The Bush approach to the presidency will return

Much of the analysis of George H.W. Bush’s tenure this week has spoken to his obvious class, his much-respected character, and his seriousness in contrast to an unserious age. These personal aspects will in time return to the presidency. It is inevitable that they will, because the American people will demand it. They are so clearly deep human virtues unattached to ideological fealty that Americans have returned to them again and again in the candidates they seek to nominate.

What can be said of George H.W. Bush beyond the personal accolades is that as president, he was a man who did nothing by half measures. He was hands-on, engaged, and thought deeply and seriously about the purpose of the nation. He was on occasion given bad advice by those Three Ring Binder Guys around him and their ephemeral projects – like 43, he had a tendency to offer too much loyalty to those who did not necessarily have the knowledge or the character to serve him well. But this is no great sin, and hardly unique in politics.

And when reflecting on the presidencies that have followed, what emerges is a perspective on George H.W. Bush that ought to appreciate his deep and abiding manly qualities: devotion, service, and resolve. The media dogged Bush with the “wimp factor” moniker in an astounding example of their own self-loathing preference for the false bravado of Bill Clinton, with his sad lothario performance constantly seeking Peter Lawford’s beach house. They judged the World War II hero for looking at his watch, for trying to answer a woman honestly who didn’t understand the difference between the deficit and the recession, and fell for a president whose greatest skill was catching hold of an economic updraft and convincing the media he made it fly.