George H.W. Bush

  • 3 December 2018
  • NormanL

The passing of former President George H.W. Bush has drawn a lot of comment, much of it focused on his inherent decency and devotion to family and country. But it's not all of what he was. Mr. Bush was complicated, especially to conservatives.

For evidence, consider this item from Conservaitve HQ chairman Richard Viguerie. It gives us a front row seat on history as it played out during the Reagan and Bush years. And it is fascinating. Here's a sample:

Vice President Bush, Senator Howard Baker, Congressman Bob Michel, and the rest of the establishment Republicans in Washington weren’t necessarily bad people, but their lack of commitment to the conservative principles that Reagan ran on, and that grassroots conservatives expected the GOP to deliver on, meant that the debate that went on in the Republican primaries between Big Government Republicans and the Reaganites who wanted to shrink government never really ended.

However, it is a tribute to Bush’s political instincts (or perhaps more correctly the political instincts of the late Lee Atwater) that while George H.W. Bush was no conservative, to win the presidency he was more than happy to run as a conservative.

In 1988 George H.W. Bush ran what was arguably one of the most conservative campaigns for President of the modern era.

From the Second Amendment to American exceptionalism to the right to life that Bush had once opposed by backing Roe v. Wade and abortion on demand, George H. W. Bush hit all the notes conservatives were hoping to hear from the Republican presidential candidate and emphasized the social issues establishment Republicans always do their best to avoid.

Absent the acceptance speeches of Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan, I doubt there was ever a more conservative acceptance speech delivered at a Republican National Convention. Many of the voters who voted for Bush based on his acceptance speech didn’t realize it, but they were voting for speechwriter (now Wall Street Journal columnist) Peggy Noonan, not George H. W. Bush.

We can and do honor Mr. Bush's service to his country, his devotion to his family, and so much more. But we will also remember the politician, who was at or near the heart of the world's political arena for decades, making choices that disappointed as many as were pleased. That complexity makes him more interesting, more real, and more human.