The touching manner in which George Herbert Walker Bush, America’s 41st President, is being bid farewell as politicians set aside differences to honour him is a wistful reminder of an era that has passed, where the world’s most powerful individual could be gentle and graceful too.
Over 25 years have passed since he unsuccessfully sought re-election, and a decade since his son George W’s second term, but he’s still remembered with affection. It symbolises how the world has changed since Bush Senior co-opted the major powers to build a remarkable international coalition to free Kuwait from Saddam Hussein. At a time when a streak of authoritarianism has afflicted major power centres, his tenure seems charmingly old world, yet it was a time of great challenges as the world changed.
Bush’s life of service to his country and humanity — as a Navy combat pilot, CIA director, UN ambassador Ronald Reagan’s vice-president and President in 1989-92; and in charity and tsunami relief work — is what is being acknowledged now, with a vengeance.
The way he struck up an enduring friendship with his most bitter political opponent who dethroned him, Bill Clinton, offers an example of true greatness in bipartisanship, and has a fairytale ring at these times. He was born to privilege but showed willingness to get down and dirty in his missions.
He proved an adroit world leader as the Soviet Union broke up and the Cold War ended, displaying sensitivity towards Russia too. As America’s economy tanked and the rich despised his tax increases, Bush Senior fell and yet lived a full life to have triggered such a wave of nostalgia in this Trumpian era....