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Political Conventions - The CV Generation

Political Conventions - The CV Generation

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Published by Allan Bonner

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Published by: Allan Bonner on Jan 23, 2012
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05/02/2014

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T
HE
CV G
ENERATION
 249
The CV Generation
Characterizing a whole generation is a bit of a mug’s game,but some generalizations seem to work.It seemthat the “greatest generationput a lot of experience under their belts in short order.The obligations and opportuni-ties that World War II presented accelerated the accumula-tion of impressive line items on résumés.That’s the thought that struck me as I reflected on my tour of George H.W.Bush’s Presidential Library at Texas A & M University.
The men of my father’s generation had great résumés. They were in ahurry, many having delayed that résumé-building by serving in World War II. Even with the stiff competition of an entire generation of greatrésumés, George H.W. Bush’s stands out. He was in the right place atthe right time, chose the right place at times and generally did theright thing.George Bush’s library at Texas A & M University is a long drive fromeverywhere—Houston being closest, a couple of hours away. Itcontains his family, navy and political memorabilia, including Yalesports pictures, the same model car he drove to Texas after the war andCIA spy gear. Bush accomplished so much that his library appears tobe the largest free-standing audio-visual résumé in the world.Six months after Pearl Harbor, on his 18
th
birthday, Bush enlisted in thenavy. He flew 58 combat missions, was shot down, bailed out, wasdecorated and promoted. After the war, he completed his Yale degreein economics in two and a half years while excelling in baseball, frater-nity life and the Skull and Bones Society.Father and Senator Prescott Bush helped clear the path at Yale and inbusiness when his son George went to work in the oil fields. Becoming a millionaire in his own right, mainly in offshore-drilling technology,cleared the path to politics.Bush was a trail-blazing Republican in a Texas then dominated by strong, conservative Democrats. He was a county chair in 1964, lost when he ran for the senate, but then became the first Republican torepresent Houston in the House. Among the votes he cast was one toend the military draft.
 
In 1970, President Nixon asked Representative Bush to run for a senateseat against the incumbent Democrat, who was a fierce critic of thePresident. Bush agreed, but in a twist of fate, the sitting Democrat,Ralph Yarborough, failed to get through his own party’s primaries. Winner Lloyd Bentsen was the Democratic candidate who beat GeorgeBush that year.(Bentsen was a 1976 presidential hopeful and became the vice-presi-dential candidate on the Dukakis ticket in 1988. That election featuredone of the most famous televised debate lines in history. When Vice-President Dan Quayle compared himself to President Kennedy,Bentsen said, “Senator, I served with Jack Kennedy, I knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you’re no Jack Kennedy.” Actually, Bentsen may not even have met the President, butthe line was devastating.) After Bush’s 1970 loss, President Nixon appointed him UN ambassadorand then chair of the Republican Party in 1973. He holds the distinc-tion of having asked Nixon to resign during the Watergate scandal. When Gerald Ford took over from Nixon, Bush became chief of the USliaison office in China and then director of the CIA from 1976 to 1977.In his 1980 presidential campaign, Bush famously referred to RonaldReagan’s “voodoo economics” but Reagan still chose him as hisrunning mate. He was a dutiful vice-president, attending countlessstate funerals, but not really part of Reagan’s inner circle. Then, onMarch 30, 1981, Bush was in Dallas when President Reagan was shot.The cabinet was meeting in the Situation Room as Bush’s plane landed. When his aides advised him to go directly to the White House, perhapsusing the Helicopter Marine One, Bush responded, “only the Presidentlands on the south lawn.”President Reagan was impressed with this respect for his authority, andit was not just ego. Reagan was the president who would not take off his jacket in the Oval Office. When he returned to work two weeks afterbeing shot, he began a regular Thursday breakfast meeting with Vice-President Bush. Bush was the first vice-president to become the officialacting president when Reagan underwent surgery for colon polyps onJune 13, 1985. Yet after all these fabulous résumé entries and accomplishments,Bush was still called a wimp, mainly for maintaining he had been an“innocent bystander” in the Iran-Contra affair (selling arms to Iranfor cash to fund the Contras’ uprising against the left-wing Sandinistagovernment in Nicaragua). The wimp issue only died down afterBush argued toe to toe with newsman Dan Rather in a TV interview.(Bush was later criticized for pardoning Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger for any wrongdoing in the Iran-Contra affair. Some say 
 250T
HE
CV G
ENERATION

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