George H.W. Bush, a patrician New Englander whose popularity peaked with the military victory that drove Iraqi forces out of Kuwait, but then soured as a weak economy prompted voters to toss him out of the White House after a single term, died late Friday night at his Houston home. He was 94.
A World War II hero, Bush presided during the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War.
His wife of more than 70 years, Barbara Bush, died in April 2018.
The son of a senator and father of a president, Bush served as a congressman, U.N. ambassador, Republican Party chairman, envoy to China, CIA director, and two-term vice president.
After being defeated for the 1980 GOP nomination, he joined President Ronald Reagan’s team and succeeded him in 1988.
A large measure of credit for that election often goes to the overtly racist ‘Willie Horton ad’ that was broadcast by a supposedly independent group but dovetailed neatly into the official Bush campaign messaging.
Much of today’s bitter political division stems back to that time, advancing ‘Southern Strategy’ tactics used by Nixon and Reagan to a new level, which allowed President Donald Trump to use more thinly veiled racist appeals.
The 1991 Gulf War boosted Bush’s popularity but he had trouble connecting with people on domestic issue and he was haunted by his broken promise to voters: “Read my lips. No new taxes.”
That led to President Bill Clinton’s election in 1992, a Republican loss vindicated by the selection of his son, President George W. Bush, Jr., in 2000.
Tributes and criticism flurried with the news of the former president’s demise.
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