Former President George H.W. Bush dies at age 94

Associate Press

HOUSTON (AP) — George H.W. Bush played many prominent public roles in nearly a century of life, from when he was a 20-year-old World War II hero to the 41st president of the United States. In between came turns as a congressman, the director of the CIA, an ambassador to the United Nations and China, and a two-term vice president.

Yet colleagues and friends say the great-grandfather was humble, modest and unfailingly polite.

Bush, who died late Friday at his Houston home at age 94, would see his popularity as president soar after he assembled a U.S.-led military coalition that liberated the oil-rich nation of Kuwait from its invading neighbor Iraq in 1991 during the Gulf War. But just a year later, a deepening economic crisis at home would drive him from office when he lost his bid for re-election.

Still, the Republican would reinvent himself yet again by becoming an elder statesman admired by members of both major political parties. Bush, who died just eight months after the death of his wife of seven decades, Barbara, also saw his son George W. Bush twice elected as the nation’s 43rd president.

George H.W. Bush, whose presidency soared with the coalition victory over Iraq in Kuwait, but then plummeted in the throes of a weak economy that led voters to turn him out of office after one term, has died. He was 94 (Dec 1)
“George H. W. Bush was a man of the highest character and the best dad a son or daughter could ask for,” the younger Bush said in a statement Friday. “The entire Bush family is deeply grateful for 41′s life and love, for the compassion of those who have cared and prayed for Dad, and for the condolences of our friends and fellow citizens.”

Air Force One was being sent to Texas to transport Bush’s casket to Washington, where his body will lay in state at the Capitol Rotunda after an arrival ceremony Monday. The public is invited and can pay their respects from Monday evening through Wednesday morning. The family is still arranging funeral services, but the White House said President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump plan to attend.

The son of a senator, Bush was the man with golden resume who rose through the political ranks, which also included becoming the Republican Party chairman before serving as vice president under the hugely popular Ronald Reagan.

But he acknowledged he had trouble articulating “the vision thing” during his time in office. He was also haunted by his decision to break a stern, solemn vow he made to voters when he accepted the Republican Party’s nomination for president in 1988: “Read my lips. No new taxes.”

He lost his bid for re-election to then-Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton during a campaign in which businessman H. Ross Perot took almost 19 percent of the vote as an independent candidate. But with the election of son George W. Bush to the White House, they became only the second father-and-son chief executives , following John Adams and John Quincy Adams.

Out of office, Bush was content to remain largely on the sidelines except for an occasional speech or paid appearance and visits abroad. He backed Clinton on the North American Free Trade Agreement, which had its genesis during his own presidency. He visited the Middle East, where he was revered for his defense of Kuwait . And he returned to China, where he was welcomed as “an old friend” from his days as the U.S. ambassador there.

He later teamed with Clinton to raise tens of millions of dollars for victims of a 2004 tsunami in the Indian Ocean and Hurricane Katrina, which swamped New Orleans and the Gulf Coast in 2005. During their wide-ranging travels, the political odd couple grew close.

“Who would have thought that I would be working with Bill Clinton of all people?” he joked in October 2005.

George H.W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Dan Quayle
President George H.W. Bush talks to reporters in the White House Rose Garden after meeting with top military advisors to discuss the Persian Gulf War. (AP Photo/Ron Edmonds, File)
As the years passed, his popularity rebounded with the growth of his reputation as a fundamentally decent and well-meaning leader who, although he was not a stirring orator or a dreamy visionary, was a steadfast humanitarian.

During his presidency, his greatest triumphs came with his handling of the first Gulf War and during a time when the Cold War was ending. After Iraq invaded Kuwait in August 1990, Bush quickly began building an international military coalition that included other Arab states. After liberating Kuwait, he rejected suggestions that the U.S. carry the offensive to Baghdad, choosing to end the hostilities a mere 100 hours after the start of the ground war.

“That wasn’t our objective,” he told The Associated Press in 2011 from his office just a few blocks from his Houston home. “The good thing about it is there was so much less loss of human life than had been predicted and indeed than we might have feared.”

But the decisive military defeat did not lead to the regime’s downfall, as many in the administration had hoped. Bush later acknowledged: “I miscalculated.” His legacy was dogged for years by that decision not to go into Baghdad and remove Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein from power. Hussein was eventually ousted in 2003, in the second Gulf War led by Bush’s son, and was followed by a long, bloody insurgency.

George H.W. Bush had entered the White House in 1989 with a reputation as a man of indecision and indeterminate views. One newsmagazine even suggested he was a “wimp.” But his work-hard, play-hard approach to the presidency initially won broad public approval: He held more news conferences in most months than Reagan, his predecessor, did in most years.

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