It won’t surprise those who read this blog carefully to realize that I didn’t vote either time — in 1988 or 1992 — for the late George H.W. Bush when he ran for president of the United States.
However, despite my own partisan leanings and admitted bias, I want to devote the next bit of time to honor this man’s life.
Long before he died last night at the age of 94, I grew to appreciate the profound public service that President Bush gave to the nation he served with such nobility, grace and grit. It’s not that I didn’t appreciate that service back when he was an active politician seeking election and re-election as president. Time, though, enables all of us to view people and instances through a different prism than we do in the moment.
Bush 41’s campaign for the presidency in 1988 was not his shining moment. He brutalized his opponent, Michael Dukakis, with a campaign that called Dukakis soft on crime and soft on love of country. Four years later, the economy was faltering and I felt we needed a change in direction.
OK, that all said, I believe it is important to honor the arc of this man’s life. Good heavens, President Bush led the fullest life one could possibly imagine.
He was born into privilege. He enlisted in the Navy right after Pearl Harbor, became the youngest aviator in the Navy during World War II; he was shot down and plucked from the ocean by a submarine crew. He came home, married Barbara Pierce, the love of his life. He finished college and went into business in West Texas. He was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, lost two races for the Senate. Bush was appointed head of the CIA, special envoy to China, ambassador to the United Nations, he chaired the Republican National Committee, was elected vice president and finally as president.
He helped shepherd the end of communism in Europe. He watched the Berlin Wall come down in 1989. Then came the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. He led an international coalition against Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein’s occupation of Kuwait.
Even after he left office, he remained active and on call when the need arose. He teamed with his old adversary, Bill Clinton, to lead an effort to raise money in the wake of the earthquake and tsunami that struck Indonesia in 2004, killing hundreds of thousands of people. The two men then became the best of friends.
This man’s life is worthy of honor by every American. President Bush devoted so much of his adult life to public service. That’s how I choose to remember this great — and good — man.
The other stuff that troubles us in the moment, the hideousness surrounding the current president? That can wait.
This is President George H.W. Bush’s time.