Monday, June 7, 2010
George H. W. Bush
George Herbert Walker Bush (1924- ) was elected President of the United States in 1988 after serving as Vice President under Ronald Reagan from 1981 to 1989. He was the fourteenth Vice President who became President. He was defeated in his bid for a second term by Democrat Governor Bill Clinton of Arkansas. Bush took advantage of his association with Reagan while he campaigned for the 1988 election. Reagan had been a very popular President. Bush also profited from the fact that relations between the United States and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (U.S.S.R.) greatly improved during the Reagan years. As President, Bush was commander-in-chief during the Persian Gulf War in which the United States and its allies defeated Iraq. He also signed important arms-control agreements with the former U.S.S.R. and then with Russia and other former Soviet republics. Before he was elected Vice President, Bush had a long career of government service. He served two terms representing Texas in the U. S. House of Representatives. He was U.S. Ambassador to United Nations (UN), director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), Republican Party Chairman, and Envoy to China. Bush was a native of New England who was drawn to Texas by the booming oil industry. He worked his way up from equipment clerk to become president of an independent offshore oil drilling company. He was a successful businessman in the oil industry. Bush enjoyed sports, especially tennis and baseball. He also enjoyed jogging, boating, fishing, and parachuting out of airplanes in his later years. He especially enjoyed spending time with his family at their vacation home in Kennebunkport, Maine. Bush was born in Mitton, Massachusetts, on June 12, 1924. He had three brothers and one sister. His father was a successful businessman before becoming interested in politics. He represented Connecticut in the U.S. Senate from 1952 to 1963. The Bush family lived in a nine-bedroom home in Greenwich, Connecticut, and spent summers at the Kennebunkport home of George Herbert Walker, the grandfather for whom young George was named. Bush attended the private Greenwich Country Day School before enrolling in an exclusive preparatory school named Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts. He earned good grades and was elected president of his senior class. He was also captain of the baseball and soccer teams before graduating in 1942. After the United States entered World War II in December 1941, Bush enlisted in the Naval Reserve. He received flight training and was the Navy's youngest pilot when he was commissioned an ensign in June 1943. He was assigned as a fighter pilot with the Torpedo Bomber Squadron VT-51, aboard the aircraft carrier U.S.S. San Jacinto in the Pacific Ocean. During an attack on a Japanese-held island, his plane was shot down on September 2, 1944. Before escaping from his plane, he scored damaging hits on his target, a radio station. He was rescued from the ocean by a U.S. submarine, the U.S.S. Finback, but his two crew members did not survive. He received the Distinguished Flying Cross for his heroism in the incident and returned to flying after being shot down. He was later transferred to the Oceana Naval Air Station in Virginia until the war ended in August 1945. Bush met Barbara Pierce of New York at a Christmas dance in 1941. Her father was the publisher of McCall's and Redbook magazines. George and Barbara were married on January 6, 1945, and had six children (George, Robin, John, Neil, Marvin, and Dorothy). Bush entered Yale University in the fall of 1945 where he worked hard and did well in his studies. He played first base on the Yale baseball team for three seasons and was captain of the team during his senior year. He graduated from Yale in 1948 with a bachelor's degree in economics and was elected to the honor society Phi Beta Kappa. While he was President of the United States, he had to deal with the worst crisis in the savings and loan industry since the Great Depression of the 1930's. More than 1,000 institutions failed and hundreds more neared bankruptcy between 1980 and 1990. Causes of this crisis were: customers failing to repay loans, poor regulation, and fraud and mismanagement in the industry. Bush proposed legislation to rescue and restructure the industry. The cost of this bailout could eventually reach hundreds of billions of dollars. The Exxon Valdez oil spill occurred in March 1989 near the port of Valdez, Alaska. It was the largest oil spill ever to take place in United States waters (11 million gallons). Two weeks after the spill, Bush order U.S. military and other federal agencies to take control of the clean up. Bush signed a bill amending the Clean Air Act of 1970, setting stricter standards for air quality and emissions and requiring the sale of cleaner burning fuels. He signed a bill in November 1990 to raise federal income taxes, going against a campaign promise to oppose any new taxes. By July 1991 the U.S. economy had entered a recession. The Los Angeles riots broke out in June 1992, resulting in 53 deaths and over $1 billion in property damage. In international affairs, Bush took bold military action twice during his presidency. He ordered troops into Panama in December 1989 to overthrow the dictatorship of General Manuel Antonio Noriega, save 35,000 Americans who lived in Panama, and to defend the Panama Canal. Noriega was brought to the United States where he was convicted of drug trafficking and sentenced to 40 years in prison. In August 1990 Bush ordered hundreds of thousands of U.S. troops to the Middle East after Iraq invaded Kuwait. Many Arab nations and other nations joined the United States in a coalition that forced Iraq's military out of Kuwait and defeated Iraq after about 100 hours of fighting. In April Bush ordered U.S. troops to work with other coalition forces in establishing safety zones in northern and southern Iraq. Major events occurring during the Bush presidency include: 1) The Soviet Union broke apart into several independent states in late 1991. 2) The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 protected disabled people from discrimination by private employers. 3) The Hubble Space Telescope, launched into orbit by the United States in 1990, produced valuable new images of stars, planets, and galaxies. 4) Recycling programs multiplied as the world's output of garbage became a growing concern. 5) A cyclone and tidal wave hit Bangladesh in 1991 and killed 150,000 people. 6) South Africa officially ended apartheid, its policy of racial segregation, in 1991. However, the country's laws continued to deny blacks the right to vote in national and provincial elections. 7) Hurricane Andrew tore through southwestern Florida in 1992 leaving 250,000 people homeless. Facts for this post came from an article by Lee Thornton in World Book Encyclopedia, Vol. 2, pp 732-739.