Bush, George H. W. (1924–) (Update)

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BUSH, GEORGE H. W. (1924–) (Update)

George Herbert Walker Bush was the forty-first President of the United States. The son of a prominent businessman and U.S. senator, Bush was born in Milton, Massachusetts on June 12, 1924, but spent almost all of his childhood in Greenwich, Connecticut. Upon his graduation from prep school, Bush entered the Navy in 1942. For the remainder of world war ii he served as a naval aviator and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. After the end of the war, Bush entered Yale University, where he was graduated Phi Beta Kappa with honors in 1948.

Subsequently, Bush moved to Texas, where he became cofounder and half-owner of an oil drilling company in 1950. In 1967 he sold the oil drilling company and thereafter concentrated on politics and public service. He was a member of the U.S. house of representatives from 1967 to 1971, Ambassador to the united nations from 1971 to 1973, Chairman of the Republican National Committee from 1973 to 1974, Chief Liaison Officer to China from 1975 to 1976, and Director of the Central Intelligence Agency from 1976 to 1977. Bush unsuccessfully sought the Republican nomination for President in 1980. However, ronald reagan, who obtained the nomination, chose Bush as his running mate. Reagan won the election, and Bush served two terms as Vice-President.

In 1988, with Reagan's support, Bush was chosen as the Republican nominee for President. He then defeated Democrat Michael Dukakis in the general election. However, after serving a single term as President, Bush was defeated in his reelection bid by Democrat William J. Clinton in 1992.

The most important potential constitutional crisis of the Bush presidency arose in connection with the American response to Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in 1990. Bush quickly rallied international support for a massive, United States–led military operation designed to expel the Iraqis. The plan included a ground assault on the nation of Iraq. Many questioned whether the armed forces of the United States could be committed to such an operation without a formal declaration of war by Congress. Although no such declaration was forthcoming, Bush was successful in obtaining a resolution from Congress that supported military intervention against Iraq. Ultimately, the quick, spectacular success of Operation Desert Storm, as it was called, muted the legal critics of Bush's actions.

Constitutional arguments were also deeply intertwined with domestic politics during the Bush administration. For example, Bush publicly supported the pro-life position on abortion and voiced strong opposition to race-based affirmative action; moreover, his administration also vigorously pressed these views in the federal courts. However, the most significant constitutional legacy of the Bush presidency lay not in its approach to any specific issue, but rather in presidential appointments to the federal courts.

Like Reagan before him, Bush generally sought out conservative appointees at all levels, thereby continuing the erosion of judicial support for liberal constitutionalism. His appointment of clarence thomas to the Supreme Court epitomized this trend; after his narrow success in a bitter struggle over confirmation, Thomas has become perhaps the most conservative Justice of the post–warren court era. By contrast, david h. souter—Bush's other appointee to the Court—has proven to be far more sympathetic to liberal positions. Thus, while Bush's appointees clearly moved the balance of judicial power to the right, he was not entirely successful in his effort to assure the preeminence of conservative legal thought on the Supreme Court.

Earl M. Maltz


Mervin, David 1996 George Bush and the Guardian Presidency. New York: St. Martin's Press.

Parment, Herbert S. 1997 George Bush: The Life of a Lone Star Yankee. New York: Scribner.