- - Monday, December 3, 2018


They clearly don’t make ‘em like George H.W. Bush any more. There’s no longer much of a market for presidents dedicated to decency, dignity, and unabashed service to God and country.

The 41st president himself might be surprised to listen to some of the accolades for him, all deserved, pouring in from the corners of the country and indeed the globe. He could have used some of that good will and gratitude from some of those who, at the time, came more to bury him than to praise him.

Being remembered as the thoroughly decent president, the president who knew where the buttons and levers were to make the presidency work with grace and goodness, is no small legacy. He had the legacy, so he never had to make a public show of trying to create something that could pass for a good one.

“Character and comportment are part of conservatism,” the Washington Examiner rightly observed of qualities that sometimes get short shrift. “On those scores, Bush was a role model for the Right.” And for the left, the middle, and the no man’s land that everywhere else has become.

Mr. Bush earned the ire of some conservatives who wanted not so much the “kinder, gentler” approach championed by Mr. Bush, but more of the “meaner, blunter” approach of another kind of president. He was surely not surprised by the ire, and could give as good as he got. “I’m a conservative,” he once said, “but not a nut.”

He was not a pushover by the stretch of anyone’s measure. He had the instincts of the fighter-bomber pilot he was, having survived a bail-out over the South Pacific in the early, darkest days of World War II. He was perhaps the most aggressive of the candidates for president in 1980, but never lost his cool or descended into rage or the contempt for an opponent that sometimes passes as manly pugilism in what Theodore Roosevelt called “the arena.”

But there was no doubt that he was a conservative, though perhaps the patient conservatism of an earlier time in America. No one could have put together the coalition that went to war against Iraq and watched Norman Schwarzkopf and his coalition, with the cunning boldness of Stonewall Jackson, make quick work of Saddam Hussein. Then, with the war won and Saddam deposed, he declined to humiliate Iraq with a triumphal march into Baghdad, reticence much criticized but ultimately redeemed when Iraq became an ally, as reliable as a friend can be in the Islamic cockpit of the Middle East.

Mr. Bush was above all a man who recognized family and faith as the ultimate virtues, dying with his family on their knees in prayer at his bedside, as rafts of angels sang him to eternal rest, secure in his faith in the redemptive power and promise of the Christ.

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