Out of all the political gaffes made in the 20th century, the American public failed itself in 1992 when it did not re-elect George H. Bush President. I am not a Republican (nor am I a Democrat) yet George H. Bush is on of my favorite Presidents of all time. He brought about the most devastating military force the world has ever known and he called out Reagan’s economic policies as early as 1980. Yet, he was not re-elected when he raised taxes. However, economic policies he put in place in 1991-1992 set the stage for balanced budgets of the Clinton era. There are several lessons from Bush’s presidency which any future president can learn from.
Lesson One – Network
George H. Bush is the ultimate schmoozer. Beginning in the 1960s, Bush coveted relationships. Throughout his political career it was those relationships behind the scenes which would allow him to achieve first Operation Desert Shield, then Operation Desert Shield. Whether it was a Congressman, Director of the CIA, RNC Chairman, Envoy to China, or Vice-President, Bush had over 25 years of contacts all around the world when he became President.
For Bush, it was these contacts that made his Presidency. When Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, Bush called upon his 25 years of experience to liberate Kuwait. For Bush, he was not the greatest of public speakers. He was an administrator at heart. And in administrating the war and coalition, he had no equal.
As President Obama gets ready to maneuver American forces around the planet, he would be wise to follow not only Bush’s ability to network, but also his ability to set clear, achievable objectives in the conflict. Now there are some who will say that Desert Storm should have gone to Kuwait. But behind the scenes, the Saudis, who actually paid for the war, said no. To go into Baghdad at that time would have been a mistake. Even Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney agreed with the policy at the time.
Lesson Two – Read My Lips
George H. Bush was not Ronald Reagan’s lackey. he had his own mind and his own beliefs about how the economy worked. In fact, during the 1980 Presidential Campaign, Bush called Reagan’s trickle down theory “Voodoo Economics.” Throughout the 1980s, as the deficit skyrocketed from 300 billion to over 1.2 trillion under Reagan. In fact, Bush campaigned under the promise of no new taxes.
However, the budget problems continued under Bush. He knew something had to be done. He raised taxes in 1991. No matter what Bush did the next year, the American Public did not care. For Bush had broken the promise not to raise taxes. The last year of his presidency spiraled but little did Americans know at the time, the deficit began to shrink. It would continue to do so as the new revenue combined with lowering spending would balance the budget in six years after Bush left office.
What Bush always lacked what he called “the vision thing.” Bush was a great administrator and reactor to events in the world but he was not proactive in the White House. His reaction to events was always sound, but he lacked any sound policy or principle on which to be re-elected. As a result, he was not re-elected.
As for the current Executive, one wonders whether his vision of what America can be will get him re-elected. For everything that Bush wasn’t, Obama is. For everything Bush was, Obama is not. In order for him to avoid the pitfalls of George H. Bush, President Obama will need to learn how to build the coalitions needed in world events yet mesh his vision with the American public’s vision of America.
Other Presidential Lessons for Obama Series
John F. Kennedy
George H.W. Bush