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Anderson Cooper remembers George H.W. Bush

George H.W. Bush, the 41st president of the United States, has died at the age of 94. CNN's Anderson Cooper looks back on his legacy.

Posted: Dec 2, 2018 4:10 PM
Updated: Dec 2, 2018 4:10 PM

President George H.W. Bush embodied a value that seems to be vanishing from our nation: public service. Love or hate his politics, most politicians who worked with Bush valued his deep commitment to government. And few would challenge the argument that he devoted his entire life to the public arena. He was part of a generation in American politics when working for the government was a virtue, not a vice.

His career was remarkable. After serving in World War II and later making millions in the oil business, Bush entered the rough world of politics in 1966 when Texas voters elected him to the US House of Representatives.

Five years later, President Richard Nixon appointed him to be the Ambassador to the United Nations. He took over as the chairman of the Republican National Committee in 1973, a difficult time, as Watergate was breaking. Nonetheless, he proved effective and his career boomed.

President Gerald Ford appointed Bush to be the ambassador to China and then in 1976 made him director of the CIA.

But Bush was also interested in seeking higher office, and ran in the Republican primaries in 1980, losing to Ronald Reagan, but winning election as vice president. When Reagan finished his second term, Bush defeated Massachusetts Michael Dukakis in 1988 to become President of the United States.

He would not win reelection, losing to Bill Clinton in 1992, but Bush remained active in the public eye teaming up with his predecessors -- including Clinton -- to raise money for disaster relief.

In politics, Bush was not above going low. During the 1988 campaign, for instance, he helped open the door to some of the nastier elements in our modern political world, such as Lee Atwater's cut-throat campaign style that capitalized on division as a path to victory.

But Bush also was not always successful at what he set out to do. He lost reelection in 1992 because he proved to have a tin ear toward the economic struggles of middle class Americans.

The history books look back kindly on other aspects of his presidency.

He took a huge political gamble by pushing a major deficit reduction bill in 1990, for example and he handled the collapse of the Soviet Union with the adroit skill necessary to ensure that US political leaders did not bungle the end of the Cold War.

On domestic policy, he repeatedly proved that he was willing to break with the most conservative elements of his party, even as their clout increased on Capitol Hill. Despite the rightward drift of his party, he gave his support to environmental and civil rights legislation. Newt Gingrich -- in 1990 the No. 2 Republican in the House -- never forgave Bush for agreeing to raise taxes that year, though the deficit reduction package would become a major legacy of his administration.

On foreign policy, Bush demonstrated restraint as the hawks in his party were beating the drums for the US to maintain an aggressive stance. When President Bush did use force in Operation Desert Storm he insisted on pulling back US forces after the mission of freeing Kuwait was completed.

But what is most striking about Bush's life, beyond the policies or the politics, was the fact that this man believed so firmly in the virtue of serving government. He was a civil servant to the core at a time that his own party was smashing government as inefficient and even corrupt.

Reagan called government the problem, not the solution, yet his vice president made government his professional home. Bush believed in the power of political leaders to help usher the nation and the world through big changes. Not only was he a politician to the core, but he was notably a father who raised two sons who served as governors -- with one going on to become President.

We need more of George H. W. Bush's spirit in this country today. We live at a moment in history when the values that he represented seem to have been jettisoned, with a President who often makes a mockery of the institutions he governs.

On the sad occasion of Bush's death, it is a good time to raise a toast to people such as him, Republicans and Democrats, who understand that what happens in Washington plays a massive role in the quality of our lives.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 28770

Reported Deaths: 1092
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds224739
DeSoto144216
Madison124234
Jones109149
Neshoba97070
Lauderdale89479
Rankin86012
Forrest82942
Harrison79410
Scott75715
Copiah58016
Leake56519
Jackson55716
Holmes53641
Wayne52212
Lee51816
Oktibbeha51625
Washington5129
Yazoo4786
Leflore47449
Warren46317
Lowndes45912
Lincoln43734
Lamar4317
Grenada3965
Pike39312
Monroe37529
Lafayette3684
Attala35523
Newton3329
Sunflower3216
Covington3175
Bolivar29813
Panola2956
Adams28018
Simpson2713
Chickasaw26418
Tate2648
Marion26311
Pontotoc2616
Jasper2516
Noxubee2478
Pearl River24532
Clay24410
Winston2446
Claiborne23910
Marshall2123
Smith21111
Clarke20424
Coahoma1906
Union1819
Walthall1794
Kemper17614
Yalobusha1667
Lawrence1621
Carroll16111
Humphreys1309
Itawamba1308
Tippah12711
Webster12610
Calhoun1244
Montgomery1242
Hancock12313
Tallahatchie1153
Jefferson Davis1074
Prentiss1003
Greene968
Jefferson963
Wilkinson929
Tunica903
Amite842
George753
Tishomingo731
Choctaw724
Quitman690
Perry634
Alcorn601
Stone541
Franklin392
Benton270
Sharkey270
Issaquena81
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 41362

Reported Deaths: 983
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson4532143
Montgomery3875102
Mobile3797134
Tuscaloosa210739
Marshall162210
Lee124537
Shelby110923
Madison11047
Morgan10203
Walker87123
Franklin86314
Dallas8419
Elmore83614
Baldwin7359
Etowah64413
DeKalb6415
Butler60727
Chambers60027
Tallapoosa57269
Autauga55312
Unassigned50724
Russell5030
Lowndes45820
Lauderdale4576
Houston4464
Limestone4290
Cullman4114
Pike4075
Colbert3775
Bullock3649
Coffee3592
Barbour3331
Covington3327
St. Clair3192
Marengo29911
Hale29621
Escambia2936
Wilcox2848
Talladega2827
Calhoun2805
Sumter27912
Clarke2686
Dale2620
Jackson2522
Winston2373
Blount2181
Pickens2176
Chilton2152
Marion20613
Monroe2052
Choctaw19212
Randolph1889
Conecuh1866
Greene1788
Macon1778
Bibb1761
Perry1541
Henry1303
Crenshaw1243
Washington1027
Lawrence1000
Cherokee797
Lamar711
Geneva700
Fayette671
Clay612
Coosa571
Cleburne301
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