George HW Bush in his own words – and those of others

The former president’s thoughts on politics, diversity and the Gulf War

Conrad Duncan
Saturday 01 December 2018 14:37 GMT
Former US President George Bush Sr diesaged 94

George HW Bush was one of the most highly qualified people to hold the office of president, having served as director of the CIA, vice president to Ronald Reagan and US ambassador to the United Nations.

His time in office saw the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Cold War, as well as military interventions in Kuwait and Panama.

But, despite high approval ratings during much of his presidency, he suffered from difficulties in domestic politics after the Cold War and lost the 1992 presidential election to Bill Clinton.

As tributes to Bush come in from former presidents honouring his life, this is what he – and others – had to say about his political career.

In his own words

On his political views:

“I’m a conservative, but I’m not a nut about it.”

At his inaugural address as president:

“A new breeze is blowing, and a world refreshed by freedom seems reborn; for in man’s heart, if not in fact, the day of the dictator is over. This totalitarian era is passing, its old ideas blown away like leaves from an ancient, lifeless tree.”

On the invasion of Kuwait by Saddam Hussein:

“Iraq must withdraw from Kuwait completely, immediately, and without condition. Kuwait’s legitimate government must be restored. The security and stability of the Persian Gulf must be assured. And American citizens abroad must be protected. Out of these troubled times, our fifth objective – a new world order – can emerge: a new era – freer from the threat of terror, stronger in the pursuit of justice and more secure in the quest for peace.”

On diversity in America:

“We are a nation of communities … a brilliant diversity spread like stars, like a thousand points of light in a broad and peaceful sky.”

On taxation in 1988 – he would later regret the pledge when congress proposed increases to existing taxes to reduce the budget deficit:

“Read my lips: no new taxes.”

On the possibility of a black president in 1990:

“The day will come – and it is not far off – when the legacy of Lincoln will finally be fulfilled at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, when a black man or woman will sit in the Oval Office. When that day comes, the most remarkable thing about it will be how naturally it occurs.”

On the effect of 24/7 news cycles:

“I think the 24 hour news cycle has helped exaggerate the differences between the parties. You can always find someone on TV somewhere carping about something.”

In others’ words

James Baker, US secretary of state under Bush:

“The president saw a chance to take on the two central problems of the age – the struggle for freedom and the threat of nuclear war – and he seized it. No apologies for that.”

Robert Strauss, United States ambassador to Russia under Bush:

“George is a damn good guy, but he doesn’t come through well. It’s a case of choking. It takes 11 hours to get George ready for an off-the-cuff remark.”

Stephen J Solarz, Democrat congressman for New York and outspoken critic of Ronald Reagan’s presidency:

“For all the credit that President Bush deserves for his magnificent leadership after the Iraqi invasion, the truth is that his administration not only resisted imposing sanctions on Iraq before 2 August, but, by giving Mr Hussein the impression he could invade his defenceless neighbour with impunity, made the aggression more likely.”

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