Skip to comments.The Most Successful One-Term President
Posted on 12/07/2018 7:56:53 AM PST by Kaslin
George H.W. Bush "gave the nation its most successful one-term presidency." He "was the best one-term president the country has ever had, and one of the most underrated presidents of all time."
So said two not impartial sources -- the late president's vice president, Dan Quayle, and his Houston friend and secretary of state, who was with him at the end, James Baker. But their assessments are entirely defensible.
The toughest one-term competitor was President James K. Polk, who achieved all four of his goals -- gaining the Oregon Territory and the Pacific Coast, establishing an independent treasury and lowering tariffs. But Polk's acquisitions left the country with a problem -- slavery in the territories -- that it wasn't able to solve without civil war. And they left his successors a nation and world headed toward broad sunlit uplands.
Polk was the original "Dark Horse" presidential candidate, and when Bush started running for president in the 1980 cycle, he was, too -- a successful oilman who had lost two Senate races and in between served two terms in the House.
His brief campaign autobiography minimized, perhaps with his characteristic modesty, the value of his experience in appointive office: As ambassador to the United Nations, he was not clued in on then-President Nixon's opening to China; he was unaware of the Cultural Revolution while serving 13 months in Beijing; he was CIA director for just 11 months. But his network of friends and cousins -- all those notes dashed off on stationery! -- propelled him to victories in the Iowa caucuses and northeastern primaries and second place on Ronald Reagan's ticket.
Bush probably learned more about issues, and certainly about world leaders, as vice president than ever before, as he said at Reagan's funeral. The result was his masterful navigation of choppy currents and sudden storms as president: uniting Germany but not humiliating Gorbachev after the Berlin Wall fell; assembling an international coalition and winning the Gulf War.
This despite his pushing against disassembling existing structures -- the Soviet Union, Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia. They unraveled anyway, but mostly peacefully. It's useful to have a steady balance wheel in a time of revolutionary upheaval.
On domestic policy he was more of an innovator than people think. The young man who signed up to be a Navy pilot and the young husband who left leafy Greenwich for the desert wastes of West Texas oilfields pushed successfully for policies others hadn't considered.
Such as the Americans With Disabilities Act. This wasn't a handout, but like the GI Bill, which paid his tuition at Yale, it opened opportunities for people to help themselves.
The 1990 Clean Air Act was perhaps the last authentically bipartisan environment initiative. The Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery and Enforcement Act mopping up the savings-and-loan mess was costly, producing one-third of the budget deficit, but also necessary and self-liquidating.
Liberal journalists who have been praising Bush this week ridiculed him as a clueless preppie whose success was handed down to him -- absurd given the risks he took in the Pacific and Texas. They're still attacking him as a racist for the 1988 campaign ads that accurately attacked his opponent for defending for nine years the policy of granting weekend furloughs to prisoners sentenced to life without parole -- a policy for which there is no rational argument.
So why was this mostly successful president defeated resoundingly for a second term? One reason is that he broke his "read my lips" promise and agreed with Democrats to raise taxes. The tax increase fueled enthusiasm for Pat Buchanan's insurgent primary campaign. And the NAFTA trade deal with Mexico -- another original Bush initiative -- helped Ross Perot make a different conservative case against him.
But one other factor, I suspected then and believe now, was decisive: Bush was ready to retire. He had accomplished most of his goals, including some that had seemed impossible. He had enlisted in the Navy exactly 50 years before and spent more than 20 of the intervening years in public service.
He had been elected president at age 64, older -- with one exception -- than all but three other past presidents when first elected (William Harrison, James Buchanan and Zachary Taylor) and two when re-elected (Andrew Jackson and Dwight Eisenhower). The exception was conspicuous: Ronald Reagan, who had just carried 44 and 49 states at ages 69 and 73.
In politics, success can be as fatal as failure. Achieve some original bipartisan goals and neither party may want you anymore. Demonstrate mastery of foreign policy and voters may conclude they don't need it anymore. Gracefully retire and Americans may gratefully, if belatedly, give thanks, as they have this past week.
Not even close. James Polk by far. Added Texas, Oregon Country, and the Mexican Cession to the Union in his four years.
Well, GHW Bush did set US on the path to becoming North Mexico.
I was never a huge fan of Bush 41, but I do believe the assembly of the Gulf War coalition was an extraordinary feat of diplomacy. Convincing Muslims to team up with infidels to go to war with other Muslims is very difficult.
Some effective policies that were totally undone by political naivete. Did not grasp how breaking his no new taxes pledge would alienate voters and allowed a rube upstart to frame his mild recession as “the worst economy in thirty years”.
No, he wasn’t.
He screwed-up the Reagan Legacy he was handed by implementing the biggest tax increase in history.
If you’re a fan of agenda21 and the rio summit and the nwo and swearing an oath to the u.n. Then yeah. As a person, he probably was a good guy but wrong path for my liking.
Isn’t he the one that lost out to the Perjurer in Chief?
What the F?
I never thought he would lose to that car salesmen, Clinton.
For my money, Jimmy “Peanut Boy” Carter was the most successful one-term POTUS, because, in his utter incompetence and failure, he gave us eight years of Ronald Reagan, the greatest president of the 20th Century.
It’s rare that a leader who just won a major war gets tossed overboard by the voters.
Like Churchill. I suspected we were making a sharp turn into Socialism just like the Brits.
That was 41’s finest hour. Getting Judge Clarence Thomas on the supreme court ranked a close second.
That’s also why Clinton’s win surprised me.
After Carter I thought that having a Southern accent
was going to be a deal-breaker to voters for decades to come.
Muslims will always accept our money and military assistance, then stab us in the back. The Gulf War was a huge blunder that led to all these other disastrous conflicts in the Middle East. The Saudis thanked us by promoting Islam in our universities and giving us the 911 terrorists. We should have stayed out of it and let the Muzzies kill each other all the want.
Senators and Reps should be elected/limited to one 4 year term and perhaps the office of President limited to one term of 6 years.
It would avoid all the election voting corruption and the media's bias/influence & hypocrisy I almost believe that President Trump will not run for a second term. He will fix all of our problems, as promised and want to devote more time to his family - which the media has tried to destroy. JMHO
Was interesting to see the tableau at the National Cathedral on Weekend, with PDJT seated next to the three worst ‘RAT presidents since Wilson & FDR. Reminded me of the “hear-see-speak” monkeys.
Bush's great accomplishment -- the peaceful end of the Cold War -- is much to his credit. Yet it is perhaps mostly a matter of Bush being the right man as President at the right time, bringing to fruition the strategy put into place by Reagan, his predecessor. Reading the now declassified memoranda that laid out Reagan's national security strategy leaves little doubt that Bush's success was principally the result of Reagan and his administration.
An idea that we still can't seem to fully do away with, even though every sensible person has come to realize what a stupid and terrible idea it was, and thus we still have good young American men getting killed for no good reason whatsoever.
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