Tuesday, June 17, 2008

American Experience: George H.W. Bush

I taped the American Experience biography of George H.W. Bush awhile ago and finally got around to watching it (well, me and Adam – Adam watches a lot of history!). Although I lived through this presidency (while I do remember some things, my excuse is that I was like 11), I actually learned a lot and found this to be a very well done documentary. The show was in two parts for a total of 3 ½ hours, but is well worth the time. You can also check out the PBS website for more information and a teacher’s guide.

I thought I would pick out some facts I found particularly interesting from the program:

  • Bush’s father, Prescott Bush, was an advisor to FDR.
  • That when Bush started in Texas, the Republican party was practically nonexistent and he helped to build it up.
  • This probably is only interesting to me, but his family originally came from Ohio, then when to Greenwich, CT and then he headed out to make his own way in Texas.
  • He started his career denouncing the UN, but later was the US Ambassador to the UN.
  • He was chairman of the Republican National Committee during the Watergate scandal. He was chosen for his absolute loyalty, but Nixon found out that Bush’s loyalty has its limits when Bush learned that Nixon has been lying all along. Bush then wrote to Nixon, advising he resign.
  • He was Ambassador to China and head of the CIA.
  • He had trouble with campaigns – the idea of trumpeting yourself or bad mouthing your opponent was difficult for him to deal with. In the 1988 campaign, his campaign manager, Lee Atwater, really made the difference in pushing Bush to make the hard decisions necessary for campaigning in the modern era.
  • Bush was instrument during his presidency in the unification of Germany and its ability to join NATO.
  • This documentary argues that Bush actually saved Reagan’s reputation because he cleaned up many of the economic problems that Reagan left, like the banking crisis.

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