SURIANO: Country needs more of George H.W. Bush’s characteristics
Opinions Column: A RINO's View
In 1948, the then captain of the Yale University baseball team met Major League Baseball (MLB) legend Babe Ruth at a pre-game ceremony.
If meeting Babe Ruth was the most remarkable thing to happen to you in your entire life, it would be a great story you could tell your grandkids about. But, for this young man, the meeting would only be a footnote in one of the most remarkable lives in United States history. That baseball captain was former President George H.W. Bush, who passed away late Saturday night at the age of 94.
He was a war hero, congressman, ambassador to the United Nations (UN), liaison to China, chairman of the Republican National Committee, director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), vice president and president. But most importantly to Bush, he was a father, grandfather and great grandfather. Throughout his career, he was an example of grace and dignity — a guide on how a politician should act.
While running for president in 1979, Bush was asked if “he was too nice of a guy to be president.” This question perfectly encapsulates the type of man he was. A man who knew what needed to be done and did it without belittling those around him or gloating in his successes. He was a man with a deep sense of duty to his country. For example, when WWII started, he was a senior in high school. He could have gone on to Yale and avoided service or used his father’s connections to get a job in the military away from the front. Instead, he became a fighter pilot after graduation. He followed his conscience to do what he thought was right, as is the essence of a leader.
Bush was also loyal to his political party — which is a quality in politics that may be derided now — but it shows a man who is loyal to his friends and beliefs. In 1979, the Republican Party was split. Bush represented the old moderate establishment wing of the party and Ronald Reagan represented the insurgent conservative wing of the party. The primary was sometimes vicious, with Bush even dubbing Reagan’s supply-side economic theories as “voodoo economics.”
After Bush lost, he could have sulked off and licked his wounds, leaving his party behind. But, that was not the man George H.W. Bush was. He accepted Reagan’s offer to be vice president, which is a job once described by our nation's first Vice President John Adams as “the most insignificant office that ever the invention of man contrived or his imagination conceived." Bush took a job to work for a man he had fought tooth and nail against, putting aside personal sentiments because it was for the good of his party and the country.
Bush oversaw the Gulf War, which despite critics’ inane censures, was one of the most honorable endeavors our nation has ever embarked on. Former President of Iraq, Saddam Hussein, conducted an invasion of Iraq's smaller and weaker neighboring country Kuwait. Bush took charge and gathered a coalition of UN nations to defend international law and human rights. Some have argued that this was not our fight, or that this was an imperialist invasion. Both accounts are wrong and instead show the righteousness of Bush’s character. If the defense of international sovereignty is not the business of the most powerful nation on earth, then who would ensure international order?
The answer is no one, and Bush knew that in the absence of U.S. leadership, bad actors would enter the void and human rights would go by the wayside. Even if it was not popular, he would do what was right. Additionally, despite opposing accounts, Bush did not take over Kuwait — he knew this was not a war for land in the way that Hussein was fighting. This decision shows the truth that Bush, throughout his career, led with the same integrity that he valued in his personal life.
Finally, Bush showed strong character in his lowest moment. When he lost his re-election and had been run out of office, his character did not falter. He left a note for former President Bill Clinton that reflected his sincerity. “Your success now is our country’s success. I am rooting hard for you. Good Luck," Bush wrote. This man was a patriot who knew that the state of the country was more important than his differences with Clinton, or even his own personal success. As we remember the life and legacy of the former president, let us all try to live with the integrity, grace and wisdom he had and let us pray our leaders maintain the same standard of character.
Robert Suriano is a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore majoring in history. His column, "A RINO's View," runs on alternate Mondays.
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