Editorial: Bush was American father figure
When anyone loses a father, there is a sense of being lost.
A father is a fixed point in a storm. A father is the person who helps put you on a path. He gives you the tools to find your way. He is the person you call when you wander astray and the one that comes to save you when the unpredictable pushes you off course.
We speak often of the founding fathers, those 18th century rebels who became the templates for American patriotism.
But does our country have modern day equivalents? Are there fathers who are helping their sometimes surly teenager of a nation do the right thing?
If there are, there is one less now.
If there are, there are few who did so for as long and as consistently as George H.W. Bush.
Bush exhibited leadership that began in the 1940s as he served in World War II, the youngest fighter pilot in the Navy.
He raised a family. He ran for office. He was appointed to important roles because of knowledge and expertise. He was America’s envoy to China and ambassador to the U.N. He ran the Republican party. He spent eight years understudying behind Ronald Reagan before taking the spotlight as president.
He also understood what it was not to win, and how to do so with grace. Bush left the White House with humor and dignity and a letter to successor Bill Clinton that, again, provided an example of how to be a grown-up in a world growing increasingly partisan and fractured.
And he sat back and watched his children take their place. Two sons became governors. One became president. He stood beside them, offering support, in their successes and defeats.
Because that’s what a father does.
Bush did much the same for the country.
He showed Americans how to be a good sport after losing the 1980 primary to Reagan and joining him on the presidential ticket. He showed how to do what was needed on the world stage, taking action in Kuwait, but also how to read the room and act appropriately, withdrawing rather than pressing forward with Operation Desert Storm.
He showed how to make tough choices when he reneged on his famous “no new taxes” promise in 1990. It lost him the 1992 election. In 2014, it won him a Profile in Courage award from the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library for a move that “enacted responsible and desperately needed reforms at the expense of the president’s popularity and his chances for reelection.”
“America’s gain was President Bush’s loss, and his decision to put country above party and political prospects makes him an example of a modern profile in courage that is all too rare,” according to Kennedy’s grandson Jack Schlossberg.
If there was a Ward to America’s Wally and the Beav, a Pa to the nation’s Laura Ingalls, a wise Andy Griffith to our collective Opie, there’s an argument for it being Bush.
And with him being laid to rest, we now have to hope the lessons were learned along the way.