Posted on 25-10-2009
Filed Under (History, Politics & Propaganda) by Rashtrakut

The previous post on this topic delved back into ancient Indian history.  This one deals with a person still alive and of far more recent vintage.  The underlying thesis of this post is not as likely to be as uncontroversial.  The presidency of his son has done wonders for the image of George Herbert Walker Bush.  However, most of the praise has been directed to his wise decision not to invade Iraq without knowing what regime he would install to replace Saddam Hussein.

The problem with the 41st President was that unlike his predecessor and successor he struggled to connect emotionally with the American people.  Since the Great Depression the failure to capture the emotive aspect of the American presidency can make or break an American President.  With his aristocratic Yankee upbringing and ivy league background, George H. W. Bush never  managed to be a man of the people.  Coming from the now largely defunct centrist wing of the Republican party he also struggled to connect with the religious right and other hard right conservatives who increasingly constituted the true believers of the Republican Party.  The failure to connect with the public and the lukewarm relations with his base resulted in his failure to reap the benefits of the major successes in his term.

On domestic issues his term saw the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Clean Air Act, neither of which did much to endear him with his base.  However, the act that caused him the most grief was his sensible decision to raise taxes to combat the rising deficit.  This required reneging on his unfortunate pledge at the 1988 Republican Convention to not raise taxes and was the straw that broke the camel’s back with the increasingly vocal contingent of supply-siders in his party.  And then there came the recession.  This is where his inability to relate and provide assurance to the public haunted him.  When he protested loudly at the end of the presidential campaign that the recession was over, he was mocked.  The first jobs report after his presidency would show that he was right and that must have stung.  The failure to relate would result in him being the first Republican to not win re-election since Herbert Hoover (ironically Bill Clinton would be the first Democrat to be re-elected since Hoover’s successor Franklin Delano Roosevelt).

George H. W. Bush was in someways a man out of his time.  A country club Republican and an internationalist in a party rapidly being taken over by religious zealots and America firsters.  A pragmatist on foreign policy he was the first President in decades to exert pressure on Israel that brought it to the peace table and briefly offered a glimmer of peace in that part of the world.  His other foreign policy successes are well known and need not be repeated here.  He did provide the quixotic contrast of gunboat diplomacy in Panama and then a humanitarian intervention in Somalia where no direct United States interests were affected.

It is interesting to speculate what direction United States politics would have taken had Bush been re-elected.  The Gingrich led takeover of Congress would have been much harder to achieve without the early missteps of Bill Clinton.  The fourth straight Presidential loss would have severely demoralized the Democratic Party and resulted in some major infighting among its various factions.

In an age of vitriolic politics it is heartwarming to observe the friendship that has emerged between No. 41 and the man who shoved him out of the oval office.  So here is a nod to an underrated President who was had the pragmatism to make the compromises necessary to govern with a Democratic Congress, who understood the limits of American power and when to end a war, but ultimately failed because of his failure to use the propaganda arm to overcome the perception of an out of touch leader.

(1) Comment   


[…] nostalgia for George Herbert Walker Bush in certain circles.  This Blog shares that nostalgia and posted similar emotions about a year and a half […]

Post a Comment