When George H.W. Bush died, news reports flashed images of the young man as a World War II war hero, followed by those of the Berlin Wall being torn down. If only the reel had stopped there, as other images included the bombing of Iraq after that nation’s 1991 invasion of Kuwait.
From now on, the United States ought to let Kuwaitis defend Kuwait. That U.S.-led war cost 149 American lives with 1,143 total casualties. On the Iraqi side, it is estimated that 100,000 Iraqis died with 300,000 wounded. Stateside, the war set into motion the events that would result in the presidency of Bill Clinton.
Bush’s brief presidency matters tremendously. The late 1980s and early ‘90s is where the current blue state-red state divide began. Nassau County, in 1988, voted overwhelmingly for Bush as it had voted earlier for Ronald Reagan, Gerald Ford and Richard Nixon. In 1984, Reagan was re-elected with 59 percent of the vote. Eight years later, Bush stumbled home with 37 percent. Meanwhile, Nassau, that year, went from red to blue and has stayed there ever since.
What went wrong? By supporting free trade, Bush alienated the Reagan Democrats in the Midwest. By increasing legal immigration and doing nothing about illegal immigration, Bush lost California, New York, New Jersey and Illinois for the GOP. (We don’t throw stones. Reagan and Bush 43 did nothing about this problem, either, still Bush’s actions were akin to a man pouring kerosene on a fire already out of control.) Finally, there was the broken pledge on taxes, the sour aftermath of the war and the signing of a civil rights bill that conservatives immediately denounced as quota legislation.
For his troubles on the latter issue, Bush faced a primary challenge from Patrick J. Buchanan. After the commentator gained 37 percent of the vote in the 1992 New Hampshire primary, H. Ross Perot jumped into the race. Those two candidacies set off a chain reaction with results few could foresee. The coming years would see similar populist runs within the GOP by Ron Paul, Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum. None of them went anywhere, and, with the presidency of George W. Bush, the free trade-mass immigration-wars for democracy faction seemed to have won a decisive victory. But Bush 43’s own war in Iraq turned out badly and even though it took eight years, the unlikely candidacy of Donald Trump picked up the pieces.
Bush 41 didn’t like it. According to Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, daughter of Robert F. Kennedy, Bush announced his intention to vote for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election. Why? Bush’s official residence was in Maine. That year, Maine was a tossup state. Bush, in our view, didn’t want Trump to win Maine and with it, the White House. So he voted, we were told, for the wife of the man who defeated him in 1992.