Mary Curtis: Life and Legacy of George H.W. Bush

The funeral of the 41st president is Wednesday at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C

CHARLOTTE, NC — The funeral of the 41st president is Wednesday at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., with President Trump and the first lady in attendance, as well as former Presidents Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter and their wives, and world leaders such as Charles, prince of Wales. They will honor the life and legacy of Bush — the former World War II pilot, vice president and president — which is both outstanding and complicated.  (Mary C. Curtis)

WCCB Political Contributor Mary C. Curtis weighs in on the life and legacy of Former President George H.W. Bush.

Came from a privileged family with a political pedigree, from his father, Prescott Bush, a former Connecticut senator to his sons, former governor Jeb and son George W., who unlike his father, served two terms in office.

–His background: former CIA director, with a particular interest in foreign policy.

–Sandwiched in between two larger-than-life personalities, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton, he was a one-term president who now is receiving kudos for such achievements as signing and supporting the Americans with Disabilities Act and ushering in the end of the Cold War.

–A changing Republican Party: He was known for moderation and working across the aisle, and is known for the terms “kinder and gentler” and “thousand points of light.

But he also embraced some of the more divisive parts of the GOP agenda, criticizing and voting against the Civil Rights Act of 1964 after his move to Texas, and approving scorched earth campaign tactics in his 1988 contest against Democrat Michael Dukakis, impugning Dukakis’ patriotism and backing the “Willie Horton” and related ads that exploited racial stereotypes and set back the cause of criminal justice reform. His appointment of Clarence Thomas to replace Thurgood Marshall on the Supreme court was also controversial. He also vetoed civil rights bills as president, though he also supported the Fair Housing Act in the 1960s.

–Many commentators have compared his demeanor and political style with that of the current president, with many noticing that despite the controversial parts of his legacy, Bush did treat colleagues and opponents with respect, and saw serving the American people as a noble and important job.

He left a note to incoming President Clinton, a former bitter rival, reminding him of that and wishing him success.