Global grief for H.W.

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George Herbert Walker Bush was many things but more than anything else, he was a believer in true government service. AP

George “H.W.” Bush — the upper-crust war hero-turned-oilman and diplomat who steered America through the end of the Cold War as president and led a political dynasty that saw his son win the White House — died yesterday. He was 94.

George W. Bush called his father a “man of the highest character and the best dad a son or daughter could ask for,” in a statement announcing his death.

A decorated Navy pilot who was shot down in the Pacific in 1944, he was the last of the World War II generation to occupy the Oval Office.

US President Donald Trump praised his lifetime of service to the nation and “unflappable leadership” during the waning days of the Cold War.

“Melania and I join with a grieving nation to mourn the loss of former President George H.W. Bush,” Trump said in a statement from Buenos Aires where he was attending the G-20 Summit.

“Through his essential authenticity, disarming wit, and unwavering commitment to faith, family, and country, President Bush inspired generations of his fellow Americans to public service,” he added.

“He stood for freedom and his words about the subject ring a bell until this day when he said, ‘The anchor in our world today is freedom, holding us steady in times of change, a symbol of hope to all the world,’” presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said.

“On behalf of the Filipino nation and people, we wish to convey our condolences and prayers to the family and friends of Mr. Bush, as well as to the government and the people of the United States of America,” he added.

Most decent man

Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro “Teddy Boy” Locsin described Bush as the most decent man to become a world leader and US president.

“I felt humanity’s loss through an unaccountable shudder in my heart. God, at least I knew in a small way a truly good man and a truly great leader,” he said.

Locsin added he was possibly the best man to be US president, as a person, as a decent human being and as one of the smartest in its history.

“You’ll all see that in time. He was the last of the great Americans, the absolute last,” he added.

“The entire Bush family is deeply grateful for 41’s life and love, for the compassion of those who have cared and prayed for Dad and for the condolences of our friends and fellow citizens,” the younger Bush said.

Bush’s passing came just months after the death in April of his wife and revered First Lady Barbara Bush – his “most beloved woman in the world” – to whom he was married for 73 years.

The 41st American president was a foreign policy realist who navigated the turbulent but largely peaceful fall of the Soviet Union in 1989 and assembled an unprecedented coalition to defeat Iraqi strongman Saddam Hussein two years later.

Decorated pilot

But the decorated war pilot and former CIA chief suffered the ignominy of being a one-term president, denied a second term over a weak economy when he lost the 1992 election to upstart Democrat Bill Clinton.

His favoring of stability and international consensus stands in sharp contrast to the provocative bluster of fellow Republican and current White House occupant Donald Trump, a man whom Bush did not vote for in 2016.

Bush presided over economic malaise at home and infuriated his fellow Republicans during a budget battle with rival Democrats by famously breaking his vow: “Read my lips: No new taxes.”

But he was the respected patriarch of a blue-blood political dynasty – son George spent eight years in the White House and son Jeb served as governor of Florida.

At the time of his death, Bush was the American president to have lived the longest.

Jimmy Carter was born a few months later, so he could quickly reset the record.

“America has lost a patriot and humble servant in George Herbert Walker Bush. While our hearts are heavy today, they are also filled with gratitude,” former president Barack Obama said in a statement.

War, oil, politics

George Herbert Walker Bush was born on 12 June 1924 in Milton, Massachusetts to a wealthy New England political dynasty – the son of Prescott Bush, a successful banker and US senator for Connecticut.

Bush had a pampered upbringing and attended the prestigious Phillips Academy in Andover but delayed his acceptance to Yale in order to enlist in the US Navy on his 18th birthday and head off to war.

He flew 58 combat missions during World War II. Shot down over the Pacific by Japanese anti-aircraft fire, he parachuted out and was rescued by a submarine after huddling in a life raft for four hours while enemy forces circled.

Bush married Barbara Pierce in January 1945, shortly before the war ended, and the couple went on to have six children, including one, Robin, who died as a child.

Instead of joining his father in banking upon graduation from Yale University, Bush headed to bleak west Texas to break into the rough-and-tumble oil business.

He surprised many with his success, and by 1958 had settled in Houston as president of an offshore drilling company.

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