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Datum objave: 01.12.2018

George Bush, 41st President, Dies at 94

George H.W. Bush inaugural address: Jan. 20, 1989

George Bush, 41st President, Dies at 94

By Adam Nagourney

Nov. 30, 2018

George Bush, the 41st president of the United States and the father of the 43rd, who steered the nation through a tumultuous period in world affairs but was denied a second term after support for his presidency collapsed under the weight of an economic downturn and his seeming inattention to domestic affairs, died on Friday night at his home in Houston. He was 94.

His death, which was announced by his office, came less than eight months after that of his wife of 73 years, Barbara Bush.

Mr. Bush had a form of Parkinson’s disease that forced him to use a wheelchair or motorized scooter in recent years, and he had been in and out of hospitals during that time as his health declined. In April, a day after attending Mrs. Bush’s funeral, he was treated for an infection that had spread to his blood. In 2013, he was in dire enough shape with bronchitis that former President George W. Bush, his son, solicited ideas for a eulogy.

But he proved resilient each time. In 2013 he told well-wishers, through an aide, to “put the harps back in the closet.”

Mr. Bush, a Republican, was a transitional figure in the White House, where he served from 1989 to 1993, capping a career of more than 40 years in public service. A decorated Navy pilot who was shot down in the Pacific in 1944, he was the last of the World War II generation to occupy the Oval Office.

Mr. Bush was a skilled bureaucratic and diplomatic player who, as president, helped end four decades of Cold War and the threat of nuclear engagement with a nuanced handling of the collapse of the Soviet Union and the liberation of Eastern Europe.

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Yet for all his success in the international arena, his presidency faltered as voters seemed to perceive him as detached from their everyday lives. In an election that turned on the economy, they repudiated Mr. Bush in 1992 and chose a relatively little-known Democratic governor from Arkansas, Bill Clinton, a baby boomer, ushering in a generational shift in American leadership.

If Mr. Bush’s term helped close out one era abroad, it opened another. In January 1991 he assembled a global coalition to eject Iraqi invaders from Kuwait, sending hundreds of thousands of troops in a triumphant military campaign that to many Americans helped purge the ghosts of Vietnam.

But the victory also brought years of American preoccupation with Iraq, leading to the decision by George W. Bush in 2003 to topple the Iraqi leader, Saddam Hussein, in a war that taxed American resources and patience.

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The elder Mr. Bush entered the White House with one of the most impressive résumés of any president. He had been a two-term congressman from Texas, ambassador to the United Nations, chairman of the Republican National Committee, United States envoy to China, director of the Central Intelligence Agency and vice president, under Ronald Reagan.

And he achieved what no one had since Martin Van Buren in 1836: winning election to the presidency while serving as vice president. (Van Buren did so in the footsteps of Andrew Jackson.)

A son of wealth and a graduate of Phillips Academy in Massachusetts and Yale, Mr. Bush was schooled in the good manners and graciousness of New England privilege and civic responsibility. He liked to frame his public service as an answer to the call to duty, like the one that had sent him over the Pacific and into enemy fire as a 20-year-old. (“The cockpit was full of smoke and I was choking from it,” he told his parents in a letter from the submarine that had plucked him from the sea.)

He underscored the theme of duty in accepting his party’s nomination for the presidency in 1988 in New Orleans. “I am a man who sees life in terms of missions — missions defined and missions completed,” he told Republican delegates in the Louisiana Superdome, acknowledging a swell of applause. He said he would “keep America moving forward” and strive “for a better America.”

“That is my mission,” he concluded, “and I will complete it.”

Tall, at 6 feet 2 inches, with an athlete’s graceful gait, Mr. Bush was genial and gentlemanly, except in the throes of a tough campaign. (Admonished by his mother against self-promotion, Mr. Bush, an inveterate note writer, in his clipped diction avoided the first person singular pronoun.) He represented a “kinder” and “gentler” strain of Republicanism — the often-quoted words he used in his Inaugural Address to describe his vision for the nation and the world — that has been all but buried in a seismic shift to the right in the party.

Generations in Politics

Mr. Bush’s post-presidency brought talk of a political dynasty. The son of a United States senator, Prescott S. Bush, Mr. Bush saw two of his own sons forge political careers that brought him a measure of redemption after he was ousted as commander in chief. George W. Bush became the first son of a president since John Quincy Adams to follow his father to the White House. (Unlike the father, the son won re-election.) Another son, Jeb Bush, was twice elected governor of Florida and ran unsuccessfully for the presidency in 2016.

As the elder Mr. Bush watched troubles envelop the eight-year presidency of his son, however, what had been a source of pride became a cause of distress, friends said. The contrast between the two President Bushes — 41 and 43, as they came to call each other — served to burnish the father’s reputation in later years. As the younger Mr. Bush’s popularity fell, the elder Mr. Bush’s public standing rose. Many Americans came to appreciate the restrained, seasoned leadership the 41st president had displayed; in an opinion poll in 2012, 59 percent expressed approval. Democrats, including President Barack Obama, praised the father as a way of rebuking the son.

It was a subject Mr. Bush avoided discussing in public but one he finally addressed in conversations with Jon Meacham, his biographer, in a book published in 2015. Mr. Bush was quoted as saying that his son’s administration had been harmed by a “hard line” atmosphere that pushed an aggressive and ultimately self-destructive use of force around the world, and he placed the blame for that on men who had long been part of his own life and who became key figures in his son’s orbit — Dick Cheney, his son’s vice president, and Donald H. Rumsfeld, his son’s secretary of defense, with whom the elder Mr. Bush had feuded.

“I do worry about some of the rhetoric that was out there — some of it his, maybe, and some of it the people around him,” Mr. Bush said in the Meacham book, “Destiny and Power: The American Odyssey of George Herbert Walker Bush.”

He was particularly critical of Mr. Rumsfeld. “I don’t like what he did, and I think it hurt the president, having his iron-ass view of everything,” he said, adding, “Rumsfeld was an arrogant fellow and self-assured, swagger.”

Mr. Bush and his sons did not attend the Republican National Convention that nominated Donald J. Trump as its presidential candidate in 2016, and he pointedly did not endorse Mr. Trump in his race against Hillary Clinton.

During the primary, Mr. Trump had repeatedly belittled Jeb Bush as “low energy.” Mr. Bush, who had entered the contest as the son of a president with an inside track for the nomination, was forced to withdraw by February.

After his loss in 1992 to Mr. Clinton, in an election in which the billionaire independent candidate Ross Perot won almost a fifth of the vote, Mr. and Mrs. Bush repaired to their home in Houston and to their oceanfront compound in Kennebunkport, Me. By his own account the loss had left him dispirited and feeling humiliated. But he did not quite retire.

He celebrated several milestone birthdays, including his 90th, with parachute jumps. He traveled the globe on White House missions, joining Mr. Clinton to raise funds for the victims of the tsunami that ravaged Asia in 2004 and of Hurricane Katrina the next year.

Until these undertakings, Mr. Bush had made little effort to mask his disdain for Mr. Clinton, but they forged an unlikely, almost familial, bond, growing so close that Mrs. Bush described her husband as the father Mr. Clinton never had.

The two former presidents became a symbol of bipartisanship in an increasingly partisan age. If Mr. Bush’s embrace helped scrub Mr. Clinton’s reputation of some of its tawdrier aspects, Mr. Clinton helped transform Mr. Bush’s image from that of a vanquished one-term president who had never fully escaped the shadow of his popular predecessor, Reagan, to one of a respected elder statesman.

Mr. Bush was president during a shift in the world order that had begun under Reagan. His measured response to upheaval in Eastern Europe drew complaints that he was not seizing the reins of history. But he chose a collaborative approach, working with the Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev to allow for the reunification of Germany, the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War. The two leaders signed treaties mandating historic reductions in their countries’ nuclear and chemical weapons.

“George H. W. Bush was the best one-term president the country has ever had, and one of the most underrated presidents of all time,” James A. Baker III, the former secretary of state and Mr. Bush’s closest adviser for nearly 50 years, said in an interview in 2013. “I think history is going to treat him very well.”

In his first year at the White House, Mr. Bush sent troops into Panama to oust its strongman, Gen. Manuel Antonio Noriega. The rapid, relatively bloodless conclusion of the Persian Gulf war of 1991 earned him a three-minute standing ovation and shouts of “Bush! Bush!” when he addressed a joint session of Congress that March. It also sent his voter approval ratings soaring to close to 85 percent during the four-day aerial bombardment of Baghdad, according to a New York Times/CBS News poll. It was the pinnacle of his presidency, yet it lulled him, not to mention some potentially formidable Democrats, into assuming his re-election was certain.

Iraq was not an unalloyed victory. Mr. Bush felt compelled to defend his decision to suspend the assault before it could topple Mr. Hussein, and his critics questioned his earlier effort to give Mr. Hussein financial aid and intelligence data. Still, foreign policy successes were the hallmark of his presidency. Not so his domestic record.

By the midpoint of his term, leaders of both the Republican and Democratic Parties complained that in the midst of the worst economy any American president had faced since the end of World War II, Mr. Bush had no domestic agenda. Many questioned his sensitivity to the worries of ordinary Americans. Though stung by the criticism, he did little to dispel that perception on a visit to an economically reeling New Hampshire during his re-election campaign, when he announced in January, “Message: I care.”

His signal domestic decision was almost certainly the 1990 budget deal, which sought to address deepening deficits by raising taxes on the wealthy. If it helped put the nation back on solid financial footing, it nevertheless reversed one of the most explicit campaign pledges ever uttered by a major-party presidential candidate: “Read my lips. No new taxes.”

That promise had been delivered to roars of approval in his acceptance speech at the 1988 Republican National Convention in New Orleans, and the turnabout provoked a chorus of reproach. Conservative Republicans revolted. Democrats found an opening for a bruising attack. And the stage was set for an unexpectedly strong third-party challenge by Mr. Perot, a fellow Texan who had made his fortune in computers. “It did destroy me,” Mr. Bush told Mr. Meacham years later as he assessed the damage he had suffered from breaking his 1988 campaign pledge.

Barely a year after the world had hailed his success in Iraq, Mr. Bush found himself almost losing the Republican presidential primary in New Hampshire to the conservative commentator Patrick J. Buchanan. Mr. Bush won the nomination but was weakened by the Buchanan challenge and accordingly veered sharply to the right. He then lost to Mr. Clinton. Mr. Perot’s 19 percent of the popular vote helped deny both Mr. Bush and Mr. Clinton a majority.

A Measured Aristocrat

By any yardstick, Mr. Bush was an aristocrat, a product of moneyed Greenwich, Conn., where he was instilled with an enduring sense of noblesse oblige.

As a candidate, he was known to ask his Secret Service detail to stop at traffic lights. He wrote enough thank-you notes, courtesy cards and letters of sympathy — Mr. Bush seemed to know someone in every town in America — to fill a book, literally.

hat book’s title was his customary signoff, “All the Best, George Bush.” Published in 1999, it appeared in lieu of a traditional presidential memoir, which he thought would be unseemly for a man whose mother, Dorothy W. Bush, had taught him the importance of modesty.

But the patrician image also hurt him politically. He drew barbs for his drawing-room mannerisms and expressions. When a waitress serving coffee at a New Hampshire truck stop during the 1988 presidential campaign asked him if he would like a refill, he nodded, saying yes, he’d have another “splash.”

His critics saw him as out of touch with ordinary Americans, pointing to what they portrayed as his amazed reaction during a demonstration of a supermarket scanner when he visited a grocers’ convention while president. (He later insisted that he had not been surprised.)

In a debate during the 1992 campaign, Mr. Bush became flustered when a woman asked him how he could respond to the economic distress “of the common people” if he had “no experience with what’s ailing them.” Mr. Bush gazed uneasily at his questioner.

“Help me with the question, and I’ll try to answer it,” the president said.

Moments afterward, he watched as Mr. Clinton strode eagerly across the stage to engage the woman and, some said, win over much of the electorate.

Aware of his boarding-school image, Mr. Bush liked to point to his earthier chapters: his years in the Texas oil business, his wartime service. He reminded listeners that he did not wear button-down dress shirts or striped ties, thank you very much, and that he liked country music, horseshoes and pork rinds.

His courteousness was often taken — mistaken might be the better word — for docility. In 1987, Newsweek put his picture on the cover with the headline “Fighting the ‘Wimp Factor.’ ” (“The cheapest shot I’ve seen in my political life,” Mr. Bush fumed in his diary.) But he could be fiercely competitive in both politics and play. He ran a harsh campaign to beat Gov. Michael S. Dukakis of Massachusetts in 1988. He did not simply play golf, he played what the White House physician called “aerobic golf,” a mad rush from green to green.

Mr. Bush was given to malapropisms, a trait he may have handed down to his son George. He tangled his sentences, particularly when he was nervous. And he supplied a stream of entries into the American political lexicon. He talked about the “Big Mo” to describe the momentum that a victory in the Iowa caucuses had given his campaign. Tough moments were “tension city.” In asking voters not to pity him, he plucked a line from the musical “Evita,” saying, “Don’t cry for me, Argentina.”

His speeches were delivered with a nasal voice and his signature clipped cadence that invited parody. The comedian Dana Carvey made his Bush imitation a staple of “Saturday Night Live.” (“Not gonna do it. Wouldn’t be prudent.”) Rarely did Mr. Bush display the kind of emotional acuity that could move an audience. In a debate in 1992, a television camera captured him glancing at his wristwatch, as if he were bored.

Yet for all these moments, Mr. Bush could exhibit a gracious charm and authenticity. He was that rare figure in Washington: a man without enemies — or with very few, at any rate.

“You don’t see anybody trashing this president,” Mr. Baker said in the 2013 interview. “Whether they agreed with him on certain policy positions or not, people respected him and liked him.”

Besides his sons George and Jeb, Mr. Bush is survived by two other sons, Neil and Marvin; his daughter, Dorothy Bush Koch; a brother, Jonathan; a sister, Nancy Walker Bush Ellis; 17 grandchildren; and eight great-grandchildren. Another daughter, Robin, died of leukemia at age 3 in 1953. His older brother, Prescott S. Bush Jr., died in 2010 at 87, and his younger brother, William, died in March at 79.

Mr. Bush remained physically and mentally robust well into his later years, pursuing a retirement seemingly as active as his career had been. At Kennebunkport, when not golfing, he could be found piloting his speedboat, grinning as it roared atop the waves while often terrifying passengers who had dared to join him.

The day before he turned 80, in 2004, he gave a eulogy at Reagan’s funeral in California. Back in Texas two days later, he celebrated his birthday with about 5,000 invited guests, including Mr. Gorbachev, at a gala dinner in Houston’s baseball stadium. The day after that, as 3,000 people watched from below, Mr. Bush strapped on a parachute and jumped out of a plane.

Privilege and Ambition

George Herbert Walker Bush — he was named after his mother’s father, George Herbert Walker — was born on June 12, 1924, the second of five children, in Milton, Mass., outside Boston. His family moved to Greenwich soon after. His father, besides his two terms in the United States Senate, was a banker who commuted to Wall Street as a managing partner at Brown Brothers Harriman, the white-shoe investment firm. His mother, the former Dorothy Walker, was a native of Maine. It was she who gave George his nickname, Poppy, when he was a toddler.

The children grew up sheltered from the Depression, tended to by maids and a driver. George enrolled at Greenwich Country Day School and Phillips Academy in Andover, Mass. They spent summers in Kennebunkport.

Mr. Bush’s high school yearbook testifies to his ambitions and energy: He was president of the senior class, chairman of the student deacons and captain of both the baseball team and the soccer team.

If his father set the tone for Mr. Bush’s career, his mother shaped his values. His daughter, Ms. Koch, wrote in a memoir that he had been admonished to eschew self-promotion. “ ‘Nobody likes the big I am, George,’ my grandmother would say to him,” Ms. Koch wrote. “ ‘Don’t be talking about yourself.’ ”

Mr. Bush once boasted to his mother that he had scored three goals in a soccer match. “That’s nice, George,” his mother replied, “but how did the team do?”

Six months before he graduated from Phillips Academy, the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. “I could hardly wait to get out of school and enlist,” he wrote years later.

At 18, a handsome and strapping young man, Mr. Bush did enlist, as a seaman second class in the Navy’s flight training program. Soon he was flying combat missions in the Pacific. In September 1944, on a bombing run from the aircraft carrier San Jacinto, his plane was hit near the island of Chichi Jima by antiaircraft guns. He looked out and saw the wings on fire.

I headed the plane out to sea and put on the throttle so as we could get away from the land as much as possible,” he told his parents in a letter. “I turned the plane up in an attitude so as to take the pressure off the back hatch so the boys could get out. After that I straightened up and started to get out myself.”

Two men on the plane died in the attack. Mr. Bush hit his head bailing out, he said, but landed safely in the ocean. He floated on a raft for hours, “violently sick to my stomach,” until a submarine rescued him. He was awarded a Distinguished Flying Cross.

He returned home on Christmas Eve 1944. Days later, he married a young woman he had met at a dance three years earlier: Barbara Pierce, the daughter of Marvin Pierce, the publisher of Redbook and McCall’s magazines. Discharged from the Navy as a lieutenant junior grade, Mr. Bush enrolled at Yale, where he was admitted to the exclusive Skull and Bones club. With the arrival of the couple’s first child, their apartment in New Haven became the home of two future presidents.

After graduating from Yale in 1948 with a degree in economics, Mr. Bush took his red 1947 Studebaker — a graduation present from his parents — and drove to Odessa, Tex. A wealthy family friend, Henry Neil Mallon, gave him an entry-level job at his Texas oil company, Dresser Industries, landing him in a state that he barely knew but that would become a part of his political identity.

But Mr. Bush grew bored in the job, and in 1951 he and a Texas entrepreneur formed an oil exploration business. Two years later, with the business struggling, they merged with another company to form Zapata Petroleum. Zapata had a reputation for never drilling a dry hole, and before long Mr. Bush had made his first million.

Politics on the Horizon

By 1963 he was living in Houston, and his thoughts turned to politics. There was a contest to lead the Harris County Republican committee, and, by his account, local Republicans pressed him to jump in to prevent the far-right John Birch Society from taking over.

Night after night Mr. Bush drove across the county to make speeches, with Mrs. Bush typically sitting behind him onstage, crocheting. He won, and the victory caught the attention of state Republican leaders, who urged him to challenge Senator Ralph Yarborough, a Democrat seeking a second term in 1964. Mr. Bush agreed.

It was not the easiest way to begin a career in elective politics. Mr. Yarborough had ridden in President John F. Kennedy’s motorcade at the time of the assassination in Dallas the previous year, and the new president, Lyndon B. Johnson, a fellow Texan who was heading for a landslide election victory, supported him.

Mr. Yarborough tried to discredit Mr. Bush by tying him to Barry M. Goldwater, the conservative Arizona senator and overmatched Republican presidential candidate. Mr. Bush did not resist the association. He criticized the Civil Rights Act that was before Congress, denounced the 1963 nuclear test ban treaty and warned of a welfare state. He lost, but his 43 percent of the vote was hardly embarrassing in a still decidedly Democratic state.

In February 1966, Mr. Bush resigned as chairman and chief executive of Zapata to run for Congress in a wealthy Houston district. Surveying his electorate, he began moving to the center; he now spoke well of the Johnson agenda, declaring in a speech, “I generally favor the goals as outlined in the Great Society.” He told his minister: “I took some of the far-right positions to get elected. I hope I never do it again. I regret it.”

Mr. Bush was elected to the House of Representatives in 1966 from the Seventh Congressional District of Texas.

Mr. Bush won the House seat handily, with 67 percent of the vote. In Washington, he was one of 47 Republican freshmen in a Democratic-controlled Congress. In his telling, his most consequential vote there was for the open housing bill of 1968, an extension of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which he had campaigned against. He still had concerns about the act’s constitutionality, he wrote about his evolution, but the “problem of discrimination troubled me deeply.”

Mr. Bush was re-elected without opposition in 1968. The next spring, President Richard M. Nixon encouraged him to challenge Mr. Yarborough again for a Senate seat, although it would mean giving up a safe House seat and a post on the Ways and Means Committee. With Mr. Yarborough appearing more vulnerable this time, Mr. Bush took the challenge for the 1970 election.

Once again things did not turn out as planned. Representative Lloyd Bentsen challenged Mr. Yarborough in the Democratic primary and, in an upset, won. Mr. Bush, suddenly confronting a much tougher opponent, lost by more than 150,000 votes.

Twice defeated as a Senate candidate, and with his term in the House about to expire, Mr. Bush was looking for work. He was shortly summoned to the White House, where H. R. Haldeman, Nixon’s chief of staff, talked to him about a White House staff job. Mr. Bush, however, wanted to be the United States ambassador to the United Nations. Nixon agreed.

His nomination drew a tide of criticism — his qualifications, as a former two-term congressman, were not immediately apparent — but Mr. Bush won confirmation in February 1971.

Diplomat and Partisan

His United Nations service began with an embittering defeat in a vote on whether to seat a delegation from China. The United States had wanted both Taiwan and the People’s Republic of China to be represented, but the United Nations General Assembly voted to expel Taiwan to make way for China. Delegates danced in the aisles, delighted to see the United States humiliated. When Mr. Bush rose to speak, he was hissed. “Gladiatorial ugliness at its worst,” he later called it.

In 1972, after the break-ins at the Democratic Party offices at the Watergate Hotel in Washington, Nixon had a more urgent need for Mr. Bush: to lead the Republican National Committee. He took the job, he wrote, certain of Nixon’s innocence in the scandal, and he defended Nixon, though it was not easy.

Meeting with editors and reporters of The Washington Post at the newspaper’s offices, he talked about the pressures he felt even from within his own party. “I had two stacks of mail,” he said. The first asked, “How come you’re not doing more to support the president?” The second asked, “How come you’re keeping the party so close to the president?”

But as the scandal deepened, his support for Nixon began to erode, particularly after the Supreme Court ordered the president to turn over 64 tapes, including one that recorded him ordering Mr. Haldeman to block an F.B.I. inquiry into the break-ins. “This was proof the president had lied,” Mr. Bush wrote in “All the Best, George Bush.”

“The man is amoral,” he said of Nixon in his diary.

After Nixon resigned, ceding the presidency to Vice President Gerald R. Ford, Mr. Bush hoped to fill the vice president’s office. Ford called him in Kennebunkport two weeks later to tell him that he had chosen former Gov. Nelson A. Rockefeller of New York for the job.

Mr. Bush went instead to China, as head of the United States Liaison Office, serving as an unofficial ambassador at a time when the two countries did not have full diplomatic relations. He would describe the period as a sabbatical, free of stress and obligations.

Ford brought him back for another assignment in 1976: to lead the C.I.A., which was still reeling from accusations that it had abused its power under Nixon, including plotting to assassinate foreign leaders and overturn governments. Mr. Bush was credited with restoring morale at the agency, but it was another short-lived appointment, lasting just under a year. Ford lost the election to Jimmy Carter that November, and Mr. Bush returned to Texas.

here he turned his sights toward running for president. “I am determined to make an all-out effort for 1980,” he wrote to Nixon in January 1979.

Mr. Bush put together a cabinet of advisers — including Mr. Baker, a Houston lawyer who had managed his 1970 Senate campaign and Ford’s 1976 presidential campaign — and began traveling the country. He focused first on the Iowa caucuses, borrowing from Jimmy Carter’s strategy in 1976 of using a victory there to jump ahead of the field. He succeeded in Iowa, but then lost in New Hampshire, and by May the party was coalescing around Reagan. Mr. Bush met with his advisers. “A consensus was reached — the campaign had no future,” he wrote in his autobiography. “There was only one dissenting voice. Mine.”

Mr. Bush decided on a new goal: to become vice president. But that July he learned from television that Reagan was seeking to enlist Ford. To ask a former president to take the No. 2 spot was a surprising move, but Reagan, a former actor and California governor with hard-right views, hoped that Ford would bring to the ticket both Washington heft and political moderation. Their negotiation faltered, however, and Mr. Bush received the telephone call he had wanted.

“Hello, George,” Reagan said to Mr. Bush. “This is Ron Reagan. I’d like to go over to the convention and announce that you’re my choice for vice president, if that’s all right with you.”

That November, the Reagan-Bush ticket won in a landslide and Mr. Bush offered the new president his fealty. “I will never do anything to embarrass you politically,” he wrote to Reagan.

Mr. Bush happily accepted his first assignment: leading a task force to reduce federal regulations. He rarely, if ever, said no to attending the funeral of a foreign dignitary, and he endured the ribbing that is the cost of being a vice president. “Let ’em laugh,” Mr. Bush said. “There’s a lot going on, and it’s substantive, and I like it.”

The Reagan-Bush team was even more convincing in the 1984 re-election campaign, when the Democratic challenger, former Vice President Walter F. Mondale, chose as his running mate Representative Geraldine A. Ferraro, the first woman nominated for national office by a major party. She and Mr. Bush sparred throughout the campaign, and he came in for criticism when he was overheard after a debate bragging that “we tried to kick a little ass last night.” But almost as soon as the votes began piling up, he turned to his own political future.

Bumps Along the Trail

Early in 1986, wanting to shore up his shaky credentials on the right, Mr. Bush gave a series of speeches in which he backed constitutional amendments supporting a balanced budget and school prayer and restricting abortion. He also tied himself ever more tightly to Reagan by presenting himself as the rightful heir to his party’s presidential nomination.

But the risks in that strategy became all too apparent. With the exposure of the Iran-contra affair — the clandestine scheme to sell arms to Iran in exchange for the release of Iranian hostages and then to divert the proceeds to right-wing Nicaraguan rebels — the White House came under investigation, and Mr. Bush was hounded by questions about what he knew about the deal. He said he had expressed “certain reservations” about it in White House meetings, a recollection that at one point Reagan seemed to challenge.

The arms-for-hostages storm hurt Mr. Bush and emboldened his Republican opponents. In January 1988, when Mr. Bush faced an unexpectedly tough challenge in Iowa from Senator Bob Dole of Kansas, an interview with the CBS News anchor Dan Rather turned into a 10-minute confrontation. Mr. Rather pressed Mr. Bush about his role in the Iran-contra affair. “I want to talk about why I want to be president,” Mr. Bush said. “I don’t think it’s fair to judge my whole career by a rehash on Iran.”

Mr. Bush came in third in the Iowa caucuses, behind Mr. Dole and the evangelical preacher Pat Robertson. It was an embarrassment for a vice president in office and the presumed heir to the nomination. Stung, Mr. Bush turned his hopes to New Hampshire, where his campaign was being run by Gov. John H. Sununu.

Mr. Sununu advised him to counter his image as a man of privilege. Soon the president was campaigning in a windbreaker, pumping hands at factory gates and, at one point, leaping from his motorcade to help a driver stuck in a snowbank.

Mr. Bush won the New Hampshire primary with 37.8 percent of the vote, and Mr. Dole ended his dwindling chances that night when he flashed anger in a television interview. When the NBC News anchor Tom Brokaw asked Mr. Dole if he had anything to say to Mr. Bush, he responded by saying, “Stop lying about my record.”

Mr. Dukakis had emerged as the party’s choice. The Bush camp decided to portray Mr. Dukakis as a Massachusetts liberal, highlighting his membership in the American Civil Liberties Union and his having supported a program that provided a weekend furlough to a prisoner, Willie Horton, who had raped a woman while free from jail one weekend.

When Mr. Bush arrived in New Orleans for the Republican convention, Mr. Dukakis had a 17-point lead in opinion polls.

Mr. Bush did not get off to the most auspicious start. Even some Republicans questioned his choice for running mate: Dan Quayle, a young, boyish-looking, little-known Indiana senator who was just finishing his first term.

But Mr. Bush was focused on his opponent. He mocked Mr. Dukakis for being a “card-carrying member of the A.C.L.U.” and attacked him for refusing to sign a Massachusetts bill mandating that teachers lead students in a daily recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance.

Mr. Bush pulled ahead of Mr. Dukakis in the polls. As Election Day neared, Mr. Dukakis faded under the pummeling of a campaign that even some Republicans would characterize as ugly. Lee Atwater, who had directed the campaign, apologized in 1991 for the tactics he had employed.

The day before the election, Mr. Bush was confident enough about the outcome that he decided to name Mr. Baker, his campaign manager in 1970 and 1980, as secretary of state and Mr. Sununu, who had saved his candidacy in New Hampshire, as chief of staff.

His victory, on Nov. 8, was convincing: He won 40 states and 54 percent of the popular vote, to Mr. Dukakis’s 35 percent. The next day, seeking to distance himself from harsher sides of his campaign, Mr. Bush assured reporters that they would never again see the candidate some had begun calling George the Ripper.

Mr. Bush was triumphant as he stood at the West Front of the Capitol on Inauguration Day in January 1989.

The Bush White House

Denied the presidency earlier and overshadowed by Reagan for eight years, Mr. Bush was triumphant as he stood at the West Front of the Capitol on Inauguration Day in January 1989, a throng of well-wishers spread out below. He was 64 years old and eager to move into the office down the hall and around the corner from the quarters he had occupied as vice president — so eager that he exclaimed “I” before Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist had finished asking him if he would solemnly swear to faithfully execute the office of president.

In his Inaugural Address, Mr. Bush pledged “to make kinder the face of the nation and gentler the face of the world.” He talked about a “thousand points of light,” a reference to community and charitable groups, “spread like stars throughout the nation.” But he soon met obstacles to that lofty ambition — some political, some economic, some of his own doing and some beyond his control.

The most immediate difficulty came from operating in Reagan’s shadow. Mr. Bush had replaced, and would be judged against, a two-term president who had come to embody a new era of Republicanism while presiding over what was, at the time, the longest period of economic growth in history. If things went wrong for Mr. Bush, he would not be able to blame his predecessor.

And clearly he did not approve of everything Reagan had done as president. The heavy budget deficit Reagan had left promised to complicate anything the new president might want to do.

Mr. Bush also faced a solidly Democratic Congress, a disadvantage he would later blame for his limited legislative record. And although Mr. Bush had defeated Mr. Dukakis soundly, he was not feared; Democrats were not inclined to afford him much of a ride.

Mr. Bush’s first test came with his nomination of an old ally, John G. Tower, as secretary of defense. Mr. Tower, a former senator from Texas, had served on the Senate Armed Services Committee, and Mr. Bush thought the nomination would, as he wrote, “glide through the Hill for two good reasons: He was more than qualified for the job, and Congress is usually kind to its own.

“I could not have been more wrong.”

The problems rose from the right. Paul M. Weyrich, an uncompromising leader of the conservative movement, testified before the committee that he had seen Mr. Tower inebriated in public and in the company of women other than his wife. Mr. Weyrich said he had “serious reservations” about Mr. Tower’s “moral character.” The next day, Senator Sam Nunn, the Georgia Democrat who was chairman of the committee, asked Mr. Tower if he had a drinking problem. “I have none, senator,” Mr. Tower said.

But the nomination was sliding off the tracks, and Mr. Bush responded with fury, denouncing what he called the “frenzied air of speculation” about Mr. Tower. He and Mr. Quayle began lobbying senators personally.

The Senate voted 53 to 47 to reject Mr. Tower’s nomination. It was the first time in 30 years that a president had been denied his choice of a cabinet member.

Mr. Bush next nominated a popular House member for the defense secretary job: Mr. Cheney of Wyoming. But the Tower episode had taken a toll. The 41st president had not reached the benchmark first 100 days in office, yet he felt compelled to declare that his White House was “on track.”

“I would simply resist the clamor that nothing seems to be bubbling around, that nothing is happening,” he said. “A lot is happening, not all of it good, but a lot is happening.”

George H.W. Bush inaugural address: Jan. 20, 1989

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