Former President George HW Bush dead at age 94
George Herbert Walker Bush, the World War II veteran who was elected the 41st President of the United States and fathered the nation’s 43rd, died late Friday at the age of 94, his family announced in a statement.
Bush advocated a “kinder, gentler” conservatism, pursued policies that helped topple the Soviet empire and initiated military campaigns that ousted one foreign dictator and crippled another. He lived longer than any other U.S. president, and presided over the demise of the Cold War.
Wife Barbara died April 17 at age 92. Their 73-year marriage was longer than that of any presidential couple in U.S. history. Their children included former President George W. Bush and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.
A day after Mrs. Bush’s funeral on April 21, the senior Bush was admitted to Houston Methodist Hospital for a blood infection, a family spokesman said.
He had been taken there in April 2017 and in January 2017 for treatment related to pneumonia, family spokesman Jim McGrath said. During the January hospitalization, Barbara Bush was also treated there after experiencing fatigue and coughing. Their hospitalization came days after they had celebrated their 72nd wedding anniversary on Jan. 6, 2017.
The couple lived in Houston. During Hurricane Havey, which devastated the city in August 2017, Bush and his wife were in their second home in Kennebunkport, Maine. He praised the efforts of first responders and used Twitter to encourage people to donate to One America Appeal, a private relief fund coordinated by the five former U.S. presidents.
The son of a U.S. senator, Bush was the nation’s 41st president and was the father of the 43rd and of a former governor who had hoped to be No. 45.
Capping a long political career, including vice president under Ronald Reagan, the elder Bush was elected to the White House in 1988 on a ticket with Sen. Dan Quayle, defeating Democrat Michael Dukakis and running mate Sen. Lloyd Bentsen.
‘Kinder, gentler,’ but ‘no new taxes’
Months before the victory, Bush delivered what became known as his “thousand points of light” acceptance speech at the GOP National Convention at New Orleans’ Superdome.
While promising to fight for prayer in public schools and gun rights and against abortion, Bush tried to put a softer face on conservatism, striving to make America a “kinder, gentler” nation.
“Prosperity as a purpose means taking your idealism and making it concrete by certain acts of goodness,” he said. “It means helping a child from an unhappy home learn to read. … It means teaching troubled children through your presence that there is such a thing as reliable love.”
The speech wasn’t all “Kumbaya.” He promised a hard line against Democrats.
“The Congress will push me to raise taxes, and I’ll say no, and they’ll push, and I’ll say no, and they’ll push again. And I’ll say to them: ‘Read my lips, no new taxes.'”
It was a vow that came back to haunt him.
During the budget battle with majority Democrats in 1990, he accepted a compromise to raise several existing taxes. Although no new taxes were created, the decision proved costly. Bill Clinton seized upon the perceived flip-flop, helping him oust Bush after a single term despite the Republican’s major successes in foreign policy.
Days before his January 2017 hospitalization, the senior Bush had sent a letter to President-elect Trump expressing regrets that he could not attend the Jan. 20, 2017, inauguration. With his flair for humor, Bush wrote: “My doctor says if I sit outside in January, it likely will put me six feet under.”
“I want you to know that I wish you the very best as you begin this incredible journey of leading our great country,” he added. “If I can ever be of help, please let me know.”
Trump, however, didn’t get any help from the elder Bush to reach the White House. The former president confirmed to author Mark K. Updegrove that he voted for Hillary Clinton in the Democrat’s failed run against Trump. The former president said in Updegrove’s 2017 book “The Last Republicans” that he considered Trump a “blowhard.”
Bush, who watched Trump’s inauguration from the hospital with his wife, son Neil and daughter-in-law Maria, was released from the hospital on Jan. 30, a week after his wife. Days later, he was well enough to toss the coin from his wheelchair at Super Bowl LI in Houston.
In addition to sons George W., Jeb and Neil, survivors include son Marvin and daughter Dorothy Bush Koch.