vice President: Dan Quayle
Preceded by: Ronald Reagan
Succeeded by: Bill Cinton
Born: George Herbert Walker Bush June 12, 1924 Milton, Massachusetts, U.S.
Died: November 30, 2018 (aged 94) Houston, TX, U.S.
Resting Place: George Bush Presidential Library
Married: Barbara Pierce (m. 1945)
Father: Prescott Bush
Mother: Dorothy Walker
Education: Yale University (BA)
Political Party: Republican
Other Government Positions:
11th Director of Central Intelligence; January 30, 1976 – January 20, 1977
2nd Chief of the U.S. Liaison Office to the People's Republic of China; September 26, 1974 – December 7, 1975
49th Chairman of the Republican National Committee; January 19, 1973 – September 16, 1974
10th United States Ambassador to the United Nations; March 1, 1971 – January 18, 1973
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Texas's 7th district; January 3, 1967 – January 3, 1971
Presidential Salary: $400,000/year + $50,000 expense account
George Herbert Walker Bush was born at 173 Adams Street in Milton, Massachusetts, on June 12, 1924, to Prescott Sheldon Bush and Dorothy (Walker) Bush. The Bush family moved from Milton to Greenwich, Connecticut, shortly after his birth. Growing up, he used the nickname "Poppy".
Bush began his formal education at the Greenwich Country Day School in Greenwich. Beginning in 1938, he attended Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts, where he held a number of leadership positions that included president of the senior class, 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.
The United States formally entered World War II in December 1941, following Japan's surprise attack on Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. Six months later, Bush enlisted into the U.S. Navy immediately after he graduated from Phillips Academy on his eighteenth birthday. He became a naval aviator, taking training for aircraft carrier operations aboard USS Sable. After completing the 10-month course, he was commissioned as an ensign in the United States Naval Reserve at Naval Air Station Corpus Christi on June 9, 1943 (just three days before his 19th birthday), which made him the youngest naval aviator to that date.
In September 1943, he was assigned to Torpedo Squadron 51 (VT-51) as the photographic officer. The following year, his squadron was based in 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.
In November 1944, Bush returned to San Jacinto 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 missions for which he received the Distinguished Flying Cross, three Air Medals, and the Presidential Unit Citation awarded to San Jacinto. Bush was then reassigned to a training wing for torpedo bomber crews at Norfolk Navy Base, Virginia. His final assignment was to a new torpedo squadron, VT-153, based at Naval Air Station Grosse Ile, Michigan. Bush was honorably discharged from the U.S. Navy in September 1945, one month after the surrender of Japan.
After graduating from Yale, Bush moved his young family to West Texas. His father's business connections proved useful as he ventured into the oil business, starting as an oil field equipment salesman for Dresser Industries, a subsidiary of Brown Brothers Harriman (where Prescott Bush had served on the board of directors for 22 years). While working for Dresser, Bush lived in various places with his family: Odessa, Texas; Ventura, Bakersfield and Compton, California; and Midland, Texas. (According to eldest son George W. Bush, then age two, the family lived in one of the few duplexes in Odessa with an indoor bathroom, which they "shared with a couple of hookers".) Bush started the Bush-Overbey Oil Development company in 1951 and in 1953 co-founded the Zapata Petroleum Corporation, an oil company that drilled in the Permian Basin in Texas. In 1954, he was named president of the Zapata Offshore Company, a subsidiary which specialized in offshore drilling.
Shortly after the subsidiary became independent in 1959, Bush moved the company and his family from Midland to Houston. He continued serving as president of the company until 1964, and later chairman until 1966, when he won election to the U.S. House of Representatives. By that time, Bush had become a millionaire.
Early political career (1963–1980)
Congressional years (1967–1971)
Bush's career in politics began in 1963 when he was elected chairman of the Harris County, Texas Republican Party. The following year, he ran against incumbent Democrat Ralph W. Yarborough in the U.S. Senate race. He presented himself as a young Conservative Republican in contrast to the aging liberal Democrat Yarborough. He campaigned against civil rights legislation pending before Congress, stating that he believed it gave too much power to the federal government. Bush lost the election 56% to 44%, though he did outpoll Republican presidential nominee Barry Goldwater, who lost by an overwhelming margin to Lyndon B. Johnson.
Bush and the Harris County Republicans played a role in the development of the new Republican Party of the late 20th century. First, Bush worked to absorb the John Birch Society members, who were trying to take over the Republican Party. Second, during and after the civil rights movement, Democrats in the South who were committed to segregation left their party, and although the "country club Republicans" had differing ideological beliefs, they found common ground in hoping to expel the Democrats from power.
In 1966, Bush was elected to a seat in the United States House of Representatives from the 7th District of Texas; he won 57 percent of the ballots cast in a race against Democrat Frank Briscoe, who was the district attorney of Harris County. Bush was the first Republican to represent Houston in the U.S. House. Bush's representative district included Tanglewood, the Houston neighborhood that was his residence; his family had moved into Tanglewood in the 1960s. His voting record in the House was generally conservative: Bush voted for the Civil Rights Act of 1968, although it was generally unpopular in his district. He supported the Nixon administration's Vietnam policies, but broke with Republicans on the issue of birth control, which he supported. 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, Nixon convinced Bush to relinquish his House seat in order to run for the Senate against Ralph Yarborough, who was a fierce Nixon critic. In the Republican primary, Bush easily defeated conservative Robert J. Morris by a margin of 87.6% to 12.4%. Nixon went to Longview, Texas, to campaign for Bush and gubernatorial candidate Paul Eggers, a Dallas lawyer who was a close friend of U.S. Senator John G. Tower. Former Congressman Lloyd Bentsen, a more moderate Democrat and native of Mission in south Texas, defeated Yarborough in the Democratic primary. Yarborough endorsed Bentsen, who defeated Bush, 53.4 to 46.6%.
Ambassador to the United Nations (1971–1973)
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. 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 Committee (1973–1974)
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. 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 Nixon eventually resign for the good of the Republican party. 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.... [President Gerald Ford's swearing-in offered] indeed a new spirit, a new lift."
Envoy to China (1974–1975)
President Gerald Ford appointed Bush to be Chief of the U.S. 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 14 months that he spent in China were largely seen as beneficial for U.S.-China relations.
After Ford assumed the presidency, Bush was under serious consideration for being nominated as vice president. Ford eventually narrowed his list to Nelson Rockefeller and Bush. White House Chief of Staff Donald Rumsfeld reportedly preferred Rockefeller over Bush. Rockefeller was finally named and confirmed.
Bush was again passed over for the vice presidency by Ford when the president chose Bush's future presidential rival, Senator Bob Dole, to replace Rockefeller on the 1976 presidential ticket.
Director of Central Intelligence (1976–1977)
In 1976 Ford brought Bush back to Washington to become Director of Central Intelligence (DCI), replacing William Colby. He served in this role for 357 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 the Church 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 did not do so. He was succeeded by Deputy Director of Central Intelligence E. Henry Knoche, who served as acting Director of Central Intelligence until Stansfield Turner was confirmed.
During Bush’s year in charge of the CIA, the U.S. national security apparatus actively supported Operation Condor operations and right-wing military dictatorships in Latin America.
Other positions (1977–1981)
After Democrat Jimmy Carter 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's 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 campaign
First term, 1981–1985
As vice president, Bush generally maintained a typically low profile while he recognized the constitutional limits of the office; he avoided decision-making or criticizing Reagan in any way. As had become customary, he and his wife moved into the Vice President's residence at Number One Observatory Circle, about two miles from the White House. After selling the house in Tanglewood, the Bushes declared a room in The Houstonian Hotel in Houston as their official voting address. 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. 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.
Bush had decided in the late 1970s that he was going to run for president in 1980; in 1979, he attended 850 political events ("cattle calls") 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 Senator Howard Baker of Tennessee, Senator Bob Dole of Kansas, Congressman John Anderson of Illinois (who would later run as an independent), Congressman Phil Crane, also of Illinois, former Governor John Connally of Texas, former Minnesota Governor Harold Stassen, and the front-runner Ronald Reagan, former actor, and Governor of California.
On March 30, 1981 (early into the administration), Reagan was shot and seriously wounded by John Hinckley Jr. in Washington, D.C. Bush was in Fort Worth, Texas, and immediately flew back to Washington because he was next in line to the presidency. Reagan's cabinet convened in the White House Situation Room, where they discussed various issues, including the availability of the Nuclear Football. When Bush's plane landed, he was advised by his aides to proceed directly to the White House by helicopter as an image of the government still functioning despite the attack. Bush rejected the idea, responding, "Only the President lands on the South Lawn." This made a positive impression on Reagan, who recovered and returned to work within two weeks. From then on, the two men would have regular Thursday lunches in the Oval Office.
At a Republican fundraiser in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in June 1981, Bush stated that President Reagan was unwilling to make additional tax cut compromises with Congress.
In September 1981, Bush traveled to Mexico to participate in Independence Day celebrations there. He said in a statement that President Reagan was "deeply committed to strengthening the friendship and cooperation between our countries".
In November 1981, Bush toured western Texas to offer support for beleaguered Director of the Office of Management and Budget David Stockman, who he believed was intelligent but needed to adjust to managing journalists.
During a December 1981 interview, Bush stated that he was convinced news leaks by unnamed administration officials were correct and had succeeded in hurting President Reagan: "I really feel we have been undisciplined in this White House. We've not served the president well by these leaks."
On April 28, 1982, Bush met with Prime Minister of Singapore Lee Kuan Yew for a wide-ranging discussion that included speaking about regional security, the world economy, and Soviet expansionism in Southeast Asia, and later that month, Bush confirmed he was considering traveling to China during his impending trip to Asia and the Pacific amid a news conference in Seoul, South Korea.
In November 1982, Bush toured Africa, the first instance of American government visiting there since the Reagan administration began. Bush told reporters that while he would allow for heads of state to dictate how each meeting would transpire, there was an expectation on his part for discussions on the independence of Namibia, adding that the US was going to retain the position of no settlement in Namibia until Cuban troops in Angola were withdrawn. On November 15, Bush met with United States Secretary of State George P. Shultz and Yuri Andropov in Moscow, Russia, to discuss human rights and arms reductions. Bush later said, "The meeting was frank, cordial and substantive. It gave both sides the opportunity to exchange views on the state of their relations."
At the end of January 1983, Bush began a seven-day tour of West Europe intended to promote the arms reduction commitment being advocated for by the Reagan administration. During a February 8 news conference in Paris, Bush said the US's invitations for the Soviet Union to consent to a reduction in medium-range missiles were supported by Western Europe, which he stated had also consented to the deployment of new American missiles starting in the latter part of the year. The following day, Bush defended American nuclear arms policy when answering British Secretary General of the Committee on Nuclear Disarmament Bruce Kent.
In September 1983, Bush met with President of Romania Nicolae Ceaușescu, insisting during the meeting that President Reagan intended to push for arms reductions at the Geneva talks with the Soviet Union. Shortly thereafter, Bush said the US wanted better relations with all countries within the East Bloc though stressed NATO would retaliate in the event of any threatening of European military stability by the Soviets, and the vice president assailed the Soviet Union for the Berlin Wall and destroying the Korean Air Lines jetliner.
In December 1983 Bush flew to El Salvador and warned that country's military leaders to end their death squads and hold fully free elections or face the loss of U.S. aid. "It is not just the President, it is not just me or the Congress. If these death-squad murders continue, you will lose the support of the American people and that would indeed be a tragedy." Bush's aides feared for his safety and thought about calling the meeting off when they discovered apparent blood stains on the floor of the presidential palace of Álvaro Magaña. Bush was never told of the aides' concerns and a tense meeting was held in which some of Magaña's personnel brandished semiautomatic weapons and refused requests to take them outside.
Bush was assigned by Reagan to chair two special task forces, on deregulation and international drug smuggling. The deregulation task force reviewed hundreds of rules, making specific recommendations on which ones to amend or revise, in order to curb the size of the federal government. The drug smuggling task force coordinated federal efforts to reduce the quantity of drugs entering the United States. Both were popular issues with conservatives, and Bush, largely a moderate, began courting them through his work.
In January 1984, Bush reported Reagan's stance on Moscow had projected a strong image toward the Soviets as well as heightened the possibility of an arms agreement.
On February 10, 1984, President Reagan designated Bush to lead the American delegation to the funeral of Yuri V. Andropov and convey America's "hope for an improved dialogue and cooperation which can lead to a more constructive relationship between our two countries." On February 24, Bush spoke on the progress made in Grenada as a result of the Reagan administration coming into play following Vietnam, Watergate, and the presidency of Jimmy Carter while talking to the American Soybean Association: "When the president faced this crisis in Grenada he didn't wait until we were taken hostage, he acted before the crisis became a humiliation."
On June 14, 1984, Bush cast a tie-breaking vote in the Senate in favor of the 10-warhead MX missile.
In September 1984, Bush said President Reagan likely would state his responsibility for the failure to protect the Beirut American embassy from bombing but stressed the difficulty of pressure.
Second term, 1985–1989
Reagan and Bush ran for reelection in 1984. The Democratic opponent, Walter Mondale, made history by choosing a woman, New York Representative Geraldine Ferraro, as his running mate. She and Bush squared off in a single televised vice presidential debate. Ferraro served as a contrast to the Ivy-League educated Bush; she represented a "blue-collar" district in Queens, New York. This distinction and her popularity among female journalists left Bush at a disadvantage. Regardless, the Reagan-Bush ticket won in a landslide against the Mondale-Ferraro ticket. Early into his second term as vice president, Bush and his aides were planning a run for the presidency in 1988. By the end of 1985, a committee had been established and over two million dollars were raised for Bush.
In mid-March 1985, Bush attended the funeral of Konstantin Chernenko, telling reporters in Geneva, Switzerland, that he had "brought a message with me to Moscow from President Reagan. It is a message of peace." During this trip, Bush pledged the US would proceed with a planned military pullout from Grenada during a rally, met with President of Nicaragua Daniel Ortega for discussions on the four-point plan for peace of the Sandinista government in Brazil, and stated America would be committed in combatting the Sandinista regime within Nicaragua during an address in Honduras.
On July 13, 1985, Bush became the first vice president to serve as acting president when Reagan underwent surgery to remove polyps from his colon; Bush served as the acting president for approximately eight hours.
In October 1985, Bush toured Pearl Harbor while he received a briefing on Pacific Fleet operations. He told reporters of an improvement in Sino-American relations and disclosed Taiwan as a major topic in his discussions with Chinese officials.
In 1986, the Reagan administration was shaken by a scandal when it was revealed that administration officials had secretly arranged weapon sales to Iran. The officials had used the proceeds to fund the anti-communist Contras in Nicaragua, which was a direct violation of law. The scandal became known as the Iran-Contra Affair. When news of the public embarrassment broke to the media, Bush, like Reagan, stated that he had been "out of the loop" and unaware of the diversion of funds, although this was later questioned. His diaries from that time stated "I'm one of the few people that know fully the details" and as a result of six pardons by Bush, the independent counsel's final report on the Iran-Contra Affair pointedly noted: "The criminal investigation of Bush was regrettably incomplete."
In March 1986, Bush outlined the government's policy on the combating of terrorism. In an interagency task force report presented to President Reagan, Bush publicly stated that the strategy of the federal government was to retaliate without "wantonly" terminating human lives. In early April 1986, Bush was hoping to preserve peace when he traveled to the Persian Gulf.
In May, Bush underwent a procedure to remove a malignant growth from his left cheek. His spokesman Marlin Fitzwater said that doctors had found the growth weeks earlier.
During an appearance at a conference in January 1987, Bush confirmed the torture and subsequent murder of CIA agent William Francis Buckley by Islamic Jihad.
In February 1987, Bush addressed the National Religious Broadcasters, warning the group that intolerance was unacceptable and particularly called for racial tolerance. "We must let our children know hatred has no place in America. The Ku Klux Klan is an embarrassment to Christ, whose gospel is love, and an embarrassment to our nation, whose gospel is freedom."
In March 1987, Bush announced the resignation of advisor Fred Khedouri as well as implementation of Charles Greenleaf in the same role, and visited a drug rehabilitation center during a two-day swing through Florida, expressing the view that education was the sole means of ending drug issues throughout the US.
Bush officially opened the 1987 Pan American Games in Indianapolis on August 8, where his presence led to security delays.
In September 1987, Bush embarked on a month long trip to Poland and European allied countries. On September 22, Bush cast a tie breaking vote in the Senate to save the Strategic Defense Initiative from receiving a 800 million cut in funding. On September 25, Bush reemployed Peter Teeley as Director of Communications for his office and presidential campaign. On September 28, Bush delivered a televised address pledging that the US would forever be aligned with Poland.
Bush's campaign director Roger Ailes and others were concerned that Bush was seen as a "wimp." Bush put that image to rest when he displayed evident fury during an interview with Dan Rather.
On July 3, 1988, the guided missile cruiser USS Vincennes accidentally shot down Iran Air Flight 655, killing 290 passengers. Bush said that he would "never apologize for the United States of America. Ever. I don't care what the facts are."
1988 presidential campaign
In the January 26, 1987, issue of Time magazine, journalist Robert Ajemian reported in an article entitled "Where Is the Real George Bush?" that one of Bush's friends had urged him to spend several days at Camp David thinking through his plans for his prospective presidency. Bush responded in exasperation, "Oh, the vision thing." This oft-cited quote became a shorthand for the charge that Bush failed to contemplate or articulate important policy positions in a compelling and coherent manner. The phrase has since become a metonym for any politician's failure to incorporate a greater vision in a campaign, and has often been applied in the media to other politicians or public figures.
As early as 1985, Bush had been planning a presidential run; he entered the Republican primary for President of the United States in October 1987. His challengers for the Republican presidential nomination included U.S. Senator Bob Dole of Kansas, U.S. Representative Jack Kemp of New York, former Governor Pete du Pont of Delaware, and conservative Christian televangelist Pat Robertson.
Bush was considered the early frontrunner for the nomination, but he came in third in the Iowa caucus, behind winner Dole and runner-up Robertson. Much as Reagan had done 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. Following the primary, Bush and Dole had a joint media appearance, when the interviewer asked Dole if he had anything to say to Bush, Dole said, in response to the ads, "yeah, stop lying about my record!" in an angry tone. This is thought to have hurt Dole's campaign to Bush's benefit. 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.
As the 1988 Republican National Convention approached, there was much speculation who Bush would choose to be his running mate. He selected little-known U.S. Senator Dan Quayle of Indiana, who was favored by conservatives. Despite Reagan's popularity, Bush trailed Democratic nominee Michael Dukakis, then Governor of Massachusetts, in most polls.
Bush was occasionally criticized for his lack of eloquence when compared to Reagan, but he delivered a well-received speech at the 1988 Republican National Convention. Known as the "thousand points of light" speech, the presentation described Bush's vision of America. He endorsed the Pledge of Allegiance, capital punishment, and gun rights, and drew upon his long-standing Christian beliefs to support both prayer in schools and oppose abortion. The speech at the convention included Bush's famous pledge: "Read my lips: no new taxes."
The general election campaign between the two men was described in 2008 as one of the dirtiest in modern times. Bush blamed Dukakis for polluting the Boston Harbor as the Governor of Massachusetts. Bush also pointed out that Dukakis was opposed to a 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 being asked during the presidential debates. Moderator Bernard Shaw asked Dukakis if he would hypothetically support the death penalty if his wife, Kitty, were raped and murdered. Dukakis's response of no, as well as a provocative ad about convicted felon Willie Horton, contributed toward Bush's characterization of Dukakis 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 well as the first person to succeed someone from his own party to the presidency via election to the office in his own right since Herbert Hoover in 1929.
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 came early in his presidency, and the collapse of the Soviet Union came in 1991. 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%.
In his Inaugural Address, Bush said:
I come before you and assume the Presidency at a moment rich with promise. We live in a peaceful, prosperous time, but we can make it better. For a new breeze is blowing, and a world refreshed by freedom seems reborn; for in man's heart, if not in fact, the day of the dictator is over. The totalitarian era is passing, its old ideas blown away like leaves from an ancient, lifeless tree. A new breeze is blowing, and a nation refreshed by freedom stands ready to push on. There is new ground to be broken, and new action to be taken.
Early in his term, Bush faced the problem of what to do with leftover deficits spawned during the Reagan years. At $220 billion in 1990, the deficit had tripled since 1980. Bush was dedicated to curbing the deficit, believing that America could not continue to be a leader in the world without doing so. He began an effort to persuade the Democratic controlled Congress to act on the budget; with Republicans believing that the best way was to cut government spending, and Democrats convinced that the only way would be to raise taxes, Bush faced problems when it came to consensus building.
In the wake of a struggle with Congress, Bush was forced by the Democratic majority to raise tax revenues; as a result, many Republicans felt betrayed because Bush had promised "no new taxes" in his 1988 campaign. Perceiving a means of revenge, Republican congressmen defeated Bush's proposal, which would enact spending cuts and tax increases that would reduce the deficit by $500 billion over five years. Scrambling, Bush accepted the Democrats' demands for higher taxes and more spending, which alienated him from Republicans and gave way to a sharp decrease in popularity. Bush would later say that he wished he had never signed the bill. Near the end of the 101st Congress, the president and congressional members reached a compromise on a budget package that increased the marginal tax rate and phased out exemptions for high-income taxpayers. Although he originally demanded a reduction in the capital gains tax, Bush relented on this issue as well. This agreement with the Democratic leadership in Congress proved to be a turning point in the Bush presidency; his popularity among Republicans never fully recovered.
Coming at around the same time as the budget deal, America entered into a mild recession, lasting for six months. Many government programs, such as welfare, increased. As the unemployment rate edged upward in 1991, Bush signed a bill providing additional benefits for unemployed workers. The year 1991 was marked by many corporate reorganizations, which laid off a substantial number of workers. Many now unemployed were Republicans and independents, who had believed that their jobs were secure.
By his second year in office, Bush was told by his economic advisors to stop dealing with the economy, as they believed that he had done everything necessary to ensure his reelection. By 1992, interest and inflation rates were the lowest in years, but by midyear the unemployment rate reached 7.8%, the highest since 1984. In September 1992, the Census Bureau reported that 14.2% of all Americans lived in poverty. At a press conference in 1990, Bush told reporters that he found foreign policy more enjoyable.
On April 5, 1989, Bush submitted to Congress the Educational Excellence Act of 1989, a seven program education legislative proposal with the intent of achieving "a better-educated America." The proposal was opposed by Republicans seeking to shrink government's role in education and met with a lack of enthusiasm by Democrats. A week after submitting the proposal, Bush said his administration was seeking to provide waivers on "some regulations for poorer communities" and create "a kind of performance-driven partial deregulation of education" that would grant federal funding when schools showed high levels of accountability coupled with academic performance. Later in the year, from September 27–28, Bush held a two-day summit with American governors dedicated solely to education reform at the University of Virginia, the group forming a consensus to overhaul the American education system for the country's students to be closer in test scores in science, mathematics, and literacy.
In the 1990 State of the Union Address, Bush revealed his interest in his administration spearheading the increase in American high school graduation rates to 90% along with making American students "first in the world" in the subjects of math and science by 2000.
In a speech in the White House East Room on April 18, 1991, Bush called for both public and private citizens to become involved with education reform: "To those who want to see real improvement in American education, I say there will be no renaissance without revolution. It's time we held our schools, and ourselves, accountable for results." On June 3, Bush advocated for community participation in reforming the national education system and insisting America 2000 would fail "if we try to do it from Washington itself." On October 4, Bush met with representatives of the New American Schools Development Corp. at Camp David as the organization sought 200 million USD for education reform to aid with the forming of "new learning environments". In a November 25 appearance in Columbus, Ohio, Bush joined Governor of Ohio George Voinovich in formally announcing a state version of his education policy, "Ohio 2000". Bush concurrently declared he would be involved with a reform of troubled schools and charged the Democrat-controlled Congress with "fighting tooth and nail against our most important reforms".
On July 23, 1992, Bush signed the Higher Education Amendments of 1992, a resuming of "many programs in the Higher Education Act of 1965."
During a speech to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, Bush announced a vision to complete Space Station Freedom, resume exploration of the Moon and begin exploration of Mars. Although a space station was eventually constructed–work on the International Space Station began in 1998–other work has been confounded by NASA budgetary issues. In 1998, Bush received the Rotary National Award for Space Achievement's National Space Trophy for his pioneering leadership of the U.S. space program.
During his presidency, Bush signed a number of major bills into law, including the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990; this was one of the most pro-civil rights bills in decades. He was also the only president to successfully veto a civil rights act, having vetoed the job-discrimination protection Civil Rights Act of 1990. Bush feared racial quotas would be imposed, but later approved watered-down Civil Rights Act of 1991. He worked to increase federal spending for education, childcare, and advanced technology research. He also signed the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act which provides monetary compensation of people who had contracted cancer and a number of other specified diseases as a direct result of their exposure to atmospheric nuclear testing undertaken by the United States during the Cold War, or their exposure to high levels of radon while doing uranium mining. In dealing with the environment, Bush reauthorized the Clean Air Act, requiring cleaner burning fuels. He quarreled with Congress over an eventually signed bill to aid police in capturing criminals, and signed into law a measure to improve the nation's highway system. Bush signed the Immigration Act of 1990, which led to a 40 percent increase in legal immigration to the United States.
Bush became a life member of the National Rifle Association early in 1988 and had campaigned as a "pro-gun" candidate with the NRA's endorsement. In March 1989, he placed a temporary ban on the import of certain semiautomatic rifles. This action cost him endorsement from the NRA in 1992. Bush publicly resigned his life membership in the organization after receiving a form letter from the NRA depicting agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms as "jack-booted thugs." He called the NRA letter a "vicious slander on good people."
Points of Light
President Bush devoted attention to voluntary service as a means of solving some of America's most serious social problems. He often used the "thousand points of light" theme to describe the power of citizens to solve community problems. In his 1989 inaugural address, President Bush said, "I have spoken of a thousand points of light, of all the community organizations that are spread like stars throughout the Nation, doing good."
Four years later, in his report to the nation on The Points of Light Movement, President Bush said, "Points of Light are the soul of America. They are ordinary people who reach beyond themselves to touch the lives of those in need, bringing hope and opportunity, care and friendship. By giving so generously of themselves, these remarkable individuals show us not only what is best in our heritage but what all of us are called to become."
In 1990, the Points of Light Foundation was created as a nonprofit organization in Washington to promote this spirit of volunteerism. In 2007, the Points of Light Foundation merged with the Hands On Network with the goal of strengthening volunteerism, streamlining costs and services and deepening impact.Points of Light, the organization created through this merger, has approximately 250 affiliates in 22 countries and partnerships with thousands of nonprofits and companies dedicated to volunteer service around the world. In 2012, Points of Light mobilized 4 million volunteers in 30 million hours of service worth $635 million.
On October 16, 2009, President Barack Obama held a Presidential Forum on Service hosted by former President George H. W. Bush and Points of Light at the George Bush Presidential Library Center on the campus of Texas A&M University. The event celebrated the contributions of more than 4,500 Daily Point of Light award winners and honored President Bush's legacy of service and civic engagement.
In 2011, Points of Light paid tribute to President George H. W. Bush and volunteer service at Washington, D.C.'s Kennedy Center. President Bush was joined by Presidents Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush to highlight the role volunteer service plays in people's lives.
Daily Point of Light Award
President Bush created the Daily Point of Light Award in 1989 to recognize ordinary Americans from all walks of life taking direct and consequential voluntary action in their communities to solve serious social problems. The President focused great attention on these individuals and organizations, both to honor them for their tremendous work and to call the nation to join them and multiply their efforts. By the end of his administration, President Bush had recognized 1,020 Daily Points of Light representing all 50 states and addressing issues ranging from care for infants and teenagers with AIDS to adult illiteracy and from gang violence to job training for the homeless. The Daily Point of Light continues to be awarded by Points of Light and President Bush continues to sign all of the awards.
On July 15, 2013, President Barack Obama welcomed President Bush to the White House to celebrate the 5,000th Daily Point of Light Award. They bestowed the award on Floyd Hammer and Kathy Hamilton of Union, Iowa, for their work founding Outreach, a nonprofit that delivers free meals to hungry children in 15 countries.
Bush made two appointments to the Supreme Court of the United States: David Souter in 1990, and Clarence Thomas in 1991. Additionally, he appointed 42 judges to the United States Courts of Appeals and 148 judges to the United States district courts. Among these was Vaughn R. Walker, a gay man who ruled that California's Proposition 8 amendment was unconstitutional. Bush also experienced a number of judicial appointment controversies, as 11 nominees for 10 federal appellate judgeships were not processed by the Democratically-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee.
George H.W. Bush