41

41: Inside the Presidency of George H. W. Bush

Michael Nelson
Barbara A. Perry
Copyright Date: 2014
Published by: Cornell University Press
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7591/j.ctt5hh0w3
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  • Book Info
    41
    Book Description:

    Although it lasted only a single term, the presidency of George H. W. Bush was an unusually eventful one, encompassing the fall of the Berlin Wall and the reunification of Germany, the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the invasion of Panama, the Persian Gulf War, and contentious confirmation hearings over Clarence Thomas and John Tower. Bush has said that to understand the history of his presidency, while "the documentary record is vital," interviews with members of his administration "add the human side that those papers can never capture."

    This book draws on interviews with senior White House and Cabinet officials conducted under the auspices of the Bush Oral History Project (a cooperative effort of the University of Virginia's Miller Center and the George Bush Presidential Library Foundation) to provide a multidimensional portrait of the first President Bush and his administration. Typically, interviews explored officials' memories of their service with President Bush and their careers prior to joining the administration. Interviewees also offered political and leadership lessons they had gleaned as eyewitnesses to and shapers of history.

    The contributors to 41-all seasoned observers of American politics, foreign policy, and government institutions-examine how George H. W. Bush organized and staffed his administration, operated on the international stage, followed his own brand of Republican conservatism, handled legislative affairs, and made judicial appointments. A scrupulously objective analysis of oral history, primary documents, and previous studies, 41 deepens the historical record of the forty-first president and offers fresh insights into the rise of the "new world order" and its challenges.

    Contributors: Henry J. Abraham, University of Virginia; Jeffrey A. Engel, Southern Methodist University; Hugh Heclo, George Mason University; Sidney M. Milkis, University of Virginia; Michael Nelson, Rhodes College and University of Virginia; Barbara A. Perry, University of Virginia; Russell L. Riley, University of Virginia; Barbara Sinclair, University of California, Los Angeles; Bartholomew Sparrow, University of Texas at Austin; Robert A. Strong, Washington and Lee University; Philip Zelikow, University of Virginia.

    eISBN: 978-0-8014-7082-0
    Subjects: Political Science, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. vii-xii)
    Philip Zelikow

    The popular image of George H. W. Bush, which has recently been reinforced by an HBO documentary produced by Jerry Weintraub and other Bush friends, is the portrait of an accomplished, good-natured, self-deprecating gentleman and sportsman. All this is true enough. Indeed, Bush seems highly qualified to be the president of any community’s Rotary Club.

    This does leave us, however, with a few puzzles.

    First, why was this amiable fellow both so successful and so unsuccessful as a politician? It is interesting that Bush’s abilities in winning people over at the personal level, which was abundantly in evidence in foreign...

  4. Preface
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
    Michael Nelson and Barbara A. Perry
  5. George H. W. Bush’s Road to the White House
    (pp. xvii-xxii)
  6. Introduction: HISTORY AND GEORGE BUSH
    (pp. 1-24)
    Russell L. Riley

    We are told by those close to the man who was the forty-first president of the United States that he does not like discussions of the “L word,” preferring to leave assessments of his presidential legacy to others. In this, George H. W. Bush’s approach to his place in history is, to say the least, atypical, in a business where brazen self-promotion is expected and oblique boasting high art. Efforts to spin history usually continue long after a president leaves office. The White House memoir is an evergreen genre, and “ reputational entrepreneurs” routinely seek to memorialize their leader’s accomplishments...

  7. Part I AMERICAN CONSERVATISM

    • 1 GEORGE BUSH: TEXAN, CONSERVATIVE
      (pp. 27-47)
      Michael Nelson

      George H. W. Bush’s three-decade-long political career was shadowed, more than that of any other recent and prominent national leader, by public doubts about what he believed. From 1962, when he entered politics as the Harris County (Houston) party chair to 1993, when he exited the political scene after a single term as president, Bush worked within a Republican Party that became ever more adamantly and aggressively conservative on a wider range of issues. Along the way he was branded as everything from “the darling of the John Birch Society” to “somewhat center of center” to a “big government, ‘me-too-Republican.”...

    • 2 GEORGE BUSH AND AMERICAN CONSERVATISM
      (pp. 48-78)
      Hugh Heclo

      The relationship between George H. W. Bush and American conservatism should be pictured as a prolonged dance of suspicion and courtship, of pandering and treachery. During the last half of the twentieth century, this political tango played out as the meaning and political practices of conservatism were undergoing fundamental transformations. The results manifested themselves in Bush’s anomalous presidency. For four years, President Bush governed in a traditionally conservative manner but failed to live up to the standard demanded by the new form of conservatism. Seen from this historical perspective, and informed by the relevant Miller Center oral histories, a great...

  8. Part II WAR AND STATECRAFT

    • 3 ORGANIZING SECURITY: How the Bush Presidency Made Decisions on War and Peace
      (pp. 81-99)
      Bartholomew Sparrow

      George Bush engaged the U.S. military in several conflicts during his single term in office: the invasion of Panama (December 1989), the forcible eviction of Iraqi forces from Kuwait (1991), and, at the end of his tenure, the intervention in Somalia (December 1992–January 1993). Equally significant was what the president and his advisors did not do. They did not occupy Iraq after successfully counterattacking and devastating Iraq’s infrastructure and air defenses. They did not go into Kosovo, Bosnia, or elsewhere in the former Yugoslavia. And they did not have to use force to effect the extraordinary reunification of Germany...

    • 4 WHEN GEORGE BUSH BELIEVED THE COLD WAR ENDED AND WHY THAT MATTERED
      (pp. 100-121)
      Jeffrey A. Engel

      George H. W. Bush governed during remarkable times. The Berlin Wall fell. Germany reunited. The Soviet Union ceased to exist, Eastern Europe turned to democracy, and the Cold War ended. Simultaneously, bloodshed in China’s Tiananmen Square proved the resilience of authoritarian rule. Violence in Rumania, Latvia, and Yugoslavia demonstrated that the new democratic age would not necessarily be a peaceful one. Indeed, the post–Cold War peace was remarkably short lived: the Gulf War was waged and won even as final plans for German unification were being drawn. Nearly forgotten in this cacophony of events are the American military interventions...

    • 5 CHARACTER AND CONSEQUENCE: The John Tower Confirmation Battle
      (pp. 122-140)
      Robert A. Strong

      In December 1988 when George Bush announced his choice for secretary of defense, he appeared to be making a conventional cabinet nomination. Like many of his other early appointments, the nominee for the Pentagon was an old friend and political ally. He was a former senator from the president-elect’s home state. He had served as chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee, as the senior member of a high-profile commission that investigated a foreign policy scandal in the Reagan White House, and as leader of a delegation that negotiated arms control in Geneva. He was an acknowledged expert on the...

  9. Part III DOMESTIC POLITICS AND POLICY

    • 6 THE OFFERED HAND AND THE VETO FIST: George Bush, Congress, and Domestic Policy Making
      (pp. 143-166)
      Barbara Sinclair

      George H. W. Bush became president in a context not conducive to domestic policy making on a heroic scale. A number of analysts have argued that in any case he was not much interested in domestic policy. But whether that assessment is accurate or not, he faced some domestic problems that had to be dealt with and the likelihood that he would need at least modest domestic policy accomplishments to win reelection. In addition, as problematic as the political environment was, the prospects for bipartisan cooperation were in some ways better that they had been in a number of years....

    • 7 FROM ORAL HISTORY TO ORAL ARGUMENT: George Bush’s Supreme Court Appointments
      (pp. 167-184)
      Barbara A. Perry and Henry J. Abraham

      President George H. W. Bush’s chief of staff, John Sununu, who had appointed state judges as governor of New Hampshire before joining the White House staff, observed about judicial nominations in his oral history interview for the University of Virginia’s Miller Center “that when you appoint people, of course they fit what you’re looking for in terms of discussions and interviews and what they said [before their nomination]. It’s so hard to get what you think you’re getting.”¹ Sununu’s statement that it is difficult for chief executives to determine exactly what they are “getting” in a judicial appointment perfectly summarizes...

  10. Conclusion: NAVIGATING THE CROSSWINDS OF MODERN POLITICS AND POLICY
    (pp. 185-212)
    Sidney M. Milkis

    As the chapters in this volume reveal, George H. W. Bush was a pragmatic politician who entered the White House during extraordinary times. In chapter 4, Jeffrey Engel nicely summarizes the momentous international events that occurred during his presidency: the Berlin Wall fell, the Soviet Union imploded, the Cold War ended, China’s political reform movement came to a bloody halt Tiananmen Square, the Gulf War was waged, and the Bush administration intervened in Panama to dethrone a drug-dealing dictator and in Somalia to ameliorate the inhuman suffering that a ferocious civil war was imposing on its people. According to Hugh...

  11. Appendix 1: INTERVIEWEES FOR THE GEORGE H. W. BUSH ORAL HISTORY PROJECT
    (pp. 213-214)
  12. Appendix 2: INTERVIEWERS FOR THE GEORGE H. W. BUSH ORAL HISTORY PROJECT
    (pp. 215-216)
  13. Notes
    (pp. 217-246)
  14. List of Contributors
    (pp. 247-248)
  15. Index
    (pp. 249-254)