41st President, 1989–1993 Party Affiliation: Republican

Chief 1988 Opponent: Michael Dukakis (Democrat)


Where and when was he born?

George H. W. Bush was born in Milton, Massachusetts, to Prescott S. and Dorothy Walker Bush on June 24, 1924.

What did his parents do for a living?

Prescott S. Bush was a successful Wall Street banker who later went into politics. He served as a U.S. senator for Connecticut from 1952 to 1963. Dorothy Walker Bush, a great tennis player in her youth, reared the couple’s children and, while Prescott served in the Senate, wrote a column entitled “Washington Life of a Senator’s Wife.”

What was his early education?

George H. W. Bush attended exclusive private schools. First, he attended Greenwich (Connecticut) Country Day School, and then at age thirteen, he entered Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts. He served as president of his senior class, captained the baseball team, and managed the school’s basketball team. He graduated from Phillips Academy in 1942.

Did he have any siblings?

Yes, George H. W. Bush had four siblings: Prescott Jr., who died as an infant, Nancy, Jonathan, and William.

Did he marry?

Yes, George H. W. Bush married Barbara Pierce on January 6, 1945, in Rye, New York. He was twenty and she was nineteen at the time of their marriage. Barbara Bush later became a very respected first lady.

Does he have any children?

George and Barbara Bush have six children, including five that lived to adulthood. Daughter Pauline Robinson (“Robin”) died of leukemia at age four in 1953. The five children are George W. Bush, who later became the forty-third president of the United States; John E. “Jeb,” who became governor of Florida; Neil, who became an oil executive; Marvin, who became an investment consultant; and Dorothy, who has been a successful businesswoman.


What did he do after his high school graduation?

After the attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941, Bush decided to join the navy when he finished high school. He became the navy’s youngest aviator at age eighteen. He flew more than fifty combat missions—including at least one from which he barely survived—and earned numerous medals, including the Distinguished Flying Cross and several Air Medals.

What did he do after leaving the military?

Bush attended his father’s alma mater, Yale University, where he had been accepted before he had joined the military. He entered an accelerated program that allowed individuals to graduate in two and a half years instead of the traditional four years. He captained the baseball team and participated in two College World Series. He was considered an exceptional fielder, but only a decent hitter. He graduated with honors in 1948.


What did he do after graduating from Yale?

He decided to strike out on his own and enter the oil business in Texas. He first landed a job with Dresser Industries, as the president of the company was a family friend. A couple years later, he left Dresser to form his own company—the Bush-Overby Oil Development Company in Midland, Texas. Bush and John Overby then merged their company with Bill and Hugh Liedtke to form Zapata Petroleum Corporation. Bush became a wealthy man in the oil business. He gradually developed more and more of an itch to enter politics.


What office did Bush first seek?

In 1964, Bush served as chairman of the Republican Party for Harris County, Texas, and attended the 1964 Republican National Convention. He ambitiously ran for a seat in the U.S. Senate. He captured the Republican nomination but lost to Democrat incumbent Ralph Yarbrough.

When did he first become a member of Congress?

Bush first joined Congress after winning a 1966 election for the U.S. House of Representatives. He served in the House until 1971. He served on the prestigious House Ways and Means Committee.

Why did Bush receive threatening letters from his constituents when he was serving in the House?

Bush voted for the 1968 Fair Housing Act, which was very unpopular in his Texas district. It was considered a courageous vote has given the unpopularity of the bill.

What race did Bush lose in 1970?

Bush again sought a seat in the U.S. Senate, thinking that he could defeat Yarbrough this time. However, Yarbrough lost to former congressmen Lloyd Bentsen. Bush lost to Bentsen in the general election. He nearly quit politics after the loss. As an interesting- ing side note, Bentsen later served as the vice-presidential nominee for Bush’s 1988 presidential opponent Michael Dukakis.

What was Bush’s next political position after the failed Senate race?

President Richard Nixon appointed Bush as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, a position he held from 1971 to 1973. This position gave Bush keen insight into numerous foreign countries.


What was the next political position that Nixon gave to Bush?

President Nixon talked Bush into taking the job of chair of the Republican National Committee in 1973. This was a most difficult time for this job, as the Watergate scandal continued to mushroom out of control. Bush steadfastly defended the Republican Party.

What position did President Fordappoint Bush to?

Bush had wanted to be President Gerald Ford’s vice president, but he was the president’s second choice behind Nelson Rockefeller. However, President Ford designated Bush as chief U.S. liaison or envoy in China, a position in which Bush excelled. He improved U.S.-Sino relations significantly during his time.

What was the next position that Ford assigned to him?

President Ford then asked Bush to take the position of director of the Central Intelligence Agency—a position that Bush did not want but accepted nonetheless. Bush improved the morale of the agency and even briefed President-elect Jimmy Carter on various affairs. He hoped to stay in the position, but Carter wanted a Democrat for the job.

What did Bush do for the several years before he became vice president?

Bush became a chairperson of a bank in Houston and taught part-time at Rice University’s business school. After this, he served as a director for the Council on Foreign Relations and decided that he wanted to run for president. He won key primaries in Iowa, Michigan, and Pennsylvania, but lost the presidential candidacy to the popular Ronald Reagan, who later asked Bush to be his running mate.

What did Bush do as vice president?

Bush was a very loyal vice president to Reagan, particularly during the time when Rea- gan was recuperating from the assassination attempt by John Hinckley Jr. He had weekly lunches with the president and worked on key task forces. He traveled to many foreign countries and further developed an expertise in foreign policy.



Whom did Bush defeat to win the 1988 Republican primary?

Bush defeated some formidable challengers, including Bob Dole, U.S. senator from Kansas; Jack Kemp, a popular U.S. representative from New York; former secretary of state Alexander Haig; and wildcard candidate Reverend Pat Robertson.

Whom did Bush defeat in the general election?

Bush defeated Michael Dukakis, the governor of Massachusetts. Dukakis had an early lead in the polls, but the Bush campaign team did an effective job of attacking their opponent as soft on crime and too liberal for much of middle America. The Bush team ran the infamous “Willie Horton” ad, linking Dukakis’s support of weekend passes for felons with the story of a Massachusetts inmate who had committed a violent crime while on a weekend furlough. The ad was effective, and Bush won the election in an electoral vote landslide, 426 to 111.

Who was Bush’s vice president?

Bush chose conservative Dan Quayle, a U.S. senator from Indiana. Quayle had managed to defeat the longtime Democratic senator Birch Bayh, even though there was a popular conception that Quayle was not the brightest politician. He went on to make some memorable gaffes in spelling and speaking during his time as vice president.

Who was Bush’s secretary of defense?

Bush chose Richard Cheney, a longtime congressman from Wyoming as his secretary of defense. Cheney later served as vice president to Bush’s son during his presidency. Bush had actually wanted former senator John Tower of Texas as his secretary of defense, but Tower was rejected by the Senate, the first time the Senate had rejected a cabinet appointment in more than twenty years.

What foreign policy occurrences led to Bush having a really high popularity rating early in his presidency?

Several factors contributed to Bush’s high approval rating. First, the Berlin Wall fell, Communism collapsed, and the Cold War ended. Then, Bush successfully waged the First Persian Gulf War, soundly defeating Iraq after its leader, Sadaam Hussein, invaded Kuwait. These events gave Bush a popular rating of nearly 90 percent—an unprecedented amount for a president.


What treaty did Bush sign with Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev?

Bush and Gorbachev signed the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, in which both countries pledged to reduce their nuclear arms. Bush called the treaty a “significant step forward in dispelling half a century of mistrust.” It was these two leaders—Bush and Gorbachev—who played a key role in the historic ending of the Cold War, a truly remarkable accomplishment between the two superpowers.

What Panamanian leader did the Bush administration take out of power?

U.S. forces invaded Panama and removed dictator Manuel Noriega from power. Noriega had defied the results of a democratic election in his country in which he had been ousted. The U.S. faced charges of “American imperialism” for its intervention. Bush referred to the U.S. deployment of more than twenty thousand troops as “Operation Just Cause.”

What fellow member of the Reagan administration did Bush pardon?

Bush pardoned Reagan’s secretary of defense Caspar Weinberger, who faced criminal charges arising out of the Iran-Contra scandal. Bush called Weinberger a “true Ameri- can patriot.”

What trade agreement did Bush sign with the leaders of Canada and Mexico?

Bush signed the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with the leaders of Canada and Mexico. This measure greatly reduced tariffs on the countries’ goods and many believed that it had positive impacts on the economy.

What major anti-discrimination law did Bush sign into law?

On September 25, 1990, Bush signed into law the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, a law that provided protection to those with disabilities in employment, public accommodations, and other areas of life. Title I of the ADA provides protections for those employees or applicants who are qualified individuals with a disability. The law, a bi-partisan effort, made a tremendous difference in the lives of those with physical and mental disabilities.


Who were his U.S. Supreme Court appointees?

Bush had two appointments to the U.S. Supreme Court: David Souter and Clarence Thomas. Souter, a relatively little-known jurist from New Hampshire, was expected to be a conservative. Bush’s chief of staff John Sununu referred to him as a “home run for conservatives.” He turned out to be a single—if that— for conservatives, as Souter proved himself to be an independent and often liberal jurist on the Court. Souter retired from the Court in 2009.

With his next selection, Bush chose Clarence Thomas, an African-American conservative, to replace the great liberal giant Thurgood Marshall, the nation’s first African American Supreme Court justice. Thomas barely won Senate confirmation— fifty-two to forty-eight—after former co-worker Anita Hill, a law professor from Okla- homa, alleged that Thomas sexually harassed her while both worked for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Thomas, who was Hill’s boss at two different jobs, vehemently denied the charges and famously referred to the Democrats’ interrogation as a “high-tech lynching.”


Did Bush seek a second term?

Yes, Bush sought a second term, but the failing economy led to challenges for the Bush campaign. The Democratic challenger Bill Clinton proved to be an effective and resilient campaigner. Bush was harmed further by the entrance into the race of Independent candidate Ross Perot, who drew more votes away from Bush.

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