George H.W. Bush found peace, friendship in Maine
By DAVID SHARP
Monday, December 3
KENNEBUNKPORT, Maine (AP) — Former President George H.W. Bush was known for his jogs along the rocky Maine coast, playing fast-paced golf, fishing in his speedboat and transforming his home in this seaside village into the “Summer White House.” He also built lasting friendships in the town that he’d visited since he was a boy.
Bush, who died Friday at age 94, goes way back in Kennebunkport.
The three-story, stone-and-shingle home at Walker’s Point has been in the family since the turn of the century, and the former president spent every summer there since boyhood except when he served as a Navy aviator in World War II.
While president from 1989 to 1993, Bush hosted world leaders such as French President Francois Mitterand, British Prime Minister John Major and Jordan’s King Hussein at Walker’s Point. He didn’t let Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990 stop a summer visit in which he oversaw the building of an international coalition that toppled the invaders.
Bush described the seaside compound as a place where he found peace. Inside, he kept a plaque that was engraved with the letters “CAVU,” the acronym for perfect flying weather, “Ceiling and Visibility Unlimited.”
“This is where he came to be with his family, to be at peace. He has nothing but a smile on his face when he’s in Kennebunkport,” William “Spike” Heminway, a golfing buddy and friend, told The Associated Press before his death in 2013. “He loved getting out on the ocean. The ocean did more for him than anything else in the world.”
Ken Raynor, a golf pro and family friend, said Bush enjoyed leaving the spotlight and returning to his oceanfront home, built by Bush’s grandfather.
“He had an incredible robust passion for life and sharing it with us. It blows us all away how he embraced friendships with all of us,” Raynor said. “The memories will last forever.”
In Kennebunkport, Bush and his wife, Barbara, who died in April, were known as down-to-earth people who always had a friendly wave for neighbors.
After an outing at Cape Arundel Golf Club, the former president would grab a glass of fresh-squeezed orange juice at Patten’s Farm Stand. He was fond of peanut butter ice cream pie at Mabel’s Lobster Claw Restaurant, and he bought ice cream by the tub for his grandchildren.
After leaving office, he continued to divide his time between his summer home in Kennebunkport and his primary residence in Houston, keeping a low profile, except when he jumped from aircraft for his 75th, 80th, 85th and 90th birthdays, the latter two in Kennebunkport. For his 90th birthday jump, Bush had to overcome the objections of his doctor and his family before being allowed to make a tandem parachute jump from a helicopter.
“Just because you’re an old guy, you don’t have to sit around drooling in the corner,” Bush once said.
While president, Bush was known for his lightning pace, once finishing a round of golf in an hour and 57 minutes because he wanted to get back to the office. He also was competitive on the tennis court and enjoyed playing horseshoes.
Stephen Spenlinhauer, a boating buddy, remembers a good-natured and spontaneous friend who encouraged him to jump off his dock into the cold North Atlantic Ocean, forced guests to hang on for dear life as he gunned the engines on his speed boat, and once invited a veteran and his new wife honeymooning in Kennebunkport to go swimming with him.
“He’d go from the moment he picked his head up off the pillow to the time he went to sleep,” Spenlinhauer said.
In recent years, Bush had been using a wheelchair and a scooter because of vascular parkinsonism, a neurological condition that affected him below the waist, making it difficult for him to control his legs. He’d also suffered other health scares that landed him in the hospital. In 2015, he fractured a bone in his neck when he took a spill inside his home.
He was hospitalized for a week in 2018, shortly after arriving in Maine without his wife of 73 years. But he also attended the wedding of his granddaughter Barbara, named for her grandmother, and celebrated his 94th birthday while in Kennebunkport.
Bush’s relationship with Kennebunkport figured prominently in the HBO documentary “41.” Filmmaker Jeffrey Roth said the rejuvenating power of Bush’s oceanfront home was part of the key to understanding him.
“This is our anchor to the windward,” the former president said. “This is where our memories are. This is where I’ve been coming all my life and will remain to our last days.”
See AP’s complete coverage of George H.W. Bush here: https://www.apnews.com/tag/GeorgeHWBush
Why we’ll miss George H.W. Bush, America’s last foreign policy president
December 1, 2018
Professor at the School of International Service and Visiting Senior Fellow, Council on Foreign Relations, American University School of International Service
James Goldgeier does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
Partners: American University School of International Service provides funding as a member of The Conversation US.
There are many reasons to miss George H.W. Bush, the 41st president of the United States. A World War II hero, he later served his country with great distinction in a number of important positions before becoming vice president and then president.
The outpouring of warm feelings first for his wife, Barbara Bush, who passed away earlier this year, and now for him, reflects not only the role President and Mrs. Bush played in American history but also the decency they represented in a political system that now has become full of indecency.
Strikingly, George H.W. Bush was also the last person elected president of the United States with any prior foreign policy experience.
He entered office with one of the most impressive resumes of any president, having served as director of the Central Intelligence Agency, ambassador to the United Nations and Ronald Reagan’s vice president.
He left office with an impressive list of achievements, including the unification of Germany within NATO. As historian Jeffrey Engel has reminded us in his excellent recent book, “When the World Seemed New,” this was far from assured. British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and French President Francois Mitterand were deeply opposed to Germany’s unification, while Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev opposed not only unification but the incorporation of the former East Germany into NATO. Germany’s leadership in Europe as a force for democracy and human rights since those years has clearly vindicated President Bush’s instincts to support West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl in his efforts in 1990.
A major high point of the George H.W. Bush presidency, however, was also the harbinger of disappointments to come: the swift military victory that reversed Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait and seemed to herald a new era in world affairs – but left Saddam Hussein in power.
In 1991, it seemed America could do anything it wanted to in the world – politically, diplomatically and militarily. But no one could have imagined 27 years ago the role that Iraq would come to play in American foreign policy in the ensuing years and the loss of American lives, money, standing and self-confidence that resulted from U.S. involvement in that country.
A new world order?
A month after Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait, in September 1990, Bush and Gorbachev issued a joint statement noting that “no peaceful international order is possible if larger states can devour their smaller neighbors.” That same month, Bush declared, “We’re now in sight of a United Nations that performs as envisioned by its founders.”
The problem was that while the United Nations was set up to prevent powerful states from invading weaker neighbors, as Germany and Japan had done in the 1930s and 1940s, the main challenges of the post-Cold War world – prior to Russia invading Ukraine in 2014 – were different. They were mainly internal challenges: failed states and civil wars in places like Somalia, Rwanda, the Balkans, Afghanistan and eventually Iraq after the disastrous U.S. occupation following the 2003 war.
The U.S. effort to put together an international coalition against Iraq in 1990 was stunning. Secretary of State James Baker met with every head of state or foreign minister whose country held a seat on the U.N. Security Council. That meant not just meeting with those countries that had permanent seats like the Soviet Union and China, but also those holding rotating seats such as Ivory Coast, Romania and even Cuba.
Baker’s efforts were successful. The Security Council passed U.N. Resolution 678 on Nov. 29, 1990 and established Jan. 15, 1991 as the deadline for Iraq to withdraw its troops from Kuwait or face a U.S.-led international coalition to force its withdrawal.
The coalition made good on the threat. As Colin Powell told my co-author Derek Chollet and me in an interview for our book on the period, “The Gulf War was the war against the Russians we didn’t have. There were no trees and no hills, but that’s what we were trained to fight. The Iraqis sat there and we kicked the (bleep) out of them.”
For those who had suffered through the morass of Vietnam and the crisis of American confidence that followed, it was the ultimate feel-good moment. An estimated 800,000 people packed the National Mall to cheer their military heroes. Bush came out of the war with a 90 percent public approval rating.
The Iraq problem
And yet, the following year, a candidate with no foreign policy experience who had avoided military service in Vietnam won the presidency. By 1992, the Cold War was over, and Bill Clinton campaigned with the mindset that it was “the economy, stupid.”
But while Clinton defeated Bush, he inherited the Iraq problem from his predecessor, who had chosen not to remove Saddam Hussein in order to keep his U.N. coalition together. Clinton was faced for eight years with patrolling the no-fly zones established over the north and south of Iraq to protect the Kurdish and Shiite populations.
Clinton passed the Iraq problem off to George W. Bush, who in the aftermath of the attacks of Sept. 11 made the fateful decision to go to war in 2003 – this time without U.N. authorization. Bush and his “coalition of the willing” removed Saddam Hussein, leaving the United States as an occupying power. And while Barack Obama promised – a promise on which, for a fleeting moment, he seemed to deliver – a U.S. withdrawal from the country, he was forced to go back in militarily with the rise of the Islamic State, handing off the Iraq problem to his successor to manage. Even as Donald Trump presided over tremendous military success against ISIS, Iraq remains a diplomatic and military challenge for the United States. The 2003 war left Iran ascendant in the region, and it cost the United States not only significant blood and treasure, but so much of the standing and legitimacy it gained in 1991.
Thus the promise of the Gulf War – the U.S. dominant like no other since ancient Rome, confident that it could rule the world on behalf of freedom and democracy – gave way over time to doubt and confusion. In the post-Cold War world, the U.S. military was largely called upon to handle internal conflicts – in Somalia, Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan, Libya and, throughout it all, Iraq – and the results have proved deeply dissatisfying.
In 1991, George H.W. Bush declared victory and celebrated with a parade. In 2011, there was no parade for Libya. There will be no parade for Afghanistan. If Donald Trump ever holds a military parade in Washington, D.C. as he once discussed, it will take place in an America exhausted from its long wars and feeling far less confident in its role in the world than it was back in the George H.W. Bush years.
It’s fitting that George H.W. Bush, World War II military hero and Cold War veteran, is the last president to preside over what at the time felt awesome: a major military victory fought on behalf of the entire world against a dictator.
His successors, none of whom served in the military and all of whom have wrestled with post-Cold War challenges, have been vexed not only by Iraq, but by challenges posed by nonstate actors while trying to manage regional threats emanating from China, Russia and Iran. While Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Barack Obama and now Donald Trump have each in their own way tried to define American leadership, George H.W. Bush’s presidency represents the moment at the end of the Cold War when anything seemed possible for the United States in world affairs, and the underlying challenges were only just beginning to become visible.
Editor’s note: This story updates a version published on June 12, 2017.
George H.W. Bush laid the foundation for education reform
Updated December 3, 2018
Assistant Professor of Education, University of Massachusetts Lowell
Disclosure statement: Jack Schneider does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
Partners: University of Massachusetts provides funding as a member of The Conversation US.
George H.W. Bush fulfilled his desire – articulated late in his 1988 campaign for president – to be “the education president.” It just took three decades.
It’s true that Bush passed no education bills during his one term as president.
His next three successors, by contrast, all produced signature education legislation: Goals 2000 for Bill Clinton, No Child Left Behind for George W. Bush and both Race to the Top and the Every Student Succeeds Act for Barack Obama. All, however, followed a plan drawn up by George H.W. Bush. He was – in my view as an education historian – the architect of sweeping change.
The cornerstone of the Bush education blueprint was an elite bipartisan consensus. Like his predecessor in the White House – Ronald Reagan – Bush was sympathetic to the free market. But unlike Reagan, Bush was a pragmatist, and as vice president had watched Reagan fail in his push for tuition vouchers. But Bush was also a consummate Washington insider, less intent on dismantling government than on improving it. In the long wake of the alarmist A Nation at Risk report, which suggested that American students were falling behind their international peers, Bush offered a new vision for federal involvement in education. Rather than choosing between the unregulated market and the heavy hand of government to fix schools, Bush offered a third way, making the case that entrepreneurial activity in education should be encouraged and carefully monitored by the state. That vision, which shaped an entire generation of education reformers, remains the foundation of an enduring consensus liberals and conservatives alike.
Federal government as catalyst
Beyond establishing a vision, Bush threw his energies into school reform projects large and small. In keeping with his belief that the federal government could “serve as a catalyst” in promoting change, he was an early advocate for charter schools, which he successfully framed as a bipartisan marriage of entrepreneurism and government, and which he pitched not as devices of the free market, but as an experimentation against inequality. Through the New American Schools Development Corporation, for instance, Bush funded the Community Learning Centers of Minnesota project – the first endeavor “based on the charter school concept, a variation of the school choice approach.” In so doing, he created a model that would be replicated a thousand times over.
Perhaps most significantly, Bush laid the foundation for standards-based accountability. Before he took office, the federal government had little involvement in the governance of public schools. President Lyndon Johnson had increased Washington’s reach through the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, which channeled vast new sums to schools. But Johnson and his successors – including Jimmy Carter, who elevated the Department of Education to the Cabinet – had done little to position the federal government as a kind of executive suite in public education. Bush changed that, and sought to do so by developing top-down accountability through curricular standards and aligned tests.
Less than a year after taking office, the Bush administration worked with the National Governors’ Association to organize the 1989 Charlottesville education summit – a meeting at which then-Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton distinguished himself as an ally. A few short months later, in his 1990 State of the Union address, Bush proposed his America 2000 legislation, which called for standardized tests that would “tell parents and educators, politicians, and employers just how well our schools are doing.”
At the time he was defeated in his bid for reelection, Bush had little to show for his plans. The charter sector in the early 1990s remained minuscule. Congress sank America 2000 shortly after it was proposed.
Over time, however, Bush’s grand design was gradually realized. Rechristening Bush’s failed America 2000 legislation as Goals 2000, Bill Clinton gave incentives to states to create curricular standards and aligned tests, and he doled out millions of dollars in grants to charter school developers. George W. Bush advanced his father’s work through No Child Left Behind, as well as through strong support for the charter sector, which doubled in size under his administration. Barack Obama offered continued support to the charter sector, while also ensuring the future of accountability testing through Every Student Succeeds Act. In short, the Bush paradigm has had remarkable endurance across time and across different administrations.
This is not to say that federal policy has had a positive effect on schools over the past quarter-century. No Child Left Behind is today viewed by policy experts, educators and even many of its original backers as a failure. And charter schools, despite receiving generally positive press, have produced mixed results while largely failing to produce real innovation.
Nevertheless, the endurance of these efforts reveals Bush’s particular genius for working within complex democratic bureaucracies to build lasting power. The Department of Education, once a sleepy backwater, today exercises tremendous influence. And in wielding that influence, Bush’s successors – both Republicans and Democrats – have also advanced his administrative agenda. Phrases like “standards and accountability” and “school choice,” once deployed only by policy wonks, are now common terms in the national education dialogue.
George H.W. Bush’s ideas persisted well after he left office. That’s because they were rooted in compromise between elites on both sides of the aisle and because they were patiently developed through bureaucratic institutions and the law. For good or ill, it seems, true power lies not in the issuance of ideological proclamations or executive orders – it lies in statecraft. Leaders, after all, may come and go. But their policies can continue to shape the world long after they leave office.