George Bush graduated from Yale University in 1948, after wartime naval service. He made a fortune in the Texan oil industry before entering politics to sit in the house of representatives (1966 – 1970).
He was ambassador to the UN (1970 – 1974) and head of the US liaison office in China (1976 – 1977), before appointment to the Directorship of the CIA.
Bush unsuccessfully contested the Republican presidential nomination with Ronald Reagan in 1980 and became vice president. He acted behind the scenes as one of Reagan’s closest advisers, undertaking many international missions on his behalf.
Elected President of the United States in 1988, Bush did not possess his predecessor’s strong public image, but once in office, he acted decisively.
On his orders, troops were sent into Panama in 1989 to arrest President Noriega and bring him to trial in the US on drugs charges, and he led the international action against the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, committing large numbers of US troops to the UN-backed Allied force that fought the Gulf War in 1991.
George Bush’s 1992 began with a very public (and embarrassing) display of vomiting during a diplomatic visit to Japan and ended with a resounding defeat at the hands of a man young enough to be his son.
Certainly, his re-election campaign was dogged by unforeseen circumstances – the worsening recession, the LA riots, Texas billionaire H Ross Perot’s third-party candidacy – but the president did little to help his own cause.
Never the warmest of individuals, Bush sounded increasingly shrill and pinched as the campaign wore on and his approval ratings dipped.
For all the controversy surrounding Democratic challenger Bill Clinton – who equivocated on several important issues and was accused of carrying on at least one extra-marital affair while presiding as the governor of Arkansas – Clinton at least came across like he cared about people.
In the end, incidents like the takeover of the Republican Convention by Pat Robertson’s Christian Coalition, and Bush’s confusion during a staged Q&A session (he was visibly shaken when the order of questions was accidentally shuffled) only served to illustrate how deeply out of touch Bush was with the mood of the country.
Americans showed their displeasure by making sure Bush would go down in the history books as a one-term-only president.
After a long battle with vascular Parkinson’s Disease, Bush died at his home in Houston on 30 November 2018, at the age of 94.