Bush, George H. W. (1924–)

Author:Jeremy Rabkin

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George Bush served two terms as vice-president during the presidency of RONALD REAGAN, who had been his rival for the Republican presidential nomination in 1980. With Reagan's support, Bush was then elected President in 1988. Bush was thus the first President since 1836 to be elected from the vice-presidency, an office that does not usually provide much prominence or stature to its incumbent.

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Bush was also one of the few Presidents in this century to have reached the White House without having previously won a single statewide election (he was defeated in bids to become U.S. senator from Texas in 1966 and 1970). With the exception of the popular leader DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER, all the others in this category?WILLIAM HOWARD TAFT, HERBERT C. HOOVER, and GERALD R. FORD?proved to be one-term Presidents.

Apart from serving two terms in the U. S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES (1966?1970), Bush owed his political experience before 1980 to a succession of presidential appointments in the administrations of RICHARD M. NIXON and Gerald Ford. He served successively as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations (1971?1973), chief of the U.S. Liaison Office (that is, de facto ambassador) in the People's Republic of China (1974?1975), and director of the Central Intelligence Agency (1976). His performance in these posts made no enemies but also did little to define his political character or to win him a broad popular following.

In the 1988 presidential campaign, Bush courted the conservative constituencies of Ronald Reagan. He attacked his opponent for his affiliation with the AMERICAN CIVIL LIBERTIES UNION and expressed sympathy with several key conservative complaints against the constitutional rulings of both the WARREN COURT and the BURGER COURT. He thus expressed support for constitutional amendments to prohibit ABORTION and to reauthorize SCHOOL PRAYER. He also supported a constitutional amendment to require a BALANCED BUDGET. As President, he urged a constitutional amendment to overturn the Supreme Court's ruling that FLAG DESECRATION is protected by the FIRST AMENDMENT. None of these amendments was pushed with any sustained energy or intensity by the Bush administration, however, and none found majority support in Congress.

Bush's first choice for the Supreme Court when the retirement of Justice WILLIAM J. BRENNAN opened a vacancy in the summer of 1990 was characteristic of his nonconfrontational style as President...

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