George Herbert Walker Bush spent but four years in the Oval Office as America’s president, but as we mourn his passing Friday at age 94, the pain of that loss is leavened by the increasingly shared conviction that his career before, during and after the White House looms as large as that of any public figure in recent memory.
Where he succeeded, Bush did so on a grand, and often global, scale. He made history, and much of that history made the world and America with it a better place, as when he led a broad international coalition to push an invading Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait. Or when he almost single-handedly stage-managed the creation of a new world order amid the collapse of communism, the fall of the Berlin Wall and the reunification of Germany.
These events rocked the world, and Bush calmly sat shotgun to history steering their outcome with a calm that characterized most of his public life.On the domestic front, despite Democrats controlling both houses of Congress all four years he was president, Bush signed significant, even landmark, legislation, from the Clean Air Act to the Americans with Disabilities Act. He signed legislation that enhanced tax credits for poor families, and banned the importation of most semiautomatic weapons., He signed a labor standards bill that raised the minimum wage, too.George Bush almost always steered to the center with a belief that Americans should come together to find solutions.
Personally, and politically, he eschewed absolutism. It’s an example today’s politicians, on both the right and the left, would do well to emulate.Bush, for all his human foibles and occasional inadequacies, was the real deal. He was an American hero, an underrated president and a Texan in the grittiest sense.
While this city, and this nation, will miss him dearly, we must not despair that the lessons of his leadership will dim with his passing. This melancholy nation needs those thousand points of light Bush spoke of more than ever. Those of us who still value integrity, service and duty to country over party must reflect on Bush’s example, celebrate it, and then spread like stars across the nation to, as he wrote in 1990, “push forward.”
Houston Chronicle Editorial Board, 12/1/2018 (Abridged)