|Former President George H. W. Bush in 2002 (Kimmo Mantyla/EPA)|
As I've thought about him today, I've realized that of all the Republican presidents in my lifetime -- Nixon, Ford, Reagan, George H. W. Bush, George Bush, and now Trump -- George H. W. Bush has been the one that governed and led the country, who respected precedents and principles, and believed in public service as well as the great American people. When he told the United Nations that he would not go to Baghdad when he led a coalition of nations into Kuwait to kick Iraq out of that country, he kept his word. He was soundly defeated in 1992 by Bill Clinton, and yet he and Clinton became good friends. He was definitely not put off by a little rain.
He must have been shrewd and a highly intelligent man, however, to have survived and thrived as long as he did in US politics. He served the country from the age of 18 when he joined the Navy in World War II. He went skydiving to celebrate his 90th birthday. This kind, gentle man was clearly much more than kind and gentle.
Another thing I kept hearing during the news coverage this morning was how George H. W. Bush was the last of the breed of politicians who worked both sides of the aisle, who believed in building coalitions, who had the courage of his kind and gentle convictions. He believed in working together to accomplish great things, not in partisanship and obstructionism. Then during Clinton's presidency, Newt Gingrich rose to political prominence and transformed working in government from serving the public and governing to winning power and accumulating money to keep power using partisanship and obstructionism. We are seeing the fruits today of Gingrich's labor, as McKay Coppins wrote in the November 2018 issue of The Atlantic ("Newt Gingrich Says You're Welcome"). American democracy continues to crumble before our eyes under the current president who cares nothing about kindness, gentleness, governing, or public service. He serves only himself. The Republicans care only about keeping power and will do anything (like gerrymandering, voter suppression) to keep it.
Rest in peace, President George H. W. Bush.