George H. W. Bush

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We must act on what we know. I take as my guide the hope of a saint: In crucial things, unity; in important things, diversity; in all things, generosity.

George Herbert Walker Bush (born June 12, 1924) was the forty-first President of the United States. He is married to Barbara Bush, and is the father of George W. Bush.


To all who mourn a son, a brother, a husband, a father, a friend — I can only offer you the gratitude of a nation, for your loved one served his country with distinction and honor.
  • It is possible to tell things by a handshake. I like the "looking in the eye" syndrome. It conveys interest. I like the firm, though not bone crushing shake. The bone crusher is trying too hard to "macho it.: The clammy or diffident handshake — fairly or unfairly — get me off to a bad start with a person.
    • Letter to Gary Hanauser (18 September 1979), as quoted in All the Best, George Bush : My Life in Letters and Other Writings (2000), p. 282
  • Voodoo economics.
    • Bush's description of Ronald Reagan's economic platform during the 1980 Republican presidental primary campaign, as quoted in The Image-Is-Everything Presidency : Dilemmas in American Leadership (1999) by Richard W. Waterman, Robert Lee Wright, and Gilbert K. St. Clair, p. 57
  • You don't have to go to college to be a success ... We need the people who run the offices, the people who do the hard physical work of our society.
    • Statement to the students of East Los Angeles' Garfield High School (5 May 1988)
  • I'm the one who will not raise taxes. My opponent now says he'll raise them as a last resort, or a third resort. But when a politician talks like that, you know that's one resort he'll be checking into. My opponent, my opponent won't rule out raising taxes. But I will. And The Congress will push me to raise taxes and I'll say no. And they'll push, and I'll say no, and they'll push again, and I'll say, to them, Read my lips: no new taxes.
    • Speech at the 1988 Republican National Convention (18 August 1988)
  • To all who mourn a son, a brother, a husband, a father, a friend — I can only offer you the gratitude of a nation, for your loved one served his country with distinction and honor." ... "Your men are under a different command now, one that knows no rank, only love; knows no danger, only peace, May God bless them all.
    • At a memorial in Norfolk Virginia for the 47 crew members killed in an explosion aboard the battleship USS Iowa (BB-61). - "Bush Fights Tears at Memorial", By Susan Page. Newsday Washington Bureau. Newsday. Long Island, N.Y.: April 25, 1989. pg. 04
Think about every problem, every challenge, we face. The solution to each starts with education.
  • This is Pearl Harbor Day. Forty-seven years ago to this very day, we were hit and hit hard at Pearl Harbor.
    • Bush addressing the American Legion in Louisville, Kentucky (7 September 1988), three months prior to the actual anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor (7 December 1941).
  • I don't have to stand here and defend the campaign of 1988. I'd be perfectly prepared to do it, but I was elected. I put confidence in the American people, their ability to sort through what is fair and what is unfair, what is ugly and what is un-ugly, and be as positive as possible.
  • I do not like broccoli and I haven’t liked it since I was a little kid and my mother made me eat it. And I’m President of the United States and I’m not going to eat any more broccoli. Now look, this is the last statement I’m going to have on broccoli. There are truckloads of broccoli at this very minute descending on Washington. My family is divided. For the broccoli vote out there: Barbara loves broccoli. She has tried to make me eat it. She eats it all the time herself. So she can go out and meet the caravan of broccoli that’s coming in.
  • Think about every problem, every challenge, we face. The solution to each starts with education.
  • This is an historic moment. We have in this past year made great progress in ending the long era of conflict and cold war. We have before us the opportunity to forge for ourselves and for future generations a new world order, a world where the rule of law, not the law of the jungle, governs the conduct of nations. When we are successful, and we will be, we have a real chance at this new world order, an order in which a credible United Nations can use its peacekeeping role to fulfill the promise and vision of the U.N.'s founders. We have no argument with the people of Iraq. Indeed, for the innocents caught in this conflict, I pray for their safety.
  • We're going to keep trying to strengthen the American family. To make them more like the Waltons and less like the Simpsons.
    • Statement at the 1992 Republican Convention on the animated sitcom, The Simpsons, sometimes misquoted "America needs to be a lot more like The Waltons and a lot less like The Simpsons."
This is bigger than politics; this is about saving lives, and I must confess I’m getting a huge kick out of it.
  • Trying to eliminate Saddam, extending the ground war into an occupation of Iraq, would have violated our guideline about not changing objectives in midstream, engaging in "mission creep," and would have incurred incalculable human and political costs. Apprehending him was probably impossible. We had been unable to find Noriega in Panama, which we knew intimately. We would have been forced to occupy Baghdad and, in effect, rule Iraq. The coalition would instantly have collapsed, the Arabs deserting it in anger and other allies pulling out as well. Under those circumstances, furthermore, we had been self-consciously trying to set a pattern for handling aggression in the post-cold war world. Going in and occupying Iraq, thus unilaterally exceeding the U.N.'s mandate, would have destroyed the precedent of international response to aggression we hoped to establish. Had we gone the invasion route, the U.S. could conceivably still be an occupying power in a bitterly hostile land. It would have been a dramatically different — and perhaps barren — outcome.
    • A World Transformed (1998) by George H.W. Bush and Brent Scowcroft; also as an excerpt in Time Magazine in 1998.
  • Whose life would be on my hands as the commander-in-chief because I, unilaterally, went beyond the international law, went beyond the stated mission, and said we're going to show our macho? We're going into Baghdad. We're going to be an occupying power — America in an Arab land — with no allies at our side. It would have been disastrous. We don't gain the size of our victory by how many innocent kids running away — even though they're bad guys — that we can slaughter. ... We're American soldiers; we don't do business that way.
    • A statement to a reunion of Gulf War veterans (February 28, 1999) as quoted in "Bush tells Gulf vets why Hussein left in Baghdad" by S.H. Kelly, Pentagram (3 March 1999)
  • Most of the money that President Clinton and I raised has not been spent yet, and it will go into reconstruction. ... This is bigger than politics; this is about saving lives, and I must confess I’m getting a huge kick out of it.
    • Statements to press (20 February 2005), on serving with former political rival Bill Clinton in their efforts to raise money for tsunami recovery.

On Apologizing for America

Bush used the phrase "never apologize for the United States" frequently during the 1988 presidential campaign and had promised never to apologize several months prior to the July 1988 shootdown.

  • I will never apologize for the United States — I don't care what the facts are... I'm not an apologize-for-America kind of guy.
    • Statement as Vice-president, during a presidential campaign function (2 Aug 1988), commenting on the Navy warship USS Vincennes having shot down Iran Air Flight 655 in a commercial air corridor on July 3, killing 290 civilians, as quoted in "Perspectives", the quote of the week section of Newsweek (15 August 1988) p. 15; also quoted in "Rally Round the Flag, Boys" by Michael Kingsley in TIME magazine (12 September 1988), and in The 267 Stupidest Things Democrats/Republicans Ever Said (2000) ISBN 9780609806357 by Ted Rueter.
    • "I'll never apologize for the United States. Ever. I don't care what the facts are," Bush told about 200 members of his newly formed Coalition of American Nationalities, a group with representatives of ethnic backgrounds from about two dozen countries. Bush attributed his indiscriminate support for the nation to his belief that the United States is "the only hope for freedom and democracy" in the world and that "no other country is strong enough to lead the free world."
      • Variant, as quoted in Campaign '88/ "I'll never apologize for the United States" by Judy Wiessler in Houston Chronicle (3 August 1988) p. 6. The Houston Chronicle did not indicate that the quote referred to the Iran Air 655 shootdown.
    • We must never apologize for the United States of America.
      • Speaking at the service club's honors banquet attended by 254 people at the Bluffs Holiday Inn, Council Bluffs, Iowa, late January 1988. "Bush Sidesteps Campaign Talk In the Bluffs" by C. David Kotok in Omaha World - Herald Omaha, Nebraska [Iowa Edition] (30 January 1988), pg. 1
    • "I will never apologize for the United States," the Vice President declared recently. "I will stand up for her."
    • "I'm not an apologize-for-America kind of guy."
      • Speaking to a women's group in Concord, NH in February 1988. Dole and Bush: Dramatic Contrast of Styles . . . Bernard Weinraub, Special to the New York Times. New York Times. (Late Edition (East Coast)). New York, N.Y.: February 7, 1988. pg. A.32
    • If I am elected president, I will never apologize for the United States. I will strengthen her and make her a beacon of freedom and liberty!
      • Late April 1988, at a campaign stop at the Scranton Wilkes-Barre airport, in response to protesters of the Reagan administration's policies in Central America. Bush Vows to Attack Joblessness. Edward Power. Philadelphia Inquirer. Philadelphia, Pa.: April 26, 1988. pg. A.8
    • My view, is let Mike Dukakis go around there and talk about pink slips, despair, pessimism in the United States. I'll be the guy out there talking about hope and opportunity and challenge, and the fact that the United States is the best, the fairest, the most decent nation on the face of the earth. Let them apologize for America, and let me lead her to new greatness.
      • Speaking to supporters in Washington D.C. May 4, 1988. Voters face clear choice, Bush says; [THIRD Edition] STAFF, WIRE REPORTS. Boston Globe (pre-1997 Fulltext). Boston, Mass.: May 4, 1988. pg. 13.
    • "Bush, who ... came of age in World War II, instinctively identified with the crew members and captain on the Vincennes. He said he would not apologize for the incident. "I will never apologize for the United States of America!" he frequently declares in campaign speeches."
      • "Nominees' Beliefs Grounded in 2 Views of America; Bush Is Motivated By Pragmatism, Noblesse Oblige" by David Hoffman in The Washington Post [FINAL Edition] (30 October 1988) p. a.01
    • "[WW II] helped formulate his view of America as a military power: clearly in the right, with no shades of gray. "I will never apologize for the United States of America", Mr. Bush has said frequently."
    • "And I'll be honest with you, it's a joy to serve with a president who does not apologize for the United States of America."
      • in his closing remarks at a Vice-Presidential debate with Geraldine Ferraro in Philadelphia, PA, in October 1984. Bush, Ferraro Clash at Civic Center CHRISTOPHER HEPP. Philadelphia Daily News. Philadelphia, Pa.: October 12, 1984. pg. 3

Inaugural Address (1989)

A President is neither prince nor pope, and I don't seek a window on men's souls. In fact, I yearn for a greater tolerance, an easy-goingness about each other's attitudes and way of life.
Washington, D. C. (20 January 1989) Full text online at Yale University
  • I have just repeated word for word the oath taken by George Washington 200 years ago, and the Bible on which I placed my hand is the Bible on which he placed his. It is right that the memory of Washington be with us today, not only because this is our Bicentennial Inauguration, but because Washington remains the Father of our Country. And he would, I think, be gladdened by this day; for today is the concrete expression of a stunning fact: our continuity these 200 years since our government began.
    We meet on democracy's front porch, a good place to talk as neighbors and as friends. For this is a day when our nation is made whole, when our differences, for a moment, are suspended.
  • I come before you and assume the Presidency at a moment rich with promise. We live in a peaceful, prosperous time, but we can make it better. For a new breeze is blowing, and a world refreshed by freedom seems reborn; for in man's heart, if not in fact, the day of the dictator is over. The totalitarian era is passing, its old ideas blown away like leaves from an ancient, lifeless tree. A new breeze is blowing, and a nation refreshed by freedom stands ready to push on. There is new ground to be broken, and new action to be taken. There are times when the future seems thick as a fog; you sit and wait, hoping the mists will lift and reveal the right path. But this is a time when the future seems a door you can walk right through into a room called tomorrow.
    Great nations of the world are moving toward democracy through the door to freedom. Men and women of the world move toward free markets through the door to prosperity. The people of the world agitate for free expression and free thought through the door to the moral and intellectual satisfactions that only liberty allows.
    We know what works: Freedom works. We know what's right: Freedom is right. We know how to secure a more just and prosperous life for man on Earth: through free markets, free speech, free elections, and the exercise of free will unhampered by the state.
  • We must act on what we know. I take as my guide the hope of a saint: In crucial things, unity; in important things, diversity; in all things, generosity.
  • 'America is never wholly herself unless she is engaged in high moral principle. We as a people have such a purpose today. It is to make kinder the face of the Nation and gentler the face of the world.
  • The American people await action. They didn't send us here to bicker. They ask us to rise above the merely partisan. "In crucial things, unity" — and this, my friends, is crucial.
  • A President is neither prince nor pope, and I don't seek a window on men's souls. In fact, I yearn for a greater tolerance, an easy-goingness about each other's attitudes and way of life.
  • I do not mistrust the future; I do not fear what is ahead. For our problems are large, but our heart is larger. Our challenges are great, but our will is greater. And if our flaws are endless, God's love is truly boundless.
    Some see leadership as high drama, and the sound of trumpets calling, and sometimes it is that. But I see history as a book with many pages, and each day we fill a page with acts of hopefulness and meaning. The new breeze blows, a page turns, the story unfolds. And so today a chapter begins, a small and stately story of unity, diversity, and generosity — shared, and written, together.

Quotes about Bush

  • The sort of man who steps out of the shower to take a piss.
  • Poor George. He can’t help it. He was born with a silver foot in his mouth.
    • Former Texas Governor Ann Richards, in a keynote address at the 1988 Democratic National Convention (18 July 1988)

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