RIP President George H. W. Bush. What is his legacy?

How would you assess political legacy of President Bush, what from what he had done still resonate (should resonate) in American politics? Read few comments.

President George H. W. Bush (1924 – 2018). Credit: https://www.bush41.org/

Marty Linsky, Adjunct Lecturer, Harvard University, Co-founder, Cambridge Leadership Associates

George H. W. Bush’s legacy will be as a transitional political figure, the last of the patrician Republicans with roots in the northeast who were the face of the Party for most of the 20th Century. He was a lifetime public servant, with a clear and nuanced approach to foreign policy, epitomized in his orchestration of an international coalition to stop Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in the Gulf War but without attacking Iraq itself and his continuing to re-engage Russia, ending the Cold War and the arms race. On domestic policy, he seemed to have no overriding perspective, lurching from one issue to another, and missing completely the economic distress many Americans were experiencing, which undoubtedly led to his decisive loss to Bill Clinton in 1992. In retirement, he was able to burnish his image as a benign statesman, partnering with Clinton on several initiatives and distancing himself from the harsh rhetoric and crude manner of Donald Trump, beloved by many and mostly irrelevant by his own design.

Bruce JentlesonProfessor of Public Policy and Political Science, Duke University

President George H. W. Bush’s greatest accomplishments were in the foreign policy realm. While many factors contributed to the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Cold War, President Bush deserves significant credit for his statesmanship. And he led the Gulf War coalition against Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait in what was the first major U.S. military victory since World War II – and the last. He also exemplified a Republican Party worthy of much more respect than today’s GOP.

Steffen Schmidt, Lucken Endowed Professor of Political Science, Iowa State University

I met Pres H. W. Bush several times in Iowa. What stands out is that he was “old school.” He was  a polite gentleman who understood the limits of partisanship and knew that a conservative Republican needed Democrats to make policy. He would never press division and hatred to stimulate political support for himself.

Of course, he had a remarkable career as the youngest aviator in the navy, oil millionaire and businessman, Congressman, United Nations Ambassador, Ambassador to China, Vice President, and then President. As President he removed dictator Manuel Noriega from panama, oversaw the fall of the Berlin war and the end of the Cold War, and crafted NAFTA the North American trade agreement (it was signed after he lost reelection).

One problem of course was that as President he did not push hard enough to deter Saddam Hussein from invading Kuwait. As a result Hussein thought he could invade which led to the Gulf War. I clearly remember the debate as to whether Pres Bush and his Defense Secretary Colin Powell should have pushed into Iraq and overthrown Hussein. The decision to leave Hussein in power was the right .BUT his son George Bush felt that he needed to “complete” then job and overthrow Hussein (who had supposedly also ordered the killing of Pres HW Bush).

That led to the overthrow of Hussein in the second Gulf War, creating a power vacuum which was filled by Iran which now could become the dominant power in the region. We know the consequences of that – the collapse of Iraq, civil war, the rise of ISIS, the disaster of Syria, human rights catastrophe, Libya’s collapse, mass migration of refugees to Europe, and the rise of political nationalism in Europe.

If Bush had been reelected (he was defeated by Bill Clinton) as President he might have left Hussein in power, pressured him on human rights and none of the things mentioned above would have ensued.

Bush was a man of action, energetic, parachuted at an advanced age, as a parachute partner at age 90!, and was always positive, likeable, and in many ways the opposite of Pres. Trump. He was the longest-lived American president in history.

Also, he believed in coalitions of allies – the “coalition of the willing”- 30 countries — that’s how he fought the Gulf War. That, of course, is the exact opposite of Pres Trump who believes it’s America First and America only.

Russell Riley, Professor and Co-chair of the Miller Center’s Presidential Oral History Program, University of Virginia

This is a hard question to answer, because his time now seems so remote from our own. So many things have changed.  I do think that in temperament you could hardly find a political figure more different than the current president.  Bush was modest and thoughtful in a way completely foreign to Trump.  He also had a deep-rooted respect for the requirements of American leadership in the world, derived from his formative experiences in World War II.  So unlike Trump, he thought foreign policy was more about facilitating alliances and making friends rather than going it alone and provoking friends.  It is a sad moment of contrast.  The big question is whether America’s future is more like the vision of Bush, or of Trump.

Kenneth Warren, Professor of Political Science, St. Louis University

Although I did not agree with all of President Bush’s policies, I respected most of his judgments. Unlike the current president, George H. W. Bush understood the world and believed in diplomacy and the importance of “soft power.” He was thoughtful and willing to take positions that were unpopular. In foreign policy, he was a realist rather than an ideologue and he listened to people with expertise. That style of politics is totally gone in the current White House which seems to have no guiding principles other than the financial welfare of the Trump organization. We desperately need a return to an intelligent foreign policy guided by strategic interests and a moral dimension. It would mean, of course, a more assertive American response to Russian actions.

Allan Louden, Professor of Communication, Wake Forest University

George Herbert Walker Bush’s will be remembered, nostalgically, for practicing a “rhetoric of decency.” His presidencies communication, inserted between two “great communicators” was often portrayed as weak and feckless, framed, and part, by his pre-election moniker “Wimp.” That was then and this is now.

Bush’s rhetoric, direct and parsimonious, has stood the test of time. His style befits a more dignified America, a tone celebrating the preservation of values at home and abroad.

Without undue fanfare his more soft-spoken approach did not blame the Iraqi people in defeat nor embarrass the collapsed Soviet Union, making room rhetorically for a period in which a peace, however long, could be realistically pursued. A particular strength of President Bush’s international rhetoric was his often used “silence.

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