George Bush Was George Bailey: It Was a Great Life


Because the nation says farewell to George Herbert Walker Bush, a couple of ideas on the legacy and impression of America’s 41st president.

Résumé. On the identical day that the late president’s stays arrived on the U.S. Capitol, former Vice President Joe Biden advised a Montana viewers that he considers himself “essentially the most certified particular person within the nation” to function the nation’s 46th president.

The final profitable candidate to promote the nation on the idea of résumé? That may be Bush 41 – within the 1988 election, when he trounced the less-credentialed Michael Dukakis.

Ask your self: After the less-experienced Invoice Clinton prevailed in 1992, did George W. Bush have a greater political resume than Al Gore? Or Barack Obama, as an alternative of John McCain? Or Donald Trump, moderately than Hillary Clinton?

The extra skilled candidates got here up brief, partly, as a result of they lacked big-picture salesmanship – what Bush 41 inelegantly referred to as “the imaginative and prescient factor.”

Perhaps Biden can reverse that development in 2020 and make LinkedIn horny once more in presidential politics. Nonetheless, it appears counter-current at a time when the Democratic Get together appears decided to discover a recent face with a populist message that’s not essentially consistent with the realpolitik of regaining Rust Belt states.

By the best way, Biden attended Wednesday’s service on the Nationwide Cathedral (second row, behind 4 of the 5 residing presidents, one row forward of Ivanka Trump). If he’d discovered the time, he may’ve requested Jeb Bush in regards to the deserves of working in a crowded discipline as essentially the most electable of the bunch.

One Time period. Bush 41 handed away on the age of 94 years, 171 days. Barring the surprising, Jimmy Carter, the nation’s 39th president and born 110 days after Bush in 1924, will set a brand new mark for America’s longest-living president subsequent March (a facet notice: the final three presidents to perish – Bush, Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan – had been nonagenarians; previous to them, solely Herbert Hoover and John Adams lived previous their 90thbirthdays).

Come the time of the Carter remembrance, it’ll be a unique staging in methods apart from religion (Bush, the Texas/Maine Episcopalian; Carter the Georgia Southern Baptist)

Pundits will mark the highs of the Carter presidency (most notably, the Camp David Accords) and the numerous lows (the failed hostage rescue missionthe president’s “course of” downside).

However one distinction between the 39 and 41 providers: bonhomie.

Have a look at pictures of gatherings of the previous presidents and also you’ll discover a sample: Carter often appears to be like indifferent from the group – on the fringe of the image, wanting not all that comfy.

Not like 41, Carter by no means grew keen on Clinton; in 2014, Carter revealed that Obama was the one president who didn’t name him for recommendation. In Carter’s post-presidency, there hasn’t been a public bonding along with his friends.

This isn’t to recommend that pretty sentiments received’t be expressed about Carter – his seven-decade marriage to Rosalynn; his dedication to Habitat for Humanity; his championing of human rights. There simply received’t be the identical good humor, as Carter doesn’t have the Bush gene for good-natured ribbing and self-deprecation.  

Dynasty. Is the Bush household a political dynasty? Bush 41’s father was a U.S. senator; his sons received the presidency and the governorships of two of the nation’s three most populous states.

However what comes subsequent?

George H.W. was elected president on the age of 64; George W. received the workplace at age 52. Jeb, had he been elected in 2016, would have been 63 on the time.

Earlier final month, George P. Bush (Jeb’s son) received a second time period as Texas land commissioner. The eldest of the late president’s grandchildren, he spoke at Thursday morning’s service in Houston.

Ought to he run for governor of Texas in 2022 (that’s assuming fellow Republican Greg Abbott doesn’t search a 3rd time period), the new-generation George Bush can be all of 46. In case you subscribe to the idea that the presidency will maintain altering partisan arms each eight years into the foreseeable future, then the 2032 election strains up neatly – Bush 47, getting into workplace at age 56.  

I’ll go away it to you to determine which dynasty is the strongest wager: the Bushes, the Clintons (a Hillary comeback; Chelsea working for workplace), or the Kennedys (Rep. Joe Kennedy III, JFK’s grand-nephew, ending up on a Democratic ticket).

The Practice. Bush 41 went to his remaining resting place by way of rail, versus a 90-minute motorcade from St. Martin’s Episcopal Church to the presidential library at Texas A&M.

This was a becoming gesture, as presidents and trains are synonymous. The stays of Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt had been transported by rail, as was Dwight Eisenhower (in 1969, a seven-state journey from Washington to Abilene, Kansas). Robert F. Kennedy, who had hoped to win the presidency the yr earlier than Eisenhower’s demise, additionally was given the distinction of a funeral practice.

Such passage allowed the general public to line up for one final view of the previous president. It’s additionally a reminder that, whereas U.S. presidents have little direct contact with “common” residents, for a lot of Individuals the lack of a president is akin to a demise within the household.

One different purpose why the “4141” funeral practice resonates: 70 years in the past, the longer term president resettled in the oil fields of West Texas. His was a enterprise into open area and emblematic of earlier generations of frontiersmen who had journeyed west looking for fortune – a journey made attainable for some by rail.  

George Bailey. In his remarks on the Capitol Rotunda, Home Speaker Paul Ryan famous that Bush 41 led a “great life.”

What an applicable alternative of phrases, because it’s additionally a part of the title of the film you’ll be able to’t escape between now and Christmas.

Name it a case of life imitating artwork.

Bush 41 and Jimmy Stewart, the movie’s star, had been tall, lean Ivy Leaguers who served within the Second World Warfare (Bush a naval aviator; Stewart an Military Air Corps bomber pilot). Every needed to be prodded into speaking about their embellished service. Each had been male function fashions in that they led very public lives outlined by private humility and comfortable, lasting marriages devoid of private scandal.

However George H.W. Bush was additionally much like George Bailey, Stewart’s character within the movie who struggles with the idea of failure.

Bush misplaced two Senate contests six years aside, plus the one presidential run towards Ronald Reagan in 1980 and a stinging rejection within the type of voters exhibiting him the door in 1992 (a mere 37 % of the vote, after successful 40 states 4 years earlier).

However like George Bailey, George Bush understood that his life wasn’t outlined by defeat. His post-presidency was 26 years of relentless cheer, optimism and testing his boundaries.

Bear in mind the phrases Clarence wrote to George Bailey on the movie’s finish: “Expensive George, keep in mind no man is a failure who has associates.”

George Bush didn’t lack for associates.

Future presidents will likely be challenged to have led such a beautiful life.

Invoice Whalen is a Hoover Establishment analysis fellow who follows California and nationwide politics, and host of Hoover’s “Space 45” podcast on the Trump presidency. He may be reached at