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George Herbert Walker Bush

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Bush, George Herbert Walker (1924-), 41st president of the United States. Bush's 2 terms as vice president to a popular president and his promise of “No new taxes” helped sweep him into the White House. Almost from the beginning of his time in office, Bush faced a series of crises both foreign and domestic, yet maintained a high level of popularity until well into his third year as president.

Early life

Bush was born in Milton, Mass., in 1924. Soon afterward, his family moved to Connecticut. Bush's father was a successful businessman and, later, a U.S. senator. Young Bush attended private schools, graduating from Phillips Academy in 1942. He then enlisted in the Navy. A fighter pilot, he flew hazardous missions in the Pacific during World War II, earning the Distinguished Flying Cross and three air medals. Returning home from the war in 1945, he entered Yale, from which he graduated in 1948. Also in 1945, he married Barbara Pierce. The Bushes had 6 children, 1 of whom died of leukemia.

Entering politics

After college, Bush moved to Texas and entered the oil business, at which he was very successful. He became interested in politics and was active in the Republican Party. In 1964, he ran for a U.S. Senate seat in Texas, but lost. Two years later, he won election to the U.S. House of Representatives and was reelected in 1968. In 1970, he again ran for Senate and lost. He then served as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations (1971–73), U.S. envoy to China (1974–75), and director of the Central Intelligence Agency (1976–77). In 1980, Bush ran for the Republicans' presidential nomination. Ronald Reagan, who won the nomination, chose Bush as his running mate. The Reagan-Bush team defeated the Democratic incumbents, President Jimmy Carter and Vice President Walter Mondale.

Vice presidency

Bush served two terms as vice president to Reagan, working closely with him. Bush filled in briefly for the president in 1981, when Reagan was wounded in an assassination attempt, and again in 1985, when Reagan had minor surgery. In 1988, Bush ran for the presidency, promising “no new taxes,” a war on drugs, to protect the environment, and to be “the education president.” He and his running mate, Dan Quayle, defeated Democrats Michael S. Dukakis and Lloyd Bentsen by a landslide.


Bush faced serious problems: a huge and growing federal budget deficit, foreign-trade deficits, and a financial crisis in which hundreds of failing savings-and-loan institutions required federal aid. Cleanup after the environmentally disastrous wreck of an oil tanker off the Alaska coast also required federal aid.

Overseas, the loosening of communist control in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe eased long-held tensions between East and West. In 1989, Bush presented an arms-control plan to reduce U.S. military presence in Europe. He sent U.S. troops to Panama in 1989 to arrest strongman Manuel Noriega on drug-trafficking charges. In response to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in August of 1990, Bush initiated operation Desert Shield, which sent thousands of U.S. and allied troops to Saudi Arabia to deter further Iraqi aggression. After 6 months of economic sanctions and diplomacy failed to persuade Iraq to leave Kuwait, Bush and the allies initiated operation Desert Storm in January of 1991. After weeks of relentless air attacks and a ground assault, the Iraqis were forced out of Kuwait in March of 1991. In the aftermath of the war, Bush has set out to bring peace to the Middle East and to create his “New World Order.” On the home front, Bush had problems between the executive and legislative branches in reaching a federal budget that would reduce the deficit without compromising a campaign promise for no new taxes.

See also: Persian Gulf War.


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