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show. story of my life. thanks to ed henry with his first two names. phil with that weird beard and the liberal panel. they call him poppy. 41st president of the united states. he became a politician in the texas oil. he owned perhaps the most impressive resume of any man to win the white house. he maintained a public identity of dig any fied restraint even in dpeet. tonight you'll hear the private thoughts of the 41st president in his own voice. part of an audio diary he kept.
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it's a george h.w. bush who felt things more deeply than he ever let on. >> i'd like o you to hear what he said on the night he was speaking into his little tape recorder, your mother asleep in the next room. these are his reflections. >> the job is not finished. it kills me. our kids are absolutely magnificent. always telling me we're proud you have dad. we're proud of you. i'm thinking, they go back to their communities, their father was president and all of that. >> your thoughts. >> i never really understood how much the defeat stung him because he kept it hidden.
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he bottled up this sense of defeat. >> the loss his father felt, the younger bush said, was not just he defeat by bill clinton but something deeper. >> dad didn't really accept the baby boomer view of duty and honor. to be beaten by the first baby boomer president was upsetting to him. he was born to a family with high expectations, the firm sense of public duty. his father was a serious and forceful figure who would become a united states senator. his mother dorothy taught her son to strive for excellence but never to show off while doing so. >> one of the famous stories going to say, mom i hit a home run. she'd say how did the team do.
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>> he went to prep school at andover. as he was preparing for yale in the family tradition, the united states was attacked at pearl harbor. >> i knew i wanted to be a pilot. that was the first day you could enlist. >> bush began flying dangerous missions over the pacific before the age of 20. >> i got shot down one time september 2nd, 1944. i felt this jolt. i could see the fire all around that aircraft. suddenly my plane was on fire. >> bush tried to save his crew but two men died. he ended up in the pacific ocean spending four hours on a life raft before this footage was
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taken of his rescue by an american submarine. >> in that life raft you go back to the fundamental values. i was 20 years old. you think of family and faith, and you pray. >> when he returned from the war bush resumed his courtship with barbara pierce. he had met her when she was 16 and he proposed to her before leaving for the pacific. they were married on january 6th, 1945. life was returning to normal. bush attended yale where he got into an accelerated program and graduated with a degree in bak k economics. he had a job in family business but didn't take the pay. >> he didn't rely on family connections or wealth.
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>> neil bush is the fourth of the sons. >> he did something pretty remarkable and graduated from yale. he packed up and went for west texas which is about as far from civilization as you can get if your a greenwich, connecticut new york city bound young professional. >> bush was just 24 years old. >> your dad is a yankee aristocrat. >> you have to ask what caused him to leave his roots and family he adore and move out to west texas. it was the sense of adventure. dad could relate to people from all walks of life. he doesn't act texan. he never wore a cowboy hat band-aand big boots but became a part of the midland scene. >> in 1953, tragedy. his 3-year-old daughter robin was diagnosed with leukemia.
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she died just three months later. >> it was devastating. one of the defieing tragedies of their lives. >> john meachum was given unprecedented access to the archives. >> he wrote a letter in late 1950s to his mother about robin. there is about our house a need, the running pulsating wre wrecklesswreckles wrecklessness of the boys. we need a doll house to stand firm and baseball cards. we need someone to cry when i get mad, not argue. we need a little one who can kiss without leaving egg or jam or gum. we need a girl. we had one once. we need her and yet we have her. we can't touch her and yet we
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can feel her. we hope she'll stay in our house for a long, long time. love pop. when i asked the president to read that letter out loud in the interview he broke down long before he finished sobbing very hard. his chief of staff came in the room and said why did you want him to do that. i said well, if you want to know someone's heart and before i could finish the sentence, the president said you have to know what breaks them. >> such deeply personal insights are what moved him to write destiny and power, a new biography of george h.w. bush. among the material he drew from was a trove of the president's audio diary. >> i remember thinking 17 years ago that george bush was a much
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more complicated and interesting figure than most people might think. >> i w i was looking at this about his story and his times and remarkable life. i really believe that he was the last of the time. >> the same year bush lost his daughter, he co-founded to oil company. >> in texas he finds the most adventure out element of that business and becomes an offshore oil man. >> now the father of four boys and the young girl he longed for since robin's tragic death wanted to serve his country in the political arena. his father had become a u.s. senator from connecticut and now george, in 1964, ran for that same office in texas. >> george bush, the happy family man is now george bush republican candidate for the united states senate. >> he lost his senate race. not one to give up, he ran for the house of representatives in 1966 and won. >> one of the extraordinary things about bush is he was almost immediately thought of in
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national terms the moment he got to washington as a member of the house. >> among those who saw big things for bush was president richard nixon. >> he was a vital patron. the. >> it was a bad time to be chairman. the gop was falling apart amid the watergate scandal. nixon resigned in 1974 and ford took his place. ford named bush envoy to china and then director of the cia. >> when he was offered the cia it was at a low. he had this intense belief that if citizens was to do what the president of the united states asked them to do. >> cia was a significant problem for us. there were questions about the way the agency had been handled and the programs that had been carried on. it was an important time when there was a lot going on.
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as we put all those pieces together, george bush ended up cia. >> so help me god. >> congratulations. >> after jimmy carter was elected president, bush retreated to texas to figure out what to do next. his decision, swing for the fence, he would run for president. >> they break out laughing after you tell them you're running for president. >> went into iowa and he met everyone he could, and he upset reagan. is he going to floknock reagan . he didn't count on one thing, ronald reagan. reagan comes back strong and knocks bush out. >> it looked like it would be the end of george bush's political career. he had not exactly been tough on reagan but he did say this. >> he's promising to cut taxes by 30% and balance the budget and increase defense spending and stop inflation all at the same time. it just isn't going to work.
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what i call a voodoo economic policy. >> at the convention reagan chose him as his running mate. >> reagan made the decision himself ultimately to turn to bush. >> bush wanted to lead but he now how to be a good team player. >> bush was the perfect vice president for ronald reagan. he never once articulated a view or feeling or policy that was at odds with the president's and they became extraordinarily close. very, very good friends and an extremely good team. >> bush was ready for the biggest moment of his life. while you expect the second in command to have an easy path to the nomination, his quest turned to out to be anything but that. lisa!
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promised together to break with the past and return america to her greatness. >> early on in his campaign bush sometimes became unfocused and voters weren't sure what he stood for. >> when he was asked why he wanted to be president it wasn't always crisp answers. with ronald reagan it was cut taxes. bush had a broader view. he was not a campaigner whose style was to sound bites. that hurt him. he was a conservative in the sense he wanted to conserve what was best about the country and reform what wasn't. that reform would take shape of sensible solutions. president bush really believed that if he was trying to do the right thing, if his heart was in the right place and if he produced results then the voters
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would be with him. >> on top of all this there was the wimp factor. >> drove bush bananas. called it nasty political shot and was asked about it again and again. some people seemed to doubt whether he had the strength and guts to make the hard call. bush's argument was the men i flew in war with didn't think that. the men i built business with didn't think that. cia agents i served with didn't think that. ronald reagan doesn't think that. >> one incident that helped dispel that notion is when he stood up for himself during a testy exchange with dan rather. >> it's not fair to judge my whole career by a rehash on iran. how would you like it if i judge your career after you walked off the set in new york.
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i have respect for you but i don't have respect for you for what you're doing tonight. >> the line was fed to him by his campaign advisor. >> he created emotion amongst his supporters. i thought it was wonderful. he expressed doubt. you think it went okay. his first big decision was to pick a running mate. bush chose a relative unknown, 41-year-old senator from indiana, dan quayle. >> i said thank you very much. we'll be a great team. >> he says we want to keep it a surprise so don't tell anybody. i said i'm sort of watching television and they just said
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it's not doyle and not kemp. i think they might figure out soon it might be me. he said, look, this is your first assignment. don't screw it up. >> i'm proud to have dan quayle at my side. >> bush wanted a surprise. he wanted to be bold and generational. the quayle decision was the first decision that bush had really been able to make in a totally independent way since he went on the ticket with reagan eight years before. >> the big moment at the convention was bush's acceptance speech. it was a chance to define himself in front of the whole nation. >> i want a kinder and gentler nation. >> the speech in new orleans made it. what was so remarkable about new orleans is he delivered this
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speech with power and convict n conviction. >> this is my mission, and i will complete it. >> he used something he didn't like using which was the first person pronoun. he said i am that man. >> there was one line in the speech that would be remembered above all the others. >> read my lips. no new taxes. >> he decided to say it. he paid a price for it forever. >> bush had redefined himself and now he thought to define michael dukakis. >> we were 18 points behind. >> he attacked his opponent over many issues but also over a prison furlough program in massachusetts. >> gave furloughs to first-degree murders. many are still at large.
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>> governor dukakis kept the furlough program alive. >> it really became the symbol of first dukakis's dismissiveness on the program and in retrospect it's become a symbol of the alleged negativity of that campaign. >> many called the campaign the nastiest ever and the strategy was working. bush went onto a solid victory getting 53.4% of the popular vote. an amount no republican or democrat has gotten since. only a few days before he took office he privately took stock of himself and his planes. >> the deficit is looms who republican dense. there's no easy answer. i've got to do personal things to keep the congress -- i got to
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. all presidents see pivotal world events, but there may have been no more momentous period in
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the last than the years george h.w. bush was in office. >> i feel comfortable on the job. went to the oval office. reagan was gone. bush was in. >> george bush was his own man. he did things particularly, i think, in foreign policy sphere that were somewhat different, perhaps, than might have happened under a president reagan. >> one thing he knew he'd have to deal with from the start, the cold war that was the central fact of american foreign policy. as bush took office, something was happening overseas. there appears to be tears in the iron curtain. in eastern europe borders long
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closed by communism was opening up. then in november the inthiunthie happened. these symbols, of the cold war, the berlin wall fell. leader of the soviet union reacted. >> bush insist he will handle it with grace and dignity. he won't stick it in his eye. he later said that bush's controlled reaction to the fall of the wall helped him avoid a hard liner counter reaction in europe. he's able to put himself in the shoes of the hard liners. how would i feel if i felt my system, my world crumbling. well, i would not want the other side to dance on the wall. >> i was a little more forward
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leaning than the president was in terms of my desire to make certain that the process continued and do as quickly as possible. >> we've got to be quiet and talk to thatcher, cole. we're going to down play this and let it play out. we're going to do this in a quiet, diplomatic way. he's firm about that. >> i remember the criticism that george bush got when he refused to dance on the ruins of the berlin wall. they've said you won this 40-year conflict, and you're not showing any emotion. what's wrong with you? he understood that we still had a lot of business to do. we weren't going to stick it in their eye.
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he paid the political price at home. he had democrats in congress. he had others saying that he didn't understand the historical moment. that's crazy. nobody understood the historical moment the berlin wall falling more than george herbert walker bush. >> i thought he did a good job of managing america after the berlin wall. getting us a chance to have a positive relationship with both the united germany and united europe and hopefully a democratic and more peaceful russia. he maximized be chances of a good outcome with the decisions he made. >> the potential for chaos and the potential for the united states mismanaging that. the potential for us to see this as a moment of extraordinary
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weakness and an arch enemy and to push as hard as we could. all those temptations were there. i think the bush administration understood that for us to be able to reimagine europe and reimagine the world was going to require restraint and care and the way the president managed that was really important and his national security team helped to usher in relatively peaceful a transition to what we now know as a unified europe and purchased at least 25 years of relative stability and peace and relations between the united states and russia. >> the soviet union fell without anyone firing a shot, but before
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the 41st president's time in office was over, he would go to war and be tested as he never had been before. to make a dep-- ♪ scanner: rescan item. rescan, rescan. rescan item. vo: it happens so often you almost get used to it. phone voice: main menu representative. representative. representative. vo: which is why being put first... relax, we got this. vo: ...takes some getting used to. join the nation. ♪ nationwide is on your side representative. thso we got our new he washingzy machine but it took forever turns out it wasn't the machine, it was our detergent. so we switched to tide turbo clean. now we get way cleaner clothes way faster
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ask your doctor about otezla today. otezla. show more of you. breaking from the norm is never easy. doing your own thing, making your own way can be pretty, well, bold. rickie fowler is redefining what it means to be a golfer. quicken loans is doing the same for mortgages. quicken loans. home buy. refi. power. official mortgage sponsor of the pga tour. george h.w. bush had served bush had served in the military but before his years the office were over, he would have to show he could lead the military into battle as well. >> i'm heading back to
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washington. it's been probably the most hectic 48 hours since i've been president in terms of serious national security interest. i've been on the phone and i've written down a long collection of names. the bottom line is the west is together. >> it was the most hectic 48 hours for president bush because just days earlier, the forces of iraqi dictator hussein invaded a occupied their tiny neighborhood, kuwait. it was a defining moment for a post-war hero. he led the world's only super power. he reached out to the rest of the world. >> he knew foreign policy. he understood it. he practiced it. he knew a lot of these people from prior iterations. >> some of his friends were reluctant allies.
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>> one of the worst defenders who has been my friend king hussein who is out there apologizing for saddam hussein. both of them are in the hand wringing stage. the bottom line is a lot of these arab countries are scared to death of saddam hussein. >> we had a number of arab countries to be part of the coaliti coalition. the demand was we not invade iraq and not target saddam specifically. we said we're not going to invade iraq. >> most serious problem i've faced as president because the downside is no enormous. something that could have a magnitude of world war with so
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many countries involved. the soviets have been on the right side of all of this. >> had the soviets not come on board right after the invasion, we never would have been able to build the coalition that we ultimately and we would never have gotten the resolution out of the security council because they would have vetoed it. people talk a lot about building coalitions. we're talking about a coalition in syria today. it's not it isn't there. others have talked about coalition but the only one that really was a strong substantial functioning overwhelming coalition was this one that president bush built to eject iraq from kuwait. >> this is a guy that had been through world war ii and that whole generation veterans of world war ii and remember very much what it was like and also
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we're strong believers. when we reached particular point, the president was there. i think we all agreed it was time to go clean out the house. >> the decision to go to war was not taken lightly. >> i want you to hear from christmas eve 1990, that's right before the start of the gulf war. >> it's christmas eve. you think of families. loved ones apart. i read 10 or 15 letters. all of them saying take care of my kid. some saying please don't shoot. some saying it's not worth dying for gasoline. on and on it goes. i sit here knowing if there's no movement, we have to go to war.
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>> first of all, i'm not surprised he carried a burden about the decision. after all he had seen war. he had lost a lot of his friends. he still talks about the two men that died when his plane got shot. he had already committed troops once into panama and that was loss of life. i can remember him dealing with the anguish he felt. i'm not surprised he deliberated over the decision. on the other hand george bush is the kind of person he he says something means it, and he meant it. >> january 15, about to go to work. i'm troubled about how this will end. the air is so devastating and it will bring saddam to his knees. but then what?
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how do we quit? how do we get his million man army to leave their weapons and go back to the villages? >> when you listen to the tapes you're listening to man grappling with the most important problems of the modern age. >> i've never felt a day like this in my life. i'm very tired. didn't sleep well. this troubles me because i must go to the nation at 9:00. my lower gut hurts. nothing like when i had the bleeding ulcer. i'm aware of it and take a couple of mylantas. my mind is a thousand miles away. i simply can't sleep. i think of what other presidents went through, the agony of war. i think of our able pilots, they're training, their gungho spirit and what they're being
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asked to do. >> just two hours ago, allied air forces began an attack on military targets in iraq and kuwait. these attacks continue as i speak. tonight as our forces fight, they and their families are in our prayers. may god bless each and every one of them and the coalition forces at our side in the gulf and may he continue to bless our nation, the united states of america. >> well it's now 10:45 at night. i'm about to go to bed. i finished my speech to the nation at 9:00. i didn't feel nervous about it at all. i knew what i wanted to say, and i said it. i hope it resonates. >> operation desert storm with the coalition of 34 nations lasted six weeks. iraq was driven from kuwait. it was a decisive victory.
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>> what we and our coalition partners did to stand up against saddam's aggression was right. it was just. it was moral, and we did the right thing. >> it was over in relatively quick order. it was necessary. it was the right thing to do. marked sort of whole phase of national terrorism because clearly the united states was the sole power left. >> the only question remaining is whether u.s. forces should remove saddam hussein. >> it was the right thing to do. they didn't know what would happen if he was gone. they were pretty sure it wouldn't be a walk in the park. he said he wouldn't do it, and he department his word. >> people used to ask us all the time, why didn't you go to baghdad and take care of saddam when you had the chance? guess what, nobody asks us that anymore because they now see why we didn't.
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the ethnic tensions and conflicts that would have resulted, which has resulted and it was a very wise decision, we would have lost our coalition. it was the right decision to make as history has now shown us. >> it's a subtle dig at the conduct of the second gulf war. >> elder bush was not so subtle. his thought his son's vice president dick cheney were unreflective hawks. rumsfeld said i don't like what he did and i think it hurt the president having his view of everything. >> president bush had a near 90% approval rating but he would discover in ploox politics as in physics, what goes up must come down.
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in foreign bush was flying high. it was on the domestic side where his presidency came crashing down. >> now i sign legislation which takes a sledge hammer to another wall. one which has, for too many generation, separated americans with disabilities from the freedom they could glimpse but not grab. >> he passed a sweeping civil rights legislation with the americans with disabilities act. he passes the clean air act which is our environmental policy. he does things trying to make the bills as conservative as possible, but were bills that involved a big role for the public sector. how did he justify it? he thought that was right for the country. the politics of it, the politics of explaining what he was doing
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was never his strong suit. >> that domestic agenda got lhi in trouble with the conservative part of his party. >> this bill ought to be retitled. there will be a lot of people in law offices and in the federal courts. >> the biggest domestic issue and one that ended up hurting the bush the most was the economy. bush had promised no new taxes but he knew from the start of his presidency with a growing deficit, they might be necessary. president bush did not like revoking his pledge. >> he believed it was a breach of his word, and he took that very seriously. >> he felt congress had him over a barrel. ultimately he gave in. the budget passed in late 1990 included tax hikes. >> got a budget through. he did what was a negative to him and agreeing with the
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democrat congress to raise revenues to get the spending cuts. in my view it was a mistake to raise them, having made it such a high profile promise or commitment. i understand full well why he did it. we were running huge deficits. there was a -- he had negotiated a deal with congressional democrats under which he would agree to some tax increases in exchange for spending cuts. >> it's hard to remember now, but the deficit at that time was seen as an existential issue. it was about our decline and project around the world. getting the deficit under control was a central priority. >> raising taxes angered his base. >> he would take the political hit that was required, but he was not going to shut the government down in october and november of 1990 as troops are
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streaming into the middle east. >> he says i'm going to be judged by the results. i'm going to be judged by the decisions i make. i make the correct decisions, the american people are going to reward me. >> he'd been the most popular president of the modern era, yet was he destind to be a one termer? the non habit-forming sleep aid that helps you sleep easily, and wake refreshed. because sleep is a beautiful thing.
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. bush's approval rating was the highest any president had seen in the post world war ii era. >> we got back in a normal routine. and normal business. >> there was normal budget, tax policy and so forth. and backed away from the war and issues. >> a lot of people were at work and there were people out of
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work. >> but summer, 1992, bush's approval rating tanked, then, unfortunate deliveries. on a trip abroad he threw up in a state dinner. >> he got sick in japan, threw up on the prime minister of japan. >> it was a symbol things weren't going well. >> in the republican primary he would stave off a challenge from the right and win his party's nomination but there was doubt in the air. his democratic opponent, bill clinton was his polar opposite. bush's political style was of another era. >> he was not comfortable with the congressional politics taking shape. the idea he would say i feel
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your pain sim possible. >> i feel your pain. i feel your pain. >> clinton was a professional. he was from one of you. the generational distinction. >> ross perot was polling well and wouldn't go away. bush had 37.5% of the vote. >> without perot, we would have been reelected. >> george bush was officially a one-term president. >> i called governornton in little rock and offered my congratulations. he did run a strong campaign. i wish him well in the white house. >> on the night he lost the presidency of the united states,
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he is in suite 271 of the estonia hotel and begins to dictate. >> i don't like to be a failed president. they fail . >> he had time to be managing the president of the united states. a
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and. >> i'll have no trouble once we get to the hill. once the pomp and ceremony and no feelings other than to wish our new president well. >> yes. he did that. and every departing president leaves his successor a note. the note he wrote me, which i treasure said it was the most wonderful opportunity in the world he wished me well and wished our country well. that is what it was. >> what an experience it's been. how privileged i am. how lucky our family has been. and how much i miss my mother and dad, too.
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. >> thomas jefferson once said no man will carry out of the presidency the reputation which carried him into it. that seems to be true of george hw bush whose standing was at low ebb when leaving office. but the further away we get from the bush presidency, the better it looks. >> george bush was an incredible
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leader. he led by making tough decisions, good decisions. when he took the oath of office, friday, january 20, 1989, nuclear armageddon was a possibility. when he left office, there was not. >> he went out of his way to show respect to other humans. he was extraordinary in showing humility in leading. i argue he's the greatest one-term president in the nation's history. he had principles but also common sense. when you look at how he handled foreign policy and domestic policy. in each case, he made good decisions and i think he is one of the more under rated presidents we have had in modern
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times. >> he's a gentleman's gentleman. >> i genuinely love the guy because of the feelings he has for his family, he's an innately kind person and he wants the best for the country. >> he's my best friend. he says i'm his. that is a big deal for him. >> we had an honest administration with no handles and put the country first. and put the country first. i hope that is what his legacy i am totally blind. and sometimes i struggle to sleep at night, and stay awake during the day. this is called non-24. learn more by calling 844-824-2424. or visit [special effects]
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