George HW Bush, who as the 41st president shepherded the US through a turbulent period in global relations that included the breakup of the Soviet Union and the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, has died. He was 94.
A statement from his office said: “George Herbert Walker Bush, world war two naval aviator, Texas oil pioneer, and 41st president of the United States of America, died on 30 November 2018.
“He was 94 and is survived by his five children and their spouses, 17 grandchildren, eight great-grandchildren, and two siblings. He was preceded in death by his wife of 73 years, Barbara; his second child Pauline Robinson ‘Robin’ Bush; and his brothers Prescott and William or ‘Bucky’ Bush. Funeral arrangements will be announced as soon as is practical.”
His son George W Bush, the 43rd president, issued a statement on behalf of his family: “Jeb, Neil, Marvin, Doro and I are saddened to announce that after 94 remarkable years, our dear Dad has died. George HW Bush was a man of the highest character and the best dad a son or daughter could ask for.
Tributes paid to George HW Bush, the ‘dear Dad’ dedicated to faith, family and country
“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.”
A statement from Donald Trump praised Bush for his “sound judgment, common sense and unflappable leadership”. White House press secretary Sarah Sanders later said Wednesday 5 December would be a national day of mourning, ahead of a state funeral which Trump and his wife Melania would attend. In Argentina for the G20 summit, Trump cancelled a planned press conference “out of respect for the Bush family”. Congressional leaders announced that Bush will lie in state at the Capitol in Washington from Monday night to Wednesday.
A moderate conservative who served a single term between 1989 and 1993, Bush lacked the charisma or polarising ideology of his predecessor, Ronald Reagan, under whom he served as vice-president.
But he was widely respected for showing a steady hand as the Berlin Wall came down, Soviet-sponsored communism in eastern Europe collapsed and the US emerged as the single global superpower.
Bush will inevitably be remembered too as the patriarch of one of America’s most successful political dynasties. The 41st president was also father to Jeb Bush, who ran against Trump for the Republican nomination in 2016.
George W and Jeb, former governors of Texas and Florida respectively, were among six children the 41st president had with his wife, Barbara, who died in April aged 92.
A close-knit family, they watched George Bush Sr’s health deteriorate. Bush suffered from vascular Parkinson’s disease, which causes a loss of balance, and had used a wheelchair since at least 2012. An admission to a hospital in Houston, Texas in November 2012, following a problem with a bronchitis-related cough, resulted in a two-month stay, including a brief period in intensive care. Bush spent another week in hospital two years later. He was in hospital again with a blood infection the day after his wife’s funeral .
George HW Bush obituary
Nonetheless, Bush remained active well into old age. He celebrated at least three birthdays with parachute jumps – including, in June 2014, a skydive to celebrate his 90th birthday.
In 2017, he was forced to apologize after being accused of sexual assault. His spokesman, Jim McGrath, admitted the former president had “patted women’s rears” to help “put people at ease” during photo calls. “To anyone he has offended, President Bush apologizes most sincerely,” McGrath said.
Over a two-decade period Bush served as ambassador to the United Nations, envoy to China, chairman of the Republican National Committee at the height of the Watergate scandal, director of the CIA and vice-president. It was a professional grounding that has led some to argue he was the best-prepared president in US history. He was put to the test, as diplomat and statesman, by the collapse of the Soviet Union.
It was a challenge to which he was perhaps uniquely suited; his close relationship with Mikhail Gorbachev helped maintain global stability during the dissolution of the USSR.
In January 1991, Bush launched a US-led action in the Persian Gulf to counter Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait. The swift military offensive, which defeated Saddam’s forces, stands in contrast to his son’s protracted war in Iraq, an eight-year engagement widely considered to be a major foreign policy blunder.
While Bush Sr earned credit for his approach to foreign policy, he was less successful on the domestic front and lost the 1992 presidential race to Bill Clinton. His defeat was in part due to the argument he had performed badly as steward of the economy during a period in which unemployment grew.
Indeed, Bush’s best-remembered line is likely to be a pledge he delivered as vice-president at the 1988 Republican National Convention: “Read my lips,” he told delegates. “No new taxes.”
Bush’s tax pledge roused conservatives but it turned out to be notoriously misjudged. Once in office, facing a federal deficit that had quietly ballooned under his predecessor, and a Congress controlled by Democrats, the 41st president was forced to renege on his promise.
Bush did leave two significant legislative marks: the Clean Air Act Amendments, signed into law in 1990, and the Americans with Disabilities Act, which Bush made law in the same year.
The former president Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, issued a statement marking Bush’s death. It said: “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. Not merely for the years he spent as our 41st president, but for the more than 70 years he spent in devoted service to the country he loved – from a decorated naval aviator who nearly gave his life in world war two, to commander-in-chief of our armed forces, with plenty of posts along the way.” (The guardian)