George Bush Sr. on Principles & Values

President of the U.S., 1989-1993; Former Republican Rep. (TX)


2005: Time's "Partners of the Year" with Jimmy Carter

The former presidents supported George W. Bush after 9/11, and how George H.W. Bush and Clinton traveled the world together, seeking help after the tsunami in Asia, and in their leadership roles raising money after Hurricane Katrina. They became near-constant companions, doing interviews together and even traveling with George W. as part of the American delegation to Pope John Paul II's 2005 funeral in Rome. "Come on," Bush senior implored Clinton. "It will be better with you along." Nicknamed "the A-team" in the press, they became like father and son. Time made them Partners of the Year in its 2005 Person of the Year issue. After seeing how powerful the Clinton-Bush team was, President Obama dispatched George W. Bush and Clinton to Haiti to raise awareness and funds after the devastating 2010 earthquake. This kind of teamwork and camaraderie now seems unthinkable and almost quaint.
Source: Team of Five, by Kate Andersen Brower , Apr 21, 2020

Former presidents shouldn't publicly criticize successors

George H.W. Bush did not think that a former president should publicly criticize his successor, believing that it would do lasting damage to the presidency if every sitting president had to be looking over his shoulder. The last former president to see Bush before he died on November 30, 2018, was not George W. Bush: three days before he died, Bush, 94, welcomed Obama into his Houston home. That day, November 27, Obama saw the man he called "my buddy 41" for the last time. Bush had been in and out of hospitals and was still mourning the death of his beloved wife of 73 years, Barbara, less than eight months before. He had good days and bad days now, but Obama was someone he wanted to see, even on a particularly bad day.

When Obama was president, Bush returned to the White House several times, including two visits to the Oval Office and the unveiling of the official White House portraits of his son and daughter-in-law in May 2012.

Source: Team of Five, by Kate Andersen Brower , Apr 21, 2020

Attended 2017 inauguration despite words between Trump & Jeb

It's tradition for Bill and me, as a former President and First Lady, to attend the swearing-in of the new President. I had struggled for weeks with whether or not to go. [Several members of Congress were boycotting by] not going. A lot of my supporters and close friends urged me to stay home, too. My friends understood how painful it would be to sit on the platform and watch Donald Trump sworn in.

Bill and I checked with the Bushes and the Carters to see what they were thinking. It was no secret that these former Presidents weren't fans of Donald Trump. He had been absolutely vicious to George's brother Jeb in particular. But were they going to the inauguration? Yes.

That gave me the push I needed. Bill and I would go. That's how I ended up right inside the door of the Capitol on January 20, waiting to be announced. It had been such a long journey to get here. Now I just had to take a few more steps. I took Bill's arm.

Source: What Happened, by Hillary Clinton, p. 3-4 , Sep 12, 2017

Sent notes to foreign leaders to build relationships

My first face-to-face encounter with the President was wonderful. He was kind & thanked me profusely for everything I'd done. "You're so good to agree to leave California and help me out," he said.

"Is he kidding?" I thought. "He's the President." But I learned that day, and would see throughout my time with him, that this wasn't false modesty: George H.W. Bush is simply one of the nicest and most self-effacing people that I've ever met. He taught me so much about leading people. Countless times he would send a congratulatory note to a foreign leader for a seemingly innocuous achievement. I came to understand that he was building a relationship, which served him well when he needed to ask that leader to do something hard. Even I frequently received a thank-you note from the President for a job well done, and this kindness and courtesy made it a joy to work with him. Most important, his natural geniality served American diplomacy well when he was faced with revolutionary changes in world politics.

Source: My Extraordinary Family, by Condi Rice, p.241 , Jan 10, 2012

1970: Ran for Senate unsuccessfully a second time

In 1970, Dad ran for the Senate again. We felt good about his chances in a rematch against Ralph Yarborough. But Yarborough had become so unpopular that he lost his primary to Lloyd Bentsen, a conservative Democrat. Dad ran a good race, but again came up short. The lesson was that it was still very tough to get elected as a Republican in Texas.

Soon there was another lesson. Defeat, while painful, is not always the end. Shortly after the 1970 election, Pres. Nixon made Dad ambassador to the UN. Then, i 1973, Nixon asked Dad to head the Republican National Committee. It turned out to be a valuable lesson in crisis management when Dad guided the party through the Watergate scandal.

Ford offered Dad his pick of ambassadorships in London or Paris, traditionally the most coveted diplomatic posts. Dad had told him he would rather go to China, and he & Mother spent 14 fascinating months in Beijing. They came home when Ford asked Dad to head the CIA. Not a bad run for a twice-defeated Senate candidate

Source: Decision Points, by Pres. George W. Bush, p. 19 , Nov 9, 2010

1973: Heal rift after Karl Rove elected as College GOP Chair

The 1973 College RNC convention opened Saturday morning with my name and [my opponent] Edgeworth's placed in nomination for Chair of the College Republicans. As the roll call was being read, Edgeworth produced a bullhorn and began reading his own from the side of the room. He knew he'd lose the official count but wanted a reed, however thin, upon which to allege that he'd been cheated. The final official tally was 54 for Rove, 25 for Edgeworth.

Edgeworth asked RNC chairman George H. W. Bush to seat him as the rightful national chairman and sent a blizzard of paper to Bush's office. Bush appointed a committee to investigate, and spent the next three weeks reviewing the matter. Bush then sent a letter announcing that I had been duly elected.

A few days later, I went to meet with RNC chairman George H. W. Bush in his office. I expected a quick visit. Instead, the new chairman invited us in for a long talk. He touched on the controversy and asked what we were going to do to heal rifts.

Source: Courage and Consequence, by Karl Rove, p. 36-38 , Mar 9, 2010

1974: Considered as Ford VP; 1976: formed presidential PAC

George H.W. Bush, after Carter's 1976 victory, left his post as CIA director. "I'm thinking of running for President, Karl, and I'd like your help," he told me. He had come close to being named vice president by Ford in 1974 and his business activities gave him the financial freedom to look at the race. "Would you like to run my PAC?" he asked.

I immediately accepted his offer. In retrospect, the next 18 months seems amateurish & low-budget, especially when compared to what candidates do now when the run for president. For half the Fund for Limited Government's existence--and perhaps in order to embody the smaller-is-better spirit--I was its only staff. Bush hit the candidate fund-raiser circuit, lining up support among party leaders for a future White House run. He and I flew around the country, carrying our own bags on countless commercial flights. We focused on districts with high-profile contests, where Bush's appearance could make a difference, aiming to pick up chits with political leaders.

Source: Courage and Consequence, by Karl Rove, p. 48-49 , Mar 9, 2010

1973: Appointed Karl Rove as chair of College Republicans

The 1973 College GOP convention opened with my name and Edgeworth's placed in nomination for Chair. Edgeworth produced a bullhorn and began reading his own from the side of the room. His purpose was to dispute the outcome of the convention by having competing roll call votes. He knew he'd lose the official count but wanted a reed, however thin, upon which to allege that he'd been cheated at the convention.The final official tally was 54 for Rove, 25 for Edgeworth.

Edgeworth asked RNC chairman George H. W. Bush to seat him. Bush appointed a committee to investigate Edgeworth's claims. The group quickly discovered that Edgeworth's votes were specious. Bush signaled he expected to wrap up the investigation quickly.

Bush sent Edgeworth and me a letter announcing that I would be recognized immediately as chairman by the RNC. I went to meet with Bush in his office. He invited us in for a long talk. He touched on the controversy and asked what we were going to do to heal rifts.

Source: Courage and Consequence, by Karl Rove, p. 36-38 , Mar 9, 2010

1976: Considered for V.P. by Ford

Bush, after Carter's victory [in 1976], left his post as CIA director & reentered the business world. "I'm thinking of running for President," he told me. Ford wasn't running in 1980, and the other potential candidates didn't deter Bush. He had come clos to being named vice president by Ford in 1976 and his board seats and other business activities gave him the financial freedom to look at the race. Friends had convinced him the next step was to form a political action committee so he could move around the country and test the waters. "Would you like to run my PAC?" he asked. I immediately accepted.

Bush hit the candidate fund-raiser circuit, lining up support among party leaders for a future White House run. He and I flew around the country, carrying our own bags on countless commercial flights. We focused on states and districts with high-profile contests, where Bush's appearance could make a difference, We aimed to pick up chits with political leaders by helping them and their candidates.

Source: Courage and Consequence, by Karl Rove, p. 48-49 , Mar 9, 2010

Requires that all hotels have exercise bikes in his room

The Secret Service's only complaint about Bush is that, to this day, he is hyperactive. "He can't sit still," an agent says. "He is in perpetual motion." In every hotel, the Secret Service had to make sure Bush had an exercise bike in his suite. If the hotel did not have one, the agency rented one. "He can't read a book," the agent says. "He has to be on a StairMaster. It's go, go, go. For the Secret Service, that meant more work. The tennis court, the golf course, the boat. Always something."
Source: In the President`s Secret Service, by R. Kessler, p.133-134 , Jun 29, 2009

Believed in befriending all, to be remembered as good man

This is not to suggest that George was incapable of spitefulness. The conventional portrait of him is of someone who believed that he could befriend literally everybody, and is so doing lead the nation and do great things and be remembered as a good man. And for the most part this thumbnail is accurate. Through his tens of thousands of handwritten notes and phone calls and tennis matches and invitations to ride on his speedboat and to throw horseshoes-- George believed in improving the world through the force of his charm.

Most of the time.

But once in a while, even in the province of governing, George gave in to his dark angel. In 1989, his White House declined to invite former Connecticut senator Lowell Weicker. Why the slight? Well, Weicker, had once backed a challenge to Prescott Bush. Three decades later, George was still settling the score.

Source: America's Next Bush, by S.V. Date, p. 57 , Feb 15, 2007

Separates lowness of campaigning from high art of governing

George Sr. wanted desperately to separate the obvious lowness of campaigning from what he considered the higher art of governing. George Jr. has made it plain that while he loves campaigning, he has little interest in governing. Recall how he set about trying to sell his Social Security privatization plan just after winning reelection, racing from city to city in carefully stage-managed "meetings" with real citizens. It was as if he wished the campaign never had to end.

Jeb has been more of a mixture of those two. Unlike his brother, he does enjoy governing as well as campaigning. But like his brother, and unlike his father, he has seen the advantages of governing as if he were campaigning.

There are real public policy consequences for this style of leadership, not the least of which is an enervating unease for everyone around him, including even the leaders of the legislative and judicial branches. Everything is a fight--with us, or against us. Everything is a crisis.

Source: America's Next Bush, by S.V. Date, p.127 , Feb 15, 2007

1974: Considered resigning from Nixon Admin. over Watergate

Seven Nixon aides were indicted [regarding Watergate]. Dad wrote in his diary about a difficult meeting with the White House chief of staff:

"March 13, 1974: [Haig said] that if the President was going to survive there had to be an all-out offense, that they were preparing papers and they wanted me to give it full range of support. I said that the President was entitled to advocacy and that if in good conscience I couldn't support what it was that he was talking about then I would resign. There was too much, for my thinking, of the feeling that everyone that wasn't supportive was totally against."

    There were several principles at stake in Dad's mind throughout this time.
  1. His integrity and his wanting to do the right thing
  2. His extreme loyalty--his aversion to "piling it on."
  3. His essential optimism that Watergate would resolve itself & the Nixon presidency would survive. On April 18--he wrote that "the evidence on the tapes will vindicate the President but not totally."
Source: My Father, My President, by Doro Koch Bush, p. 90-91 , Oct 6, 2006

First 100 days: "Age of the offered hand" of bipartisanship

Each time a new president enters office, particular attention is paid to what he does during his first 100 days.

In Dad's case, his first 100 days cold be summed up in one word: bipartisanship. Dad counted among his friends dozens of Democrats on Capitol Hill. It helped a great deal to have friends on the other side of the political aisle when you consider that the Democrats controlled both the US House and the US Senate for all 4 years of Dad's presidency. Compromise would be essential to achieving any meaningful legislation.

To emphasize his desire for bipartisanship, Dad declared that he wanted his presidency to be known as "the age of the offered hand" in his inaugural address. For much of his first 2 years in office, both Dad and Congress tried to make good on that pledge.

In his first 100 days, in fact, Dad and Democratic leaders in Congress managed to reach a bipartisan budget agreement, as well as a key bipartisan agreement on foreign policy in Central America.

Source: My Father, My President, by Doro Koch Bush, p.272-273 , Oct 6, 2006

Knighted by Queen Elizabeth as Order of the Bath

In 1993, Mom and Dad went to Buckingham Palace. There Dad was named a "Knight Grand Cross of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath" by Queen Elizabeth on November 30 in recognition of his leadership during Desert Storm. The only other US president to receive this distinguished honor was President Reagan.

The Order of Bath actually dates back to medieval times. According to the Royal Web site, the name of the honor arose from the ritual bathing, fasting, and prayers that the candidates went through before being knighted.

Fortunately, Dad did not take to wearing suits of armor. After he was knighted, though, he did ask Mom, "Tell me, darling, what does it feel like to be married to a real, live knight?" She rolled her eyes and responded, "Make the coffee, Sir George."

Source: My Father, My President, by Doro Koch Bush, p.446-447 , Oct 6, 2006

I'm President now and I'm not going to eat any more broccoli

Republicans wished the President had simply backed down on the broccoli. Months earlier he had banished the vegetable from the White House menu. "I do not like broccoli," he said. "I haven't liked it since I was a little kid and my mother made me eat it. I'm President of the US now and I'm not going to eat any more broccoli," The crew of Air Force One put a sign in the galley of a broccoli floret with a red slash through it.
Source: The Family, by Kitty Kelley, p.494 , Sep 14, 2004

Donates annually to Yale Skull and Bones chapter

An aura of mystery surrounds Skull and Bones, even for those who ridicule its gothic rituals, including the society's mantra: "The Hangman equals Death / the Devil equals Death / Death equals Death."

George embraced the Skull and Bones concept of being the best of the best, and later let that elitism influence some of his political decisions. To his detriment he made several of his political appointments based on nothing more than a Yale degree and membership in Skull and Bones. To Bush's way of thinking, all Bonesmen were superior to other men.

He clung to Skull and Bones for the rest of his life. He never let a year pass after graduation without sending a check. [When George was asked] for contributions to their Yale class reunion, George would not contribute. He cared less about Yale than he did about Skull and Bones. "He said that when the students were revolting in 1970, he considered that the behavior of undergraduates at Yale resulted in the forfeiture of primary alumni interest."

Source: The Family, by Kitty Kelley, p. 96-98 , Sep 14, 2004

1968: Sought V.P. slot; became Nixon appointee instead

As a one-term congressman, Bush angled to become Nixon's running mate in 1968. After Bush gave up his House seat to fight a second losing campaign for the Senate in Texas in 1970, Nixon launched him on his career as a presidential appointee. Bush said about his first political mentor; "He appointed me to the United Nations and saw me as a man with prospects in the Republican Party."

[Bush was appointed as U.N.] Ambassador on February 26, 1971, and served for 23 months. This appointment resurrected his public career after he lost the 1970 Senate race in Texas, his second attempt at winning a statewide office.

[Subsequently] appointed by President Nixon to put out the fire of Watergate, George Bush was chairman of the Republican National Committee from January 1973 to September 1974.

Source: The Family, by Kitty Kelley, opp. p.195 , Sep 14, 2004

1972: Appointed chair of the Republican National Committee

In Nov. 1972, Nixon invited George to Camp David and offered him the chairmanship of the RNC. George accepted on the spot. Previous George H. W. Bush biographers, all handpicked and approved by Bush, have written that George "very reluctantly" accepted the "unenviable job" as if he were a servant beholden to his master.

Not so. George might have indicated such feelings after Watergate became an international scandal and forced Nixon's resignation, but at the time he was offered the RNC, he did not hesitate. Not for one second. According to unpublished entries in his diary, he saw the RNC as an important stepping-stone. Not only was he serving the President he admired; he was meeting the people he needed to know in order to make another tilt at national office to position himself for the presidency. George's position at the Republican National Committee did nothing for the aspirations of his wife, and Barbara did not hide her disappointment. "Anything but the RNC," she said.

Source: The Family, by Kitty Kelley, p.311-313 , Sep 14, 2004

1980: We've got the momentum; we've got the Big Mo

Since George did not comprehend that a President's most valuable asset is his ability to communicate, he missed the gigantic import of Ronald Reagan. George Bush totally dismissed Reagan. Bush believed the man he had to beat was John Connolly, the 3-term governor of Texas who had become a Republican after Nixon made him Secretary of the Treasury. George Bush, mumbling, when he was asked why he should be elected to the highest office in the land, said, "It's not a job. It's a challenge. And I am idealistic. I'm driven to contribute something."

By January 1980, George's 17 trips to Iowa had finally paid off as Reagan began faltering in the polls. Reagan had been so sure of winning the state that he hadn't bothered to campaign. Suddenly "George Who?" was on the cover of Newsweek. "We've got the momentum," George boasted. "Big Mo is on our side. There'll be no stopping me now. We've got Big Mo."

Source: The Family, by Kitty Kelley, p.364-365 , Sep 14, 2004

OpEd: Maintained calm in 1981 Reagan assassination attempt

The Reagan presidency nearly ended on March 30, 1981, when a deranged gunman shot the President. At the time of the shooting the Vice President was over Texas in Air Force Two. He returned to Washington immediately and took a helicopter to the VP residence. The Secret Service wanted to chopper him directly to the White House, but he resisted such a dramatic arrival. "Only the President lands on the south lawn," he said.

In the White House situation room, George, who had been told Reagan would recover, left the President's chair empty and sat in his own seat. "The President is still the President," he said. "I'm here to sit in for him while he recuperates. But he's going to call the shots."

The 25th amendment should have been invoked when the President went into surgery but was not. Those in the White House who had distrusted Bush as an establishment opportunist came to appreciate his calm demeanor in a time of chaos and confusion. "The more normal things are, the better," said Bush.

Source: The Family, by Kitty Kelley, p.383-386 , Sep 14, 2004

1988 diary: I blew it by deciding on Dan Quayle for V.P.

After the 1988 Convention, the Vice President's polls shot up immediately after his acceptance speech but were dissipated by ongoing criticism of his running mate, Dan Quayle. In selecting the 41 year old senator from Indiana, George thought he could bridge the gender gap by giving female voters someone he said "looked like a Robert Redford look-alike." There had been earlier speculation that Bush might select a woman as his running mate.

Resisting pleas to remove him from the ticket, George stood by his choice but regretted having made it. At the end of the convention he confided that disaster to his diary: "It was my decision, and I blew it, but I'm not about to say that I blew it."

Even George's closest friends said to George, "How in God's name did you select Quayle? George told me he'd only met Quayle once or twice. Quayle was good on defense issues. George needed someone young and from the Midwest, so Quayle was in. That's as much thought as he gave to it."

Source: The Family, by Kitty Kelley, p.460-461 , Sep 14, 2004

1989: 1st Lady's "Millie's Book" was #1 bestseller

Barbara Bush reached the apogee of her acclaim when she announced that her pedigreed English springer spaniel, Millie, was "getting married." Millie delivered 6 puppies in the spring of 1989. Immediately the President's polls shot up. Months later the First Lady wrote "Millie's Book," which she dedicated to "George Bush, whom we both love more than life." The First Lady promoted her doggy book around the country and made it a #1 bestseller.

"Millie has made me legitimate," Barbara said. "Who else do you know that wrote a book that made a million dollars for charity and gave it all away?" The President told reporters, "You have read my tax returns. You can tell who the breadwinner is in the family. The dog made 5 times as much as the President of the US."

For her official White House portrait, the First Lady [had] Millie painted into a frame on the table. Barbara Bush wrote [to the portrait artist] thanking him for giving Millie a permanent place in the White House.

Source: The Family, by Kitty Kelley, p.471-473 , Sep 14, 2004

1992: Saddam foiled in plotting his assassination in Kuwait

In June 1992, I ordered the military into action for the first time, firing twenty-three Tomahawk missiles into Iraq's intelligence headquarters, in retaliation for a plot to assassinate President George H. W. Bush during a trip he had made to Kuwait. More than a dozen people involved in the plot had been arrested in Kuwait on April 13, one day before the former President had been scheduled to arrive. The materials in their possession were conclusively traced to Iraqi intelligence, and on May 19 one of the arrested Iraqis confirmed to the FBI that the Iraqi intelligence service was behind the plot. Most of the Tomahawks hit the target, but four of them overshot, three landing in an upscale Baghdad neighborhood and killing eight civilians. It was a stark reminder that no matter how careful the planning and how accurate the weapons, when that kind of firepower is unleashed, there are usually unintended consequences.
Source: My Life, by Bill Clinton, p.525-526 , Jun 21, 2004

1992 debate: Caught glancing at wristwatch

Oct. 15, 1992 debate:

Q: "How has the national debt personally affected each of your lives?"

Bush: "I'm sure it has. I love my grandchildren. I'm not sure I get... help me with the question."

After more struggle, it was Clinton's turn--and he did something quite extraordinary. He took three steps toward the woman and asked her, "Tell me how it affected you again?"

The woman was speechless. Clinton helped her along, but the words weren't as important as the body language: the three steps he had taken toward the woman spoke volumes about his empathy, his concern, his desire to respond to the needs of the public.

Bush, by contrast, was caught gazing at his wristwatch--hoping desperately that this awkward moment would soon be done. And indeed, it was: The presidential campaign was, in effect, over.

Source: The Natural, by Joe Klein, p. 43 , Feb 11, 2003

It’s an emotional roller-coaster; Gore’s a sore loser

George Bush says his family has been on an “emotional rollercoaster” since the election but he believes his son will prevail over Gore’s challenges. “I don’t like sore losers,” he said, but quickly added, “I don’t want to be out there criticizing.”

“We heard our son on national television declared the winner. We heard his opponent concede - I was in the house when it happened [when Gore telephoned to concede] - and it was a moment of euphoria. There has not been a euphoric moment since,” Bush said.

Source: Election Notebook, Boston Globe on 2000 race, p. A30 , Nov 30, 2000

Memoir intended to show his heartbeat, via personal letters

When I left office in January 1993, several friends suggested I write a memoir. I was unpersuaded. I felt [Barbara Bush’s and Brent Scowcroft’s] books “got it right” both on perceptions of the Bushes as a family and on how my administration tried to handle the foreign-policy problems we faced. But then along comes my friend and editor, who suggested that what was missing is a personal book, a book giving a deeper insight into what my own heartbeat is, what my values are, what has motivated me in life. And then she said something that got me interested: “You already have done such a book. I am talking about a book of letters already written.”

This book is not meant to be an autobiography. It is not a historical documentation of my life. But hopefully it will let you, the reader, have a look at what’s on the mind of an eighteen-year-old kid who goes into the Navy, and what a President is thinking when he has to send someone else’s son or daughter into combat. It’s all about heartbeat.

Source: All the Best, by George Bush Sr., first chapter , Oct 3, 2000

Volunteered as Navy flier; shot down over Pacific

On the day he turned 18 George Bush volunteered for the Navy. He didn't wait for his draft number to be called. His father, the powerful senator Prescott Bush, didn't attempt to arrange a safe job for his son in the War Department. George volunteered for a relatively new branch of the service, the Navy Air Corps. He wanted to be a combat pilot.

He rarely talks about the experience personally; he is more likely to recite his mother's admonition "Don't brag." When he was running for president, he was asked what he thought about as he drifted in hostile seas after being shot down, and he answered in that clumsy but endearing way of his, "Oh you know--the usual things, duty, honor, country." As a political answer it was a groaner, nonetheless, it was probably very close to the essence of George Bush. Yes, he often thinks about the day he was shot down, but when he does, he's more likely to think about his two buddies who were killed. Could he have done more to save them?

Source: The Greatest Generation, by Tom Brokaw, p.273-274 , Nov 30, 1998

OpEd: lost in 1992 because people saw themselves in Clinton

The year before the 1992 election President Bush's approval ratings were through the roof as a result of the Persian Gulf War. Meanwhile, Clinton had to face accusations of extramarital activity, experimental drug use, and even a question of his patriotism during the Vietnam War. His policies on issues such as homosexuality and abortion were anathema to the mainstream evangelical community.

And yet, when it came to making a decision, American voters ended up saying, "But you know, I like him." People were more interested that someone reflect who they were rather than someone they wanted to be or thought they should be. When voters got up in the morning and looked in the mirror, they didn't see fighter pilot, CIA director, China envoy, President Bush. That made them uncomfortable. They were more like that young, flawed, sincere man Bill Clinton.

Source: Character IS the Issue, by Mike Huckabee, p.126 , Sep 9, 1997

Parachute jumps about making up for tragedy of WWII jump

Pres. Bush allowed that the first of his post-presidential parachute jumps--in March of 1997--maybe have been "a Walter Mitty thing, but I loved every minute of it." Explaining the rationale behind his first parachute jump since World War II:

"It's not rediscovering my youth. It's not a thrill. That's not what this is about. It's a quiet inside thing that I am sure nobody will understand. It's about doing something right that I did imperfectly back in September 1944. I made a parachute jump then. It had tragedy to it. My life was saved. And I didn't do it right. And I'm kind of a goal-oriented person--and I decided long ago, in my heart of hearts, I wanted to make a parachute jump."
-- Interview with Jim Nantz, CBS's Sunday Morning, Yuma Arizona

Source: Heartbeat, by Jim McGrath, p.269&320 , Mar 30, 1997

OpEd: Governed with views of Congressional Democrats first

While George Bush was serving his eight years as vice president to Ronald Reagan and awaiting his big chance, the GOP changed. The Conservative Opportunity Society and emboldened moderates had turned to Gingrich for strategy and tactics, if not always for leadership. It isn't clear that Bush ever understood the trend. As president, he governed with the views of congressional Democrats first on his priority list. To pass legislation, Bush had to get Democrats on board. Too often, House Republican sensibilities became an afterthought.

Most of those House Republicans were Reaganites, another group the Bush White House took great pains to exclude from policy making. The younger Conservative Opportunity Society members were known derisively around the White House as "bumper-sticker conservatives."

Source: Newt!, by Dick Williams, p.123 , Jun 1, 1995

The Vision Thing: leadership at home & in the world

The Vision Thing: World Leadership to guarantee that our children live in peace, free from the fear of nuclear war in a world where all people know the blessings of democracy and freedom.

Leadership at Home to guarantee a better America. That means strengthening the American Family (family values). It means being the best in Education. It means winning the war on drugs and crime.

It means striving for a society free of bigotry and hate.

To achieve this `vision' we must remain as the active leader of the entire world. We must be sure our word is credible--that means we must not only have the convictions about democracy and freedom, but we must have a strong National Defense posture. Our security comes first but the security of other friends around the world is vital too.

To achieve the domestic `vision' we must fully implement America 2000 in education. That program, with its emphasis on Math and Science etc., will guarantee our leadership in the highly competitive evolving world.

Source: Letter from George Bush in All The Best, p.551 , Mar 14, 1992

Flag Amendment: about unique symbol of one nation under God

"I don't want to get into a debate with you all about the flag amendment. I happen to feel strongly about it and I'd like to see the debate.without having to call the other guy a demagogue. And I've fought for it because I do think there was a unique symbol there. And there's pretty good understanding on the part of the American people. The debate can go on without denigrating the other person's convictions that disagrees or feels that amending the Bill of Rights or the Constitution would be an egregious error.

"But I keep coming back, as I listen to the debates on all these questions.that we have a way of finding our way through, in the US, these--what appear to be--dilemmas or these challenges. And the reason is, I think, there is a fundamental understanding that we are one nation under God, that we have great respect for religious diversity, and that as we see the social problems of the day we return more and more to the importance of family."

Source: Heartbeat, by Jim McGrath, p. 91 , Jul 17, 1990

Now that I'm president, I'll never eat broccoli again

Without really meaning to, I announced to the world about this time that I did not like broccoli, that I had never liked broccoli, and now that I was President of the US, I was never eating it again. It caused a huge stir, and I still hear about it today.

[A few days later]: The broccoli war is heating up. On March 21st, the Broccoli Association announces they're sending a couple of tons of the stuff, but I'm sticking with my position that I hate broccoli. I think I'll get Barbara, who likes broccoli, to go out and greet the broccoli caravan. I refuse to give an inch on this, and I so advised the press. I can't stand the stuff; it smells up everything; and I'm against it.

Source: Letter from George Bush in All The Best, p.463 , Mar 23, 1990

Free markets, free speech, free elections

The totalitarian era is passing. This is a time when the future seems a door you can walk right through into a room called tomorrow. Great nations of the world are moving toward democracy through the door to freedom. Men and women of the world move toward free markets through the door to prosperity. The people of the world agitate for free expression and free thought through the door to the moral and intellectual satisfactions that only liberty allows.

We know what works: Freedom works. We know what’s right: Freedom is right. We know how to secure a more just and prosperous life for man on Earth: through free markets, free speech, free elections, and the exercise of free will unhampered by the state.

For the first time in this century, for the first time in perhaps all history, man does not have to invent a system by which to live. We don’t have to wrest justice from the kings. We only have to summon it from within ourselves. We must act on what we know.

Source: Inaugural Address , Jan 20, 1989

We are not the sum of our possessions

"We are not the sum of our possessions. They are not the measure of our lives. In our hearts we know what matters. We cannot hope only to leave our children a bigger car, a bigger bank account. We must hope to give them a sense of what it means to be a loyal friend; a loving parent; a citizen who leaves his home, his neighborhood, and town better than he found it."
(Inaugural Address, US Capitol West Front)
Source: Heartbeat, by Jim McGrath, p. 19 , Jan 20, 1989

My mission is to complete work begun in 1980

I'm a man who sees life in terms of missions--missions defined and missions completed. And when I was a torpedo bomber pilot they defined the mission for us. And before we took off we all understood that no matter what, you try to reach the target. And there've been other missions for me--Congress and China, the CIA. But I am here tonight, and I am your candidate, because the most important work of my life is to complete the mission that we started in 1980.

I say it without boast or bravado. I've fought for my country, I've served, I've built--and I'll go from the hills to the hollows, from the cities to the suburbs to the loneliest town on the quietest street, to take our message of hope and growth for every American to every American.

I will keep America moving forward, always forward--for a better America, for an endless, enduring dream and a thousand points of light. This is my mission. And I will complete it.

Source: A Patriot's Handbook, by Caroline Kennedy, p.562-563 , Aug 18, 1988

Philosophy for presidency, without catchy slogans

The great question: "WHY DO YOU WANT TO BE PRESIDENT?" I know I've got the leadership ability. I know I've got the experience. I want to see a literate America. I want to see a drug-free America. I want to see America with opportunity and jobs. I want to see the emphasis remain on the family values. I want to use our abilities to bring peace, to continue discussions with the Soviet Union, to reduce the fear of nuclear weapons, and also to be a beacon for freedom and democracy. I feel strongly on the Sandinistas for example.

But, how do you say all these things and get it into a slogan or a formula--a catch-all. But, this is what I feel very comfortable with--the philosophy. I want to see us do better in terms of opportunity for Blacks, for Hispanics, but again with the emphasis on the private side--private opportunity and education rather than vast government spending programs.

So it is putting these themes together. Getting good people. We are going to have to get into the nitty gritty.

Source: Letter from George Bush in All The Best, p.352-3 , Nov 4, 1986

George Bush Sr. on Criticism

1988 cover of Newsweek: "Fighting the Wimp Factor"

One of my tasks [on my Dad's presidential campaign] was to sort through journalists' requests for profile pieces. When Margaret Warner of "Newsweek" told us she wanted to do an interview, I recommended that we cooperate. Margaret was talented and seemed willing to write a fair piece. Dad agreed.

Mother called me the morning the magazine hit the newsstands. "Have you seen "Newsweek"? They called your father a wimp," she growled.

I quickly tracked down a copy and was greeted by the screaming headline : "Fighting the Wimp Factor." I couldn't believe it. The magazine was insinuating that my father, a World War II bomber pilot, was a wimp. I was red-hot. I got Margaret on the phone. She politely asked what I thought of the story. I impolitely told her I thought she was part of a political ambush. She muttered something about her editors and hung up. From then on, I was suspicious of political journalists and their unseen editors.

Source: Decision Points, by Pres. George W. Bush, p. 43-44 , Nov 9, 2010

1988 OpEd: "Born with a silver foot in his mouth"

Ann Richards burst onto the national scene in 1988 when, as Texas state treasurer, she skewered George H. W. Bush at the Democratic National Convention, saying, "Poor George, he was born with a silver foot in his mouth." The country roared with laughter and the first President Bush later acknowledged the barb by giving Ms. Richards a solver pin shaped like a foot after he won the election.
Source: Courage and Consequence, by Karl Rove, p. 80 , Mar 9, 2010

Pardoned 6 officials in Iran-Contra scandal

In the waning days of the Bush presidency he pardoned former Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger for lying to Congress and five other officials implicated in the Iran-contra scandal. For more than a year, Bush and his lawyers had resisted demands of a special prosecutor to hand over the outgoing president’s notes about Iran-contra. His pardon of the scandal’s accused felons mooted the matter, rendering Bush’s notes legally irrelevant and historically inaccessible, because there were no defendants left in the case to put on trial. Many Democrats and some Republicans believed it a case of the president, in effect, pardoning himself from possible prosecution, because Weinberger’s indictment charged, in part, that he’d lied about the knowledge and active role of then Vice President Bush in Iran-contra.
Source: A Woman in Charge, by Carl Bernstein, p.233 , Jun 5, 2007

OpEd: Chose Quayle as "impeachment insurance"

Dan Quayle [was] the not-quite-ready-for-prime-time pick his father made, and got away with, in 1988. (The most intriguing explanation of Quayle comes from Jeb's cousin John Ellis, who told the family's authorized biographers that George had chosen the Indiana youngster after seeing how Congress had taken down Nixon, knowing that Gerald Ford was fully competent to step in. Quayle, in Ellis's view, would have forced Congress to think twice before going after George over the Iran-Contra Affair. "Impeachment insurance," Ellis called it.) Even more interestingly, Jeb had opposed his father's choice in 1988, and was a charter member of the dump Quayle movement 4 years later when that seemed to offer the best chance of turning around the reelection campaign's dismal prospects.
Source: America's Next Bush, by S.V. Date, p.110 , Feb 15, 2007

OpEd: Pardons in Iran-Contra covered up his own involvement

Lt. Col. Oliver North admitted to taking money from selling weapons to Iran and diverting it to the contras. Few came out worse in the Iran-Contra scandal than the first President Bush. He was clearly trying to save himself from prosecution and scandal when he issued a series of pardons on Christmas Eve 1992 during the final days as President, just before Bill Clinton was sworn in. Bush pardoned 6 top officials, all to cover up his own involvement in the scandal.

Bush was also interfering with Judge Lawrence Walsh's ongoing federal investigation. Judge Walsh was so outraged, he said that "the Iran-Contra cover-up, which has continued for more than 6 years, has now been completed." The pardons stopped 2 pending cases and nullified one conviction and three guilty pleas.

The Iran-Contra affair should be taught in detail to every high school student in America. Cynical secret deals with our enemies to win elections will always come back to haunt their perpetrators later.

Source: What A Party!, by Terry McAuliffe, p. 37-38 , Jan 23, 2007

1987: How could they call a combat pilot a "wimp"?

On Oct. 12, 1987, "Newsweek" magazine put [Dad] on its cover with their infamous headline "Fighting the Wimp Factor." A reporter named Margaret Warner wrote a profile of Dad. The article's theme was repeated over and over, with words peppered throughout it like "subservient," "emasculated," and "silly." The word "wimp" alone appeared 8 times, and pictures & quotes from my family and Dad's closest friends were manipulated to make it appear as if we all agreed with the author's premise. Even now, reading it almost 20 years later, I'm still struck by how cruel it was.

Shortly after it was published, I called Margaret and asked why she wrote what she did. Margaret began to cry and said that her editor made her put the word "wimp" in all those times, and said that she was very sorry. It still amazes me today that any nameless editor, could use that word about a man who had flown 58 combat missions and survived being shot down at sea--let alone everything else Dad had done in his life to that point.

Source: My Father, My President, by Doro Koch Bush, p.216-217 , Oct 6, 2006

OpEd: One vice presidential secretary was Bush's mistress

I remember when Bush brought his secretaries over to see their new offices, said an aide to Vice President Mondale. "We were agog because each one of them was wearing a mink coat. That was such an eye-opener in 1981. Secretaries in mink coats!"

Jennifer Fitzgerald had the best of the minks, and we figured that was because she was, well, you know.Bush's mistress. Their relationship was an accepted fact of life among politicos at that time, although it was quiet and discreet and very much under the radar screen."

Within weeks the Vice President's extramarital dalliances flashed up on Nancy Reagan's radar screen, and she gleefully related every salacious morsel. When George heard that the President's wife was "rumor mongering," he wrote in his diary: "I always knew Nancy didn't like me very much, but there is nothing we can do about all that."

Source: The Family, by Kitty Kelley, p.375-376 , Sep 14, 2004

1981: Denied rumors of "George and his girlfriend"

What came to be known as the story of "George and his girlfriend" occurred the evening of March 18, 1981.

Secretary of State [Alexander Haig] and the Attorney General [William French Smith] had to bail out George Bush, who'd been in a traffic accident with his girlfriend. Bush had not wanted the incident to appear on the DC police blotter, so he had his security men contact Haig and Smith. They took care of things for him.

"If the accident had made the police blotter, we probably would've had to report it," said an editor at The Washington Post. "But if it was just George Bush with another woman, we wouldn't have touched it--then."

There was a conspiracy of silence about politicians and their extramarital affairs until about 1987 when Senator Gary Hart was caught posing with a blonde on his lap.

Barbara Bush supported her husband with enough fury for both of them. "It's sick," she said. "It's a lie. It's ugly, and it never happened."

Source: The Family, by Kitty Kelley, p.376-377 , Sep 14, 2004

1987: "Wimp Factor": hesitant, aristocratic style

Lee Atwater had political savvy. He understood that to wear the mantle of Ronald Reagan, the senior Bush was going to have to shed his hesitant style--what the press already called the "weenie or "wimp" factor--and do battle like the old warrior Atwater knew he was. Bush could be a great man, he believed; he just had to be packaged right.

Atwater was the man to do it, the kind of campaign packager who made purists nervous.

Source: The Faith of George W. Bush, by Stephen Mansfield, p. 81 , Apr 12, 2004

The Wimp Factor: 51% thought it was a "serious problem"

In its infamous October 19, 1987 cover story, "Fighting the Wimp Factor," Newsweek described the vice president's "crippling handicap" of being seen as a "wimp." The senior Bush had been a "vassal to Kissinger" at the UN and in Beijing, the article alleged, and to avoid appearing as a television wimp, he had "tried for the past 10 years to master the medium, studying it as if it were a foreign language. He has consulted voice and television coaches. He tried changing his glasses and even wearing contact lenses. Bush's tight, twangy voice is a common problem. Under stress, experts explain, the vocal chords tighten and the voice is higher than normal and lacks power." According to Newsweek, 51% of Americans found that the perception of being a "wimp" was a "serious problem" for Bush.
Source: Fortunate Son, by J.H.Hatfield, p. 78-79 , Aug 17, 1999

George Bush Sr. on Family

Lost daughter to leukemia at young age

George and Barbara were touched by the thing that all parents fear the most, the loss of a young child. Pauline Robinson, their little girl born 3 years after George W., was 3 when Barbara took her to the pediatrician one day after discovering that little Robin had strange bruises, and was constantly listless.

[The doctor tearfully explained that] Robin had childhood leukemia; it was in its advanced stages; and the best they could do would be to let it run its course and keep her happy and comfortable until it was over. They reacted to the news as any parents would--shock, and a refusal to accept the idea that there was nothing they could do.

And so began the most painful months in George and Barbara's lives, watching their little girl under the experimental treatments--the only types available in 1953. For the next 6 months until Robin eventually succumbed to the disease and its harsh treatments in October, baby Jeb had only limited contact with either parent.

Source: America's Next Bush, by S.V. Date, p. 62-63 , Feb 15, 2007

Married Barbara in 1945 while on leave from Navy

Barbara and George met at the Round Hill Country Club dance over the Christmas holidays in 1941. He was home from Phillips Academy in Andover. She was back from Ashley Hill, a boarding school for girls in Charleston, SC. They were informally--but secretly, since they hadn't technically told their parents--engaged by the time George graduated high school and, against his parents' wishes, enlisted in the Navy to fly planes.

By the time he came home, a war hero, she had dropped out of Smith College, a decision she later regretted but made at the time because academics held no interest for her. They married on January 6, 1945, fully expecting that George would be rotated back into the fighting in time for the final push to the Japanese main islands--a push that was made unnecessary by Truman's dropping of atomic bombs that August.

They moved to New Haven that fall as George became one of 5,000 veterans out of the 8,000 freshman that autumn in Yale's incoming class.

Source: America's Next Bush, by S.V. Date, p. 52-53 , Feb 15, 2007

1989: Barbara and George both diagnosed with Graves' disease

Early in 1989, Mom was diagnosed with Graves' disease, a condition where antibodies attack the thyroid gland and cause the eye muscles to tighten, giving the appearance that the eyes are bulging. Graves' disease is not curable, but it is treatable with either radiation or surgery followed by thyroid hormone replacement pills.

It was bad enough that Mom had to cope with this condition, but Dad was also diagnosed with Graves' disease shortly thereafter--and their dog, Millie, came down with lupus, another autoimmune disease. Neither is contagious.

Given the profound improbability of this happening, experts checked the vice president's residence in case there was something in the water or the air there--but nothing was ever found. In fact, the most helpful analysis Mom and Dad got came from my brother George, who called Mom and Dad to suggest that "if they would quit drinking out of Millie's water bowl, it never would have happened in the 1st place."

Source: My Father, My President, by Doro Koch Bush, p.271 , Oct 6, 2006

1989: Son Neil called to testify on S&Ls only because a Bush

Dad signed legislation to fix a festering savings-and-loan crisis [in Aug. 1989]. Dad--and indeed our entire family--were soon subjected to another, different kind of S&L crisis, with some Democrats paying particular attention to a single Colorado S&L, Silverado, where my brother Neil at the time served.

Dad wrote, "I cannot believe his [Neil's] name would be in the paper if it was Jones and not Bush. I know the guy is totally innocent." 18 S&Ls in Colorado had failed, not just Silverado. Many more throughout the country also failed at that time. Yet Silverado was the only institution called to testify in front of Congress.

The Silverado episode not only showed how complicated it was for Mom and Dad to raise kids in the public eye, it also emphasized how important it was for us to stick together. "Even though we are not physically close to each other, we're a very close family--some would say almost dysfunctionally close--because there is an abundance of unconditional love," Neil said

Source: My Father, My President, by Doro Koch Bush, p.294-295 , Oct 6, 2006

1953: Daughter Robin died of childhood cancer

In 1987, when Bush was battling "the Wimp Factor," he talked about the death of his child: "Barbara and I went through a tragedy of seeing our daughter wrenched away from us by cancer. Six months sitting at that child's bedside. Nobody ever said 'wimp' then."

In 1953, following Robin's memorial service in CT, the Bushes raced back to Texas to tell their son Georgie about his sister. He was in the 2nd grade at Sam Houston Elementary School, and he saw his parents drive up. He scampered outside to greet them, fully expecting to see Robin. "I remember thinking I saw Robin in the back," George W. Bush recalled in 1989; "I thought I saw her, but she wasn't there."

He had known she was sick, but he had no idea she was dying. When they told him she was gone, he couldn't understand why they had kept it a secret from him. "Why didn't you tell me?" he asked them. He repeated the question for many years. As his mother later said, "You have to remember that children grieve, and he felt cheated."

Source: The Family, by Kitty Kelley, p.141-142&449 , Sep 24, 2004

George Bush Sr. on Religion

1988: "Man of Integrity": campaign bio for religious voters

To win the Religious Right, Doug Wead, a former Assemblies of God evangelist, helped articulate the evangelical movement to the largely non-evangelical Bush campaign. In a manual entitled "The Vice President and the Evangelicals: A Strategy," Wead explained how the evangelical movement thinks and what it was looking for in a president, talking to religious leaders in a language they understood.

To press the message home, Wead wrote "Man of Integrity," essentially a campaign biography wrapped in religious garb, designed to reach religious voters. Composed of a series of interviews, the book dealt heavily with the senior Bush's downing during WWII, his personal faith, his friendships among religious leaders, and his personal morals. It was everything the Religious Right wanted to hear, and when the book appeared at the Christian Booksellers' Associate convention in 1988, it found a sympathetic audience.

Source: The Faith of George W. Bush, by Stephen Mansfield, p. 83-84 , Apr 12, 2004

Emotions and religion are personal, not for the public

There is a word the Bush family uses often when speaking of emotions and religion. It is the word PERSONAL. It is at times used almost with resentment. Though they are public people, they believe deeply in privacy and despise the assumption that the deepest issues of their souls ought to be grist for the public mill. Their griefs, their faith, their intimacies, their innermost thoughts are just that: theirs. It is an assumption from a different time and of a different culture, but it is their assumption, one that will often put them at odds with an increasingly tell-all age.

George is clearly a man of faith. Raised an Episcopalian, he has absorbed an elegant form of Christianity from the aristocratic culture in which he lives; from the dinnertime preaching of his devout father, from the religious life of Andover, from the Episcopal parish life of his family. How deeply this faith embeds in his own soul early on is hard to say, particularly for him.

Source: The Faith of George W. Bush, by Stephen Mansfield, p. 18-19 , Apr 12, 2004

First act as president is a prayer

We meet on democracy’s front porch, a good place to talk as neighbors and as friends. For this is a day when our nation is made whole, when our differences, for a moment, are suspended. And my first act as President is a prayer. I ask you to bow your heads:

Heavenly Father, we bow our heads and thank You for Your love. Accept our thanks for the peace that yields this day and the shared faith that makes its continuance likely. Make us strong to do Your work, willing to heed and hear Your will, and write on our hearts these words: “Use power to help people.” For we are given power not to advance our own purposes, nor to make a great show in the world, nor a name. There is but one just use of power, and it is to serve people. Help us to remember it, Lord. Amen.

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 in man’s heart, if not in fact, the day of the dictator is over.

Source: Inaugural Address , Jan 20, 1989

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