Reflections On George H.W. Bush As Family Man And ‘Engineer’ Of A New World Order

The author of “The Last Republicans” says public service was paramount to Bush, who grew up wealthy but whose mother taught him that he “wasn’t entitled to anything.”

By Laura RiceDecember 3, 2018 2:08 pm

As many already know, former President George H.W. Bush died late Friday night at his home in Houston. He was 94. Bush had a form of Parkinson’s disease and had been in and out of the hospital recently, but some have opined that perhaps the true cause of death was a broken heart – his wife of 73 years, Barbara, died less than eight months ago.

Bush made politics and public service his life’s work; he fought in World War II long before he ever ran for office. But he also made millions in the Texas oil industry. Mark Updegrove, president and CEO of the LBJ Foundation and the author of “The Last Republicans: Inside the Extraordinary Relationship Between George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush,” says Bush was “one of the last and best of the greatest generation.”

Updegrove on Bush’s personality making up for his shortcomings as a campaigner: 

“There’s a certain genuineness about George Bush. He made friends very, very easily, and I think that helped in states like Iowa and New Hampshire where retail politics comes into play. People go to know not only him but his wife Barbara and their family, and there’s sort of this infectious attraction that ensued.”

On Bush projecting American political power during his presidency:

“The inauguration speech that he gave in 1989, he talks about a new breeze blowing throughout the world, and that portends the collapse of the Soviet Union. …It portends the new world order that would emerge during the course of his tenure as president, and frankly the new world order that he would help to engineer as president.”

On the meaning of Bush’s phrase, “A kinder, gentler nation”:

“During the Reagan years, we saw great prosperity. I think the rich got a lot richer and a lot of the poor were left behind. We saw a tremendous spike in homelessness. The underclass grew and it was something we didn’t talk about a great deal. AIDS was ravaging the United States and other parts of the world – that was unaddressed. …What Bush was saying is we need to be more compassionate.”

On whether Bush was sincere about addressing these problems:

“They speak to the Bush ethos, the value set that you saw with George and Barbara Bush and that they inculcated in their children, and that was a decency, civility, humility and putting service above self. He grew up in great privilege. …At the same time, he learned lessons, particularly at his mother’s knee: One was, ‘You’re not entitled to anything. You’ve been born on third base, you’re lucky,’ and the importance of giving back.”

On Bush’s personality later in life:

“He was absolutely delightful, very humble. When you walked into George Bush’s office, you weren’t seeing a great man, you know, you weren’t seeing this puffed up character. As I’ve mentioned, he was very humble, a great storyteller, had a wonderful sense of humor and just pleasant to be around.”

On Bush acting inappropriately toward women, including pinching their bottoms during photo ops :

“It’s something that he didn’t deny. …I’m not gonna say that it was appropriate in any way shape or form regardless of what generation you’re from, but I don’t think he saw it as egregious at it turned out to be.”

On Bush and his children’s political careers:

“I don’t think there’s any question that he wanted his children to follow him into the arena. However, George Bush was not one to be heavy handed as a parent. I think the Bushes’ parental philosophy was, inculcate your kids, instill good values in your children and let them find their way, support them. They revere public service over anything, and I think the highest expression, in their view, of public service is getting involved in politics.”

On Bush reflecting on his son, former President George W. Bush’s controversial decision to invade Iraq in 2003:

“I was doing an interview for ‘The Last Republicans.’ …I asked him if he would have taken the same course that his son took in Iraq, and he thought about it … ‘Yeah, I think so.’ And at that moment, I didn’t know if I was hearing the views of a former commander in chief, or whether I was hearing a protective father, and I think it was probably the latter.”

Written by Caroline Covington.