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President George W Bush Senior

Updated on May 9, 2013

President George H.W Bush is currently the oldest serving President and prior to his election in 1988 he had served as the 43rd Vice President of the United States, a congressman, and Director of Central Intelligence. By the time he was elected in 1988, he had accomplished the majority of positions which were available to him.

Bush and the Economy

As Reagan had been a strong president on the economy and Bush himself stated at his inauguration that there would be “no new taxes” it seems apt to begin by assessing his performance in controlling the U.S economy. In 1990 Federal deficit was at $220 billion and Bush was dedicated to reducing this deficit but Bush was forced by Democratic majorities to raise tax losing the popularity of his own party. As a result he alienated himself from many members of his own party as he had contradicted his statement that hew would create “no new taxes”. This significantly reduced his popularity. Furthermore between the years of 1990 and 1992 America was faced with a large recession as a result of the federal deficit and public spending which also majorly dented his popularity. Both these two instances demonstrate Bush’s lack of control concerning economy and the lack of significant steps he took to improve the situation. Another of his failures concerning economy was the shooting unemployment rate which by 92 was at 7.8% the highest it had been since 1984. Although the people weren’t experiencing the same level of prosperity as they had under Reagan there were some positive impacts Bush had for the economy. By 1992 he had managed to reduce inflation and interest rates to their lowest in years and the stock market soared under him also. However his lack of focus on the economy throughout his term was arguably the predominant reason he wasn’t re-elected and at a press conference he was even found saying he preferred dealing in foreign policy. His weak economic policy and lack of vision concerning it was greatly detrimental to his 1992 campaign and he was never truly forgiven by his own party for raising taxes.

Clean Air Act 1990

Domestic Policy Successes

Despite the fact he was largely unsuccessful concerning the economy he did achieve a few landmark victories, namely, regarding the environment. In 1990 he reauthorised the Clean Air Act which required the burning of cleaner fuels which was incredibly well received and little had been done by way of environment since Jimmy Carter. This action was coupled with the superb reaction to the Exxon Valdez fuel tanker disaster in Alaska. He also signed the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 arguably his greatest accomplishment throughout his presidency. This was one of the greatest advances for Civil Rights since the 1964 Civil Rights act and in passing this, Bush greatly improved the state of the workplace and the attitudes of the public towards the disabled. I would say this was certainly a revolutionary step forward towards a more just and equal society. Furthermore as promised he attempted to bring education to public attention through his 1989 education summit however he quickly dropped America 2000 as he failed to gather support from congress and the sufficient funds. Thus I would conclude although not a complete disaster, his control over the domestic situation was limited; his successes largely being within the domain of environment.

Relationship with Congresss

Furthermore as with the majority of Republican’s facing a Democratic Congress, Bush’s relationship with them was also difficult however not catastrophic. The difference in opinion between Bush and U.S senate concerning the appointment of Tower being made Secretary of Defense caused great dissension between Congress and President as they rejected his appointment. Moreover after Congress tried to force Bush to raise taxes the President shut down the federal government for three days which didn’t go down well with Congress and there were fearers that salaries would drop greatly. Moreover Bush took a anti-abortion stance early on, thus vetoed various bills concerning abortion, in doing so he distanced himself from congress. However by 1991 Bush had agreed with Congress to raise taxes, which although put him out of favour with his own party, raised his status with congress. In addition Congress passed the Disabilities act giving workers right to 12 weeks unpaid leave and he agreed with Congress in the bailing out of the S&L industry. Arguably it was very much a mixed bag concerning his relationship with Congress.

Bush and Foreign Policy

If domestic policy wasn’t his strong point then foreign policy certainly was! By 1991 President Bush and Gorbachev declared a US-Russian strategic partnership, marking the end of the Cold War. This was an enormous accomplishment ending a war which had dominated presidencies since Truman. Bush described it as "a significant step forward in dispelling half a century of mistrust" and many people remember Bush for his fantastic efforts in putting an end to this dangerous tension. Another accomplishment was possibly one of the shortest and cheapest wars America had fought in its history. Bush sent 700,000 forces to the area and ‘Operation Desert Storm’ liberated Kuwait by February 1991, dispelling any oil scares the public had. He demonstrated military might, followed political objectives and kept a good relationship with congress while controlling U.S press. Like most republicans he maintained a strong foreign policy throughout the entirety of his term and these were certainly amidst his greatest accomplishments as president.

Bush and Clarence Thomas

Appointments of individuals have caused Presidents great problems throughout American history and none more so than Bush’s appointment of Clarence Thomas to replace Thurgood Marshall as Supreme Court Justice.The nomination proceedings were contentious from the start, especially over the issue of abortion, and many women's groups and civil rights groups opposed Thomas on the basis of his conservative political views .Hills allegations caused an eruption in feminists campaigning for laws and regulations to protect women, which was a great dent in his popularity ratings primarily throughout the female population. It could be argued this was one of the many reasons for his failure at re-election in 1992.


Concerning economy Bush took very little action and very little was done by way of economic improvement or budget deficit reduction. However many note his Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 as his greatest domestic accomplishment and was the largest step forward for the progress of civil rights since the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Despite his Foreign Policy successes I would have to agree with the view that he was a “Guardian President” who didn’t create long lasting problems but left no legacy either.

Was George H.W Bush a good president?

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    • lions44 profile image

      CJ Kelly 4 years ago from Auburn, WA

      Bush 41 is the first President I ever voted for. He is very underrated Prez, and a great man. He never let his priviledged background define him. No, he was not a true conservative but pragmatic.

      Great article. Really laid out his Presidency very well.

    • LandmarkWealth profile image

      LandmarkWealth 4 years ago from Melville NY

      I would disagree with a few points. But in terms with his re-election, I would suggest that the reason for his failure was more attributable to Ross Perot. Perot's position tended to align more along conservative lines than that of liberal ideology. Since Bush earned 37.5% of the national vote and Perot earned 18.9%, it would have only taken about 70% of that vote to be transferred to Bush for him to have been re-elected. We will never know for show how the votes would have fallen, and how the electoral college would have been laid out. But I tend to think that if Perot had not run, Bush would have been re-elected.

      In terms of his presidency, I believe Bush 41 was a true statesman in many ways, but simply didn't qualify as a true conservative. He was attached to the Reagan ticket in 1981 as the VP to sure up the country club republican wing of the base that tried repeatedly to undermine Reagan politically.