President George Herbert Walker Bush
Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.
George Herbert Walker Bush will probably be the last East Coast patrician ever to hold the Office of President. No doubt there will be more Harvard and Yale graduates who will assume the position, but none of them will enter the White House with a sense of entitlement that many presidents through Bush 41 possessed. The death of President Bush brings to an end a phase American history.
President Bush accepted the burden to serve as a duty to the nation. From enlisting as an eighteen-year-old in the Air Force, to Congress, to the CIA, to the U.N, to the White House, President Bush committed himself to serve. Bush 43 indeed did come from the same place and there were vestiges of his father—Groton-Yale etc.—but he had a very different level of gravitas than that which his father brought to the job.
There is much to be said about President Bush’s policies and many of his decisions, domestically as well internationally; not all supportive by any means. Bush, however, approached the honor with a commitment to make it work. He exhibited joy in doing his job, rarely got ruffled, and—most importantly—laughed at himself, his mistakes, and idiosyncrasies.
Perhaps he is missed so much and mourned so deeply because America today is such a polarized country 26 years after he left office. His Republican Party had drifted so far from what President Bush believed were its values and tenets that he was reported to have voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016. This may well have been his final political messages to his party and to the country.
It will be interesting to watch whether President Bush’s passing will affect the GOP as it faces its future after the results of the mid-terms; or will Bush’s Republican Party continue to follow President Trump ultimately into oblivion.