President George H.W. Bush was no conservative’s favorite Republican president.
In fact, Bush ran for president in 1980 as the flag bearer for the left end of the GOP. When Ronald Reagan brought Bush onto the ticket that year, it was partly an effort to win over that wing of the party.
As president, Bush famously broke a core promise and raised taxes. He appointed David Souter to the Supreme Court, one of the greatest own-goals in modern judicial history. For this and other reasons, he had to fight off a primary challenge from his right in the person of Pat Buchanan.
Then again, when it comes to our politicians, conservative policy and politics may be the first considerations of conservative voters, but they aren’t the only considerations. Character and comportment are part of conservatism. On those scores, Bush was a role model for the Right.
Bush was no pushover. In fact, in 1980, Bush was perhaps the most notoriously combative of the Republican presidential candidates. But he was thoroughly decent. When he lost his cool on reporters, he wrote personal notes of apology. When he lost to Bill Clinton in 1992, he was impeccably polite and gracious in defeat.
Bush was also a family man. Everyone, including politicians and journalists, who got to see behind the scenes on his life saw that. In his old age, Bush basked in the payoff of his lifelong dedication to his family. Having leaders who can shine as examples of family men and women is valuable to the country.
And even among the Greatest Generation, Bush stood out as a man of public service. He was a member of Congress, and ambassador to the United Nations, envoy to China, director of the CIA, vice president, and president. He was also a combat veteran and a legitimate war hero.
Decency, dedication to family, service to country. These are all virtues that conservatives, along with most non-conservatives, hold dear.
But there was a deeper conservatism in Bush’s way of seeing the world. Specifically, he knew politics and government weren’t everything.
Bush fought hard on politics, but he tried not to let those fights define his relations with his adversaries.
When he left office, Bush declined to insert himself into the middle of political fights. He didn’t stay out of the public square. He spoke up on political and diplomatic issues, but mostly just offering his opinion when asked. Where he really asserted himself was in volunteering and rallying the public to charitable giving.
He teamed up with Bill Clinton to raise money for victims of the devastating 2004 tsunami and then Hurricane Katrina. He served on the board of his church and chaired the Thousand Points of Light foundation, which aimed to highlight the noble works of private individuals. That foundation sprung from Bush’s speech at the 1988 convention.
“We’re a nation of community,” he said, listing voluntary organizations: “the Knights of Columbus, the Grange, Hadassah, the Disabled American Veterans, the Order of Ahepa, the Business and Professional Women of America, the union hall, the Bible study group, LULAC, ‘Holy Name’ — a brilliant diversity spread like stars, like a thousand points of light in a broad and peaceful sky.”
In other words, this man who dedicated his life to public service through the government knew that government wasn’t the heart of America. This politician knew that politics was a high calling, but it wasn’t the highest one.
Courtesy: Washington Examiner