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Pence on Bush: There was a kindness about him

Vice President Mike Pence remembers former President George H.W. Bush during a state funeral service in the US Capitol rotunda.

Posted: Dec 4, 2018 6:19 PM
Updated: Dec 4, 2018 6:19 PM

George H.W. Bush was America's 43rd vice president when he became its 41st president. Although he will likely be most remembered for his four years in the White House, Bush's two vice-presidential terms under Ronald Reagan were consequential. He contributed to the shaping of Reagan's presidential policies, advanced the development of the new White House vice presidency -- then in its early stages -- and laid the groundwork for his own election as president. Whereas 14 vice presidents have become president, only four sitting vice presidents did so initially by election -- John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Martin Van Buren, and Bush -- adding to Bush's unique historic stature.

Long before the presidency was a plausible option for his public service, Bush aspired to be vice president. Gerald Ford seriously considered Bush for nomination as vice president, after Ford became president following Richard M. Nixon's resignation in 1974. As chairman of the Republican National Committee, Bush was popular among Republican politicians. Ultimately, Ford chose Nelson A. Rockefeller, based on his superior national stature, leaving Bush the disappointed runner-up.

Bush might well have been Ford's choice two years later after Rockefeller was dropped from the 1976 ticket. Yet when Bush was nominated as director of the Central Intelligence Agency, Senate Democrats made confirmation contingent on Bush agreeing not to participate in the 1976 campaign, presumably to depoliticize the agency. But for that pledge, Bush, rather than Sen. Bob Dole, might have been Ford's running mate.

The prize seemed near again in 1980 after Bush was the effective runner-up to Reagan for the Republican presidential nomination. Ford came to the convention backing Bush as Reagan's running mate. Yet widespread interest in a Reagan-Ford dream ticket consumed the Republican convention, and negotiators for Reagan and Ford explored such an unprecedented pairing. The dream ticket seemed inevitable even as Bush delivered his convention speech.

Yet when Reagan and Ford determined that the arrangement was unworkable, Reagan belatedly turned to Bush, though with some misgivings, because Reagan, and his wife, Nancy, had been unimpressed with Bush's primary campaign and Reagan worried about differences in their positions. Bush accepted -- without reservation -- and handled the perception that he was Reagan's second choice with characteristic grace.

Redefining the vice presidency

Bush's determination, loyalty and skill, in governance and in interpersonal relations, soon won over the President, if not Nancy Reagan. In the process, Bush made important contributions to the Reagan presidency and the development of the vice presidency.

Bush embraced the new vice-presidential model that Jimmy Carter and Walter F. Mondale had created, whereby the vice president served in the White House as a close adviser and trouble-shooter for the President.

To do this, Bush established a friendship with Reagan and won the trust of the President and his circle by working loyally to advance Reagan's agenda. His original vice-presidential staff focused on helping Reagan govern, not advancing Bush politically. Bush developed personal rapport with Reagan during their private weekly lunches, often bringing a good joke or two.

When an assassination attempt almost took Reagan's life 10 weeks into their first term, Bush demonstrated model vice-presidential behavior. He overruled Secret Service plans that he helicopter to the White House, insisting that only the President lands on the South Lawn. He covered some events on Reagan's schedule during the President's convalescence but never aggrandized his role, a marked contrast with Secretary of State Al Haig's "I'm in charge" approach. Once again, Bush knew exactly how to conduct himself.

Bush used his diplomatic skills to handle important foreign missions for Reagan. He was characteristically self-effacing regarding ceremonial duties like attending funerals of foreign dignitaries ("You die, I fly," he said) but leveraged those occasions to establish personal relations with other leaders. His attendance at the funerals of three Soviet leaders allowed him to meet the Soviet successor on each occasion.

Contributing to the Reagan presidency

Whereas Mondale had avoided ongoing responsibilities in particular areas, Bush chaired task forces to reduce federal regulations and combat the importation of illegal drugs into the United States. These assignments allowed him to contribute in areas important to Reagan's agenda and set a precedent, which later vice presidents like Dan Quayle, Al Gore, Joe Biden and Mike Pence all followed to varying degrees.

As a presidential adviser, Bush gave Reagan space, but he weighed in on matters important to him, sometimes by organizing meetings for Reagan or by asking questions to make sure Reagan had information. For example, he worked successfully to soften Reagan's attitude toward the Soviet Union and China.

Bush's work helped consolidate the changes in the vice presidency that Carter and Mondale had initiated, an effort he continued as President by establishing similar prerogatives for his vice president, Quayle, including regular private access and inclusion in meetings, as well as significant supervisory and foreign mission roles. Understanding the challenges of the second office, Bush defended Quayle from attack and resisted calls to drop him from the 1992 ticket.

Prepping for the presidency

Yet for Bush, like most others, the vice presidency was also attractive as a means to his own presidential term. Unlike others, he succeeded. Being vice president brought political baggage, as well as benefits. Bush could not separate himself from the Iran-Contra Affair and the perception that he either was complicit or out of the loop.

Yet Bush won the contest for the 1988 Republican nomination over an imposing field including Dole, Rep. Jack Kemp, Haig and others, and, with Reagan's enthusiastic help, won the White House, becoming the first sitting vice president since Van Buren more than 150 years earlier to accomplish that feat.

Although Pence initially identified Dick Cheney as his vice-presidential model shortly after being chosen as Donald Trump's running mate, by the time of his inauguration he had recognized that Bush was a far better choice. Whereas Cheney disclaimed presidential ambitions and was often seen as unduly powerful, a model Trump might not welcome, Bush was known for his loyalty -- and he leveraged his vice presidency into presidential election.

Bush's vice presidency helped institutionalize the historic changes in the second office that continue today. Not bad for a secondary line on a resume.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1118335

Reported Deaths: 17712
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1455892240
Lake724831254
Allen67063882
Hamilton51060487
St. Joseph49820649
Elkhart40268546
Vanderburgh34714497
Tippecanoe30808276
Johnson27696467
Hendricks26313385
Porter25657386
Madison21131455
Clark20238279
Vigo19059309
LaPorte17192261
Howard16770314
Delaware16761303
Monroe16628220
Kosciusko14293167
Hancock13113186
Bartholomew12983190
Warrick12210190
Wayne12090269
Floyd12011226
Grant11998245
Morgan10409192
Boone9869124
Noble9316122
Henry9177169
Marshall9152147
Dearborn8970100
Dubois8835140
Shelby8281130
Cass8167128
Lawrence8057185
DeKalb7817109
Jackson770793
Huntington7661115
Gibson7102118
Montgomery7101123
Harrison6954100
Knox6915116
Steuben669089
Whitley659660
Miami6595113
Putnam645085
Clinton627179
Wabash6221111
Jasper613192
Jefferson5856105
Ripley557294
Adams542281
Daviess5076117
Scott491580
Wells4836105
White478469
Greene4701101
Clay464662
Decatur4611110
Fayette452496
Jennings452067
LaGrange427491
Posey410044
Randolph3944107
Washington390956
Fountain375964
Fulton364874
Spencer362247
Starke355574
Owen353577
Sullivan348555
Orange331372
Jay331050
Rush309533
Carroll296239
Franklin292744
Perry290553
Vermillion283658
Tipton251167
Parke250130
Pike248644
Blackford222144
Pulaski210359
Newton182452
Brown177550
Crawford169129
Benton168417
Martin152120
Switzerland147612
Warren135816
Union122616
Ohio92413
Unassigned0595

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1731003

Reported Deaths: 26851
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin1803711843
Cuyahoga1698662655
Hamilton1144371544
Montgomery810251405
Summit726231210
Lucas636141027
Butler57225814
Stark543091183
Lorain42754645
Warren36183417
Mahoning36035788
Lake32696501
Clermont31523369
Trumbull27614620
Delaware27394185
Licking26829344
Medina26290353
Fairfield24812287
Greene24540373
Clark22327390
Portage21504283
Richland21257342
Wood20300248
Allen19119326
Miami17456352
Columbiana17014335
Muskingum16873207
Wayne15873307
Tuscarawas14579362
Marion13440196
Ashtabula12927237
Erie12790199
Scioto12556188
Pickaway12308155
Ross11780226
Hancock11623175
Geauga11042179
Lawrence10698172
Belmont10509234
Huron9867159
Jefferson9687228
Union963775
Sandusky9428166
Seneca8993161
Knox8869176
Washington8714159
Darke8435181
Athens841897
Ashland8102152
Auglaize8018120
Shelby7551135
Defiance7418117
Crawford7356150
Fulton7262113
Brown7217116
Logan7061111
Guernsey700586
Mercer6959100
Highland6807120
Clinton6547106
Williams653899
Madison652590
Preble6334140
Putnam6288122
Champaign585187
Jackson584597
Perry570579
Ottawa5689102
Coshocton5688108
Morrow521765
Fayette497272
Hardin4947100
Gallia474278
Van Wert469395
Pike467678
Adams4619110
Henry439280
Hocking412493
Holmes4035141
Wyandot379275
Carroll371178
Paulding326351
Meigs307561
Monroe236861
Noble221549
Morgan219039
Harrison215253
Vinton189138
Unassigned06
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Decatur
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Colder air continues to filter into the region, and we will experience the coldest day since February 2021.
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