George Herbert Walker Bush (June 12, 1924 — November 30, 2018) was the 41st President of the United States, serving from 1989 to 1993, following Ronald Reagan and preceding Bill Clinton, and the seventeenth Republican president. He is the father of the other President Bush, George W. Bush; he was known solely as "George Bush" until his son was elected. Also sometimes known as "H. W.", "Bush the Elder", "Bush Senior", "Bush 1.0", or "Bush 41" to distinguish him from his son. Along with John Adams, he is one of two Presidents whose son also became President. George Sr.'s own father, Prescott Bush (1895-1972), was also a politician, having served as a Senator from Connecticut from 1952 to 1963. Prescott's father Samuel Prescott Bush (1863-1948), was a businessman and not a politician, but headed a department of the War Industries Board during World War I.
In his earlier life, Bush had been a World War II naval aviator (and for a time was the youngest one, receiving his commission three days before his 19th birthday), completing multiple combat missions in a TBM Avenger flying from the carrier USS San Jacinto, including one with his aircraft on fire. His plane was badly hit again during an air strike against the Japanese radar station on Chichi Jima. Bush held the plane steady while his gunner and radioman bailed out, and confirmed that their parachutes were open before jumping himself. He was rescued in the water by a US submarine, but his crew remained missing, something that troubled him deeply for decades.note He is the last World War II veteran to serve as President. So far, all 4 of his successors in office (Bill Clinton, George Walker Bush, Barack Obama, and Donald Trump), were much younger than him and were born after the War's end.
Bush attended Yale University and was a member of the much talked about Skull and Bones society. He was the second (future) President to have served as a member of the society, following William Howard Taft. Taft, Bush, and George Walker Bush are the only three Presidents who were graduates of Yale.
Bush then became a millionaire in the Texas oil business and turned to politics, serving two terms in the House of Representatives (from 1967 to 1971). His political résumé includes a number of high-ranking positions in the federal government, such as the Ambassador to the United Nations, an envoy to China, and a year as Director of the CIA (the current CIA headquarters is named the George Bush Center for Intelligence in his honor). Richard Nixon appointed him as Chairman of the Republican National Convention in 1973, and Bush was one of the party leaders who, one year later, requested that Nixon resign rather than face impeachment trials. Bush ran for the Republican ticket for the White House in 1980 but lost to Ronald Reagan (the most memorable Bush quotation and general media contribution, at least in the minds of liberals, is the phrase "Voodoo economics" to describe the economics of Reagan in one debate in 1980). Bush, expecting his political career to come to an end, was surprised when the Reagan campaign asked him to be Reagan's running mate, and he served two terms as Vice President during The '80s. At the end of Reagan's second term, he was encouraged to run for the presidency again, and won largely with the expectation that he would be a third term for the popular Reagan. This campaign featured three memorable moments: the Willie Horton ads, running mate Dan Quayle being told he is not someone else, and Democratic candidate Michael Dukakis attempting to look tough by riding a tank but instead looking horribly out-of-place. Bush's victory in the elections of 1988 was somewhat surprising, as he was the first sitting vice president to be elected as President since Martin Van Buren. In the previous 152 years, all Vice Presidents seeking to succeed their President through elections (instead of the President's death or resignation) had failed to do so.
Like his son, Bush was known for generally having a poor media image. He didn't have a very magnetic personality, usually coming across as a bit of a nerdy old man. This was especially bad since he came right after Reagan's movie-star persona. It also didn't help that he wasn't the best speaker, often stumbling during the presidential debates when he had to go off-script. (His son escalated this Up to Eleven.) This, along with domestic problems that will be described below, led to the Republican Party losing the moderate Democratic votes it gained under Reagan. Despite his bad speaking skills, though, Bush actually was pretty intelligent. Many people remember him for using the term "a thousand points of light," in his speeches. However, most forgot that it was a metaphor for a number of Americans stepping up to volunteer in charity organizations after government funding was cut for many federal programs. Since the phrase is almost always quoted out of context, making it seem completely meaningless at best and downright goofy at worst, that only exacerbates the problem. His satirical portrayal in media was largely guided by Dana Carvey's impression of him as a Cloudcuckoolander, though the impression became more of a character in itself as time went on. Also mocked were Bush's professed dislike of broccoli and an incident in January 1992 where, overcome by illness at a state dinner, the president vomited into the lap of Kiichi Miyazawa, the Japanese prime minister, and then fainted. (This is why ''bush-suru'' means "to vomit" in Japanese). However, it would be the perceived deficiencies of Vice President Dan Quayle that would become the main focus of satire during the presidency. No one who lived through the time will ever forget how he could not spell potato, and jokes about how the Secret Service had orders to kill Quayle if Bush died were shared by nearly everyone. (To be fair, Quayle has a law degree from the Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law.)
Nevertheless, he was quite accomplished in the field of foreign policy. As Reagan's VP, he had been a part of many internal policy debates, and was much more decisive than his then-image would imply. He came into office at a time when the world was going through some major changes: South Africa finally freed Nelson Mandela and started to end the apartheid era, free elections removed the Sandinistas in Nicaragua, and student protesters challenged Red China's authoritarian control. But most important was the end of the Cold War. The Soviet Union and the communist bloc collapsed, and many credit him with helping to preside over an orderly end to the Cold War, though he and Margaret Thatcher apparently had some very heated discussions during this period over what to do, primarily about Germany (while Thatcher opposed German reunification, Bush supported it). He signed treaties with Russia guaranteeing that they would honor the treaties the USSR signed with America during the Reagan years and smoothly established relations with the new governments of eastern Europe. Bush oversaw a 1989 American invasion of Panama to remove dictator Manuel Noriega, the United States' first military operation that wasn't related to the Cold War. He also sent troops to Somalia as part of a UN peacekeeping operation, but this backfired just months after he left office when the troops were attacked by the Somalians they were sent to protect.
His most famous foreign policy accomplishment was organizing victory in the first Gulf War. Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein took the weapons Ronald Reagan, Leonid Brezhnev and Francois Mitterand had given him to fight theocratic Iran and instead invaded Kuwait in an attempt to corner the market on the region's oil and be able to essentially hold the West and the rest of the world hostage. Backed by broad international support, Bush sent in the armed forces, led by Generals Norman Schwarzkopf and Colin Powell, and successfully drove Hussein's forces out of Kuwait (to this day, Bush still has an extremely high favorability rating among grateful Kuwaitis). He then wisely chose not to go all the way to Baghdad and depose Saddam, and pulled the troops out in mid-1991, arguing that an invasion of Iraq would become a quagmire. He was actually criticized at the time for doing this, making the actions and criticism of his son doubly ironic (George Jr. would be criticized because he deposed Saddam, and the war indeed became a quagmire). Following success in Kuwait, Bush had a then record-high approval rating of 89%, a record only his son briefly surpassed immediately after the 9/11 attacks. Arguing that the peaceful end of the Cold War and the international support from nearly every country on Earth was a sign of a new era, Bush declared that a "New World Order" of international cooperation was beginning (kooky Conspiracy Theorists had a field day with this one). Bush openly admitted in an interview while he was in office that he preferred foreign policy to domestic policy. Former President Barack Obama, despite being of the opposite party, is on record as admiring Bush's foreign policy, and they do have some similarities in that department.
That being said, despite Bush's foreign policy accomplishments, it was domestic issues that sunk his reelection bid. Though he did manage a handful of acclaimed domestic acts (notably passing the Americans with Disabilities Act to protect the handicapped from discrimination), it is widely acknowledged that he stumbled when it came to things at home. Despite his campaign promise "Read my lips: No new taxes!", he did in fact raise taxes after a Democratic Party-controlled Congress pressured him to do something about the skyrocketing national debt. Many people who voted for him, especially hardcore Republicans, were disappointed by this show of bipartisanship and felt that Bush surrendered. It was probably a Never Live It Down moment for Bush. His nomination of Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court became very controversial when a woman working for Thomas accused him of sexual harassment (though he was still confirmed to the Court, albeit narrowly, and it was never proven that he did it), painting Bush as a somewhat clueless figure who was unconcerned with women's rights. Concerned over a growing crime epidemic, Bush called on Americans to help make a "kindler, gentler America," but crime rates continued to rise during his four years. Culminating in the infamous Los Angeles race riots of 1992, crime rates in post-WWII America reached an all-time high in the early 1990s — they were almost twice what they are today, just slightly over 20 years later.note
Worst of all, though, was the economy. A recession, caused by economic complications from the end of the Cold War, the savings and loans crisis, and the long-term effects on 1987's stock market crash, started in late 1990. It continued for the next two years, and unemployment, only a bit above a very acceptable 5% when he entered office, rose to 7.8% just months before election day. In less than eighteen months, his record approval rating plummeted to around 30%. His own party wasn't very fond of him by this point, and he had to deal with a GOP nomination challenge from columnist Pat Buchanan; Bush managed to win the party ticket, but it was clear that Republicans across the country were far less enthusiastic for him then they had been for Reagan. Additionally, most people usually agree that the Bush reelection campaign wasn't very good, and on the campaign trail he seemed tired and unmotivated. Given his poor camera image and the weak economy, it wasn't a surprise when Bush lost the 1992 election to the charismatic and media-friendly Arkansas governor Bill Clinton. Clinton was part of a group of moderate baby-boomer Democrats who helped move the party to the center after the conservative renaissance under Reagan. It also helped that a third party candidate, Ross Perot, took nearly 19% of the popular vote, including many GOP votes. Bush signed the very divisive NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) in 1992, but Congress passed it after he left office.
Bush has received a much higher retrospective rating in public opinion polls (as is common with most former presidents), however, and has even teamed up with Bill Clinton (with whom he was a good friend later on in life) for several charitable projects such as providing relief for the victims of the 2005 tsunami in Asia and other natural disasters. His wife Barbara Pierce was often parodied for her white hair, which made her look older than her husband. She was a distant relative (fourth cousin, four times removed) of another president, Franklin Pierce, making their son a relative of two presidents. Having been married from 1945 until her passing in 2018, they are the longest-married presidential couple in American history. Bush's health had been pretty shaky in his final years; he was bound to a wheelchair, and he kept going in and out of hospitals. Didn't stop him from going skydiving, though.
Bush passed away in the night of November 30, 2018. At 94 years of age at the time of his death, he was the oldest living former president, beating out Jimmy Carter by less than four months, and the longest lived of all the presidents.
He was the first sitting Vice President to win election to the presidency since Martin Van Buren, 152 years earlier. Coincidentally, he also followed a popular two-term president and lost reelection due to a weak economy.
Tropes associated with Bush in media and when portrayed in fiction:
- Accidentally Correct Writing: In The Simpsons episode "Two Bad Neighbors", Homer and Bart attempt to prank Bush by posing as his sons Jeb and "George Bush Jr." Simpsons creator Matt Groening has said that when they wrote that scene, they intended it as a joke and were completely unaware that there really was a George Bush Jr.
- Beam Me Up, Scotty!:
- A 1992 New York Times article famously portrayed Bush as being amazed by a common supermarket scanner, which helped to paint him as an elitist who was out of touch with everyday American life. In reality, the scanner that Bush was so impressed with was an advanced prototype that could weigh groceries and decipher mangled and torn bar codes. It was later discovered that the writer of the infamous article wasn't even present at the convention where Bush was shown the scanner in question.
- Some claim Bush said in a 1987 speech, "No, I don't know that atheists should be regarded as citizens, nor should they be regarded as patriotic. This is one nation under God. I support the separation of church and state. I'm just not very high on atheists." However, the only source of publicity for this remark is from an atheist advocate; no major media outlets covering the speech reported or replicated it.
- Buffy Speak: Before there was Buffy, there was Bushspeak. The term "Bushism" was originally coined to describe these kinds of statements from Bush Sr., but then became more closely associated with Bush Jr. For one example: "Oh, the vision thing" (on where he wants to lead the country). This quotation inadvertently gave The Sisters of Mercy the title of their third album, and also inspired the title of an episode of Angel.
- Cool Old Guy: Has cultivated this image in his post-presidency, with his use of social media and his regular parachute jumps. In the above-mentioned episode of The Simpsons, he gives Homer Simpson a run for his money in hand-to-hand combat and it's also revealed to have a garrote in his watch, From Russia with Love-style, making him cross into Badass Grandpa. This image took a hit when he was accused in 2017 by multiple prominent women of sexual harassment that supposedly occurred during his post-presidency activities.
- Defeat Means Friendship: Became very close friends with successor Bill Clinton and the two often worked together on humanitarian initiatives during their post-presidencies.
- Dirty Old Man: At least 8 women have accused him of groping them, however, he has apologized through his publicist. As pointed out on The Other Wiki, the disproportionate majority of the allegations occurred when Bush was old enough where behavior could be attributed to senility.
- Does Not Like Spam:
- Broccoli was high at the top of his list; broccoli farmers sent 20,000 pounds of broccoli to the White House in response, and even after Barbara accepted the shipment, George reiterated his stance, saying "I still don't like broccoli."
George Bush: I do not like broccoli. And I haven't liked it since I was a little kid and my mother made me eat it. And I'm President of the United States and I'm not going to eat any more broccoli.
- Though, more (in)famously, Bush was often portrayed as having this relationship to sushi in pop culture, following an incident where he suddenly became sick during a sushi dinner in January 1992 with with the Japanese Prime Minister, Kiichi Miyazawa, which ultimately resulted in him throwing up in Miyazawa's lap.
- Broccoli was high at the top of his list; broccoli farmers sent 20,000 pounds of broccoli to the White House in response, and even after Barbara accepted the shipment, George reiterated his stance, saying "I still don't like broccoli."
- Funny Background Event: Bush earned scrutiny for his behavior in the second 1992 general election debate. He was famously caught checking his watch while an audience member asked the candidates a question and the camera then caught him giving a befuddled look while Bill Clinton answered it.
- Iconic Item: A portrayal of him can't be complete without his double-bridged trifocals◊, and to lesser degree, his World War II service pistol.
- Nerd Glasses: As mentioned above, Bush regularly wore a pair of double-bridged trifocals during his years in power and no impersonation is complete without them.
- Never Live It Down: Bush took aim at The Simpsons while campaigning in 1992, as exemplified on the quote on the top of the page. In response, he got ruthlessly mocked and parodied on The Simpsons, continuing for years after he left office.
- Vomit Indiscretion Shot: In January 1992, Bush was famously videotaped vomiting in the lap of then-Japanese Prime Minister Kiichi Miyazawa after falling ill at a state dinner. This event became so ingrained in Japanese culture, this is why bush-suru means "to vomit" in Japanese.
- "Well Done, Son!" Guy: Portrayed as this for George W. Bush in the 2008 biopic W..
Appears in the following works:
- Appears in The Legend of Koizumi as his son George W. Bush's Mahjong teacher and an old Mahjong rival of Junichiro Koizumi. He is later chosen as one of Earth's five Mahjong champions representing the planet in the tournament against the moon-based Fourth Reich. He is depicted here as a buff mountain of a man.
- He's the president in The Naked Gun 2½. He applauds Frank Drebin's inspiring speech, but a little less wholeheartedly when he professes a desire for a day when "the Democrats will put somebody up there worth voting for." Somewhat Hilarious in Hindsight, considering he wound up losing his re-election bid to the then relatively unknown Bill Clinton.
- James Cromwell portrays him as an exasperated yet enabling dad in Oliver Stone's film W., a biopic about George W. Bush.
"Poppy": (paraphrased) "Drinking and partying... You're a Bush, not a Kennedy!" Jr. explains that he was celebrating getting into Harvard Business and: "Of course you did, who do you think pulled the strings to get you in?"
And later, in one of Jr.'s nightmares: Dream!Poppy: A hundred years it took to build up the Bush name and you singlehandedly destroyed it!
- He appears at the beginning of Under Siege, giving the ship its final sendoff.
- Appears briefly on TV in The Big Lebowski. His "This aggression will not stand" speech serves as a motto for The Stoner protagonist, whose rug has been defaced. It's a strange movie.
- He visits McKinley High School in Freaks and Geeks. Though he is never shown, the episode ends with Liz asking him a pointed political question.
- His puppet was a frequent visitor to DC Follies
- Dana Carvey famously played Bush for his entire run on Saturday Night Live, eventually admitting that, by the end of his tenure on the show, it had become an impression of the original impression. And lest you think the real deal didn't have a sense of humor, he later invited Carvey to the White House.
- Bush actually appeared on SNL, essentially imitating Dana Carvey's imitation of him ("Wouldn't be prudent.")
- One episode of The Golden Girls featured a Secret Service member interviewing the girls for a potential meet and greet with the president; Dorothy, an outspoken liberal, plans to chew him out. This backfires when he actually shows up.
Bush: You're a teacher. Do you have any ideas on how we could improve the education system?
Dorothy: [Shaking his hand] ...Bush!
Bush: Well then, it's nice to meet you too. ...Could you let go of my hand now?
- The script of The Day After called for a Bush impersonator to make the presidential speech broadcast near the end of the film. For unknown reasons, the production actually used a voice actor who sounded like Ronald Reagan, which prompted criticism (as the writer correctly forecast) from the political right; in later DVD releases, the speech is given by a stereotypically presidential voice unlike either Reagan or Bush.
- Ministry's "New World Order" looped quotes from his speech mentioned above, arguably making it the first Stupid Statement Dance Mix.
- Epica used George H.W. Bush's "No new taxes" quote in their song "Semblance of Liberty." However, it should be noted he said this twenty years prior, and was nowhere near as relevant by then (some say they picked the wrong Bush to attack).
- Megadeth used the same quote much sooner after the fact, in 1992's "Foreclosure of a Dream."
- Neil Young references Bush's "thousand points of light" comments in "Rockin' in the Free World".
- Anthrax also references "thousand points of light" with the song "1000 Points of Hate".
- The Music/2LiveCrew sampled a soundbite where he proclaims the United States government to be a government "Of the people, for the people, by the people" in their 1990 song "Banned in the USA". Video of Bush giving the soundbite is included in the song's music video.
- In Doonesbury, like many politicians, he was a literally Invisible President. After simply not being depicted for a time (outside of an sequence where he "signed his manhood over" to President Reagan), representing his avoiding the Iran-Contra and Noriega affairs and low-key style, then by a spark referring to a "thousand points of light" speech.
- He appears in Fear, Loathing and Gumbo on the Campaign Trail '72, an Alternate History about a different 1972 presidential election. Bush, who was serving as Nixon's representative to the United Nations, is made Secretary of State by President Spiro Agnew. However, he's appalled by the President's ineptitude and swiftly becomes important in a conspiracy to have him impeached.
- Brazilian webcomic wwwchargesdotcomdotbr had a short series of stories called "Novas Versões para Velhos Desenhos" (New Versions for Old Cartoons). The first was with George W. Bush and George H.W. Bush as Augie Doggie And Doggie Daddy. Bush Junior told his "dear old Dad" he'd bomb Iraq just like he did. Bush Daddy said he was proud of his son. In another one, a woman was giving her daughter tips of how to dress and the daughter rejected, stating the decade they were living wasn't the eighties. The mother then pointed out similarities between the two decades. One of them was the US having a President Bush who declared war on Iraq.
- In the Alternate History A Giant Sucking Sound, he is killed in a 1993 attack by Iraqi security forces that was stopped OTL. This leads to a long presence of US troops in the Middle East.
- Has one of the more epic introductions in Saturday Night Live "TV Playhouse" segment "The X-Presidents", and they always lampoon his active post-presidential life. Whenever the team is summoned, he's having sex with Barbara. Whenever the X-First Ladies are summoned, Barbara is smoking.
- Having first premiered during his presidency, The Simpsons frequently takes potshots at him.
- In "Two Bad Neighbors", his biggest "appearance" on the show, he and Barbara move to Springfield, becoming next-door neighbors with the Simpson family. Bart, of course, causes trouble for George (inadvertently shredding his just-completed memoirs), which makes the ex-President angry enough to spank him. Upon learning this, Homer gets even angrier at him than he was before. Their mutual antagonism culminates in Homer and George having a fistfight in the middle of the street. After George (reluctantly) apologizes for spanking Bart, Homer then demands, "Now apologize for the tax hike." There's a Call-Back to this in "Regarding Margie": Homer tries to remind Marge who he is, showing her photographs of him fighting with both Presidents Bush, former and current (this episode originally aired during W.'s second term).
- In "Rosebud", he is not allowed to attend Mr. Burns' birthday party because he was a single-term President. He was kicked to the curb with Jimmy Carter.
Carter: You too, huh? Hey, I know a good yoghurt place.
Bush: [shoving Carter out of his way] Get away from me, loser.
- In "Mr. Lisa Goes to Washington", when Lisa wins the family a trip to Washington, they unintentionally walk in on meet then-First Lady Bush in the bath. The President also appears in a scene close to the ending, receiving and signing the bill to expel corrupt Senator Bob Arnold, and making a Bait-and-Switch comment about his bosses being happy ("All 250 million of them.")
- In "Realty Bites", after Marge gets fired from her brief job as a realtor, she goes to an unemployment office to pick up a check and says she feels bad for taking it for doing nothing. Bush, who is also there, tells her it gets easier with time.
- In "Large Marge", he is seen with Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton building domiciles for the destitutes. Their interaction is like The Three Stooges featuring Clinton as Curly, Carter as Larry, and Bush as Moe.
- Harry Shearer, who provides Bush's voice, also based the voice of survivalist Herman on him.
- In "The Old Man and the Lisa", Mr. Burns' solo trip to a grocery store was inspired by the apocryphal account of Bush's amazement at a grocery store scanner.
- Bush 41 and his wife Barbara (in live action) introduce Cartoon All-Stars to the Rescue.
- Histeria! made his broccoli ban the subject of a Green Eggs and Ham parody.
- Tiny Toon Adventures had an episode where Bush 41 and Dan Quayle are called in by Buster and Babs to save Wackyland from being robbed of its humor by a Moral Guardian. Hilarious in Hindsight considering the episode premiered the day after Bush 41 lost the 1992 presidential election to Bill Clinton. He is portrayed as a Reasonable Authority Figure who tells Babs and Buster he can't solve everything.
- Naturally, as the title character's father, he appeared frequently on Lil' Bush.
- He can be seen talking on the telephone in the The Adventures of Super Mario Bros. 3 episode "Reptiles in the Rose Garden", apparently unaware of Bowser uprooting the White House out of Washington, D.C..