The Miller Center at the University of Virginia is rolling out its George H.W. Bush oral history project today, offering up a comprehensive look at Dubya’s dad’s presidency as related by his contemporaries and confidants.
The oral history plumbs the brunt of Bush’s entire career, but it really boils down to two flash points: his “no new taxes” pledge/subsequent budget showdown and launching the Persian Gulf War.
Following Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in August 1990, Bush legislative affairs aide Fred McClure says Bush nervously pulled him aside and asked whether he had the votes to go to war. McClure’s candid assessment, “No. We don’t have enough public support.”
Rather than expend political capital, McClure says Bush simply let the recess clock run down. “Once we got Congress out of town and the president got the stage to himself, got the tanks rolling down and our guys building up with [Colin] Powell and [Dick] Cheney and all those guys and [James] Baker, we could do what we did and we were able to pull it off at the end,” McClure explains.
And lest anyone believe the White House is anything but a gilded cage, McClure offers up this gem about Bush’s arm-twisting efforts during the 1990 budget battle:
“The president has feelings, too, and frankly, he doesn’t like making phone calls and getting those kinds of responses. He got enough of those when he was vice president, and now it’s, ‘Why am I having to do this now? I’m president.’”
(Guess one really is the loneliest number, right 44?)