Neil Bush on his father's presidential track record
Following the death of former First Lady Barbara Bush, News 3's Kathleen Witte sat down with her son Neil Bush.
The son of Barbara and 41st President George H.W. Bush lives in Houston and is the board chair of his father's non-profit, Points of Light.
Below is a portion of that conversation with Neil Bush on his father’s presidential record.
Kathleen Witte: As his adult son, what was your takeaway from your father’s presidency—his disposition as president and even his actions as president?
Neil Bush: Oh gosh, I could go on and on about how proud I am of the kind of leadership he showed as president. For a four-year president, if you think about the things the country went through--I mean the whole Cold War ended. Tienanmen Square happened under his watch. Dad, recognizing that China was a rising nation, used his diplomatic wisdom and deployed his team in a way that kept that relationship on track. Kuwait—I mean these are all in four years. Even on the domestic front, he had Democrats controlling both the House and the Senate and yet he passed major pieces of legislation to help the disabled, with the environment, etc. The one piece of legislation that probably cost him his job was he negotiated for spending cuts because the deficit was growing—it was going to be $200 billion. Dad said okay look, I made a pledge, no new taxes. He raised taxes, cut spending, put the budget in order. The economy grew through [President Bill] Clinton’s first three or four years. So he did the right thing. He was a great leader. He was the best president for those times. When people say, how do you feel about your father’s presidency? I say, ‘right guy, right time, and amazing track record.’ Probably the best president—I’m obviously very biased—probably the best president I will have known in my lifetime.
KW: We see so much of that history laid out before us at the George Bush Presidential Library and Museum. We have a front-row seat to seeing that history and how it’s put into context as additional details come out. But if we have a front-row seat, you have a backstage pass. So, as history grows and changes and we learn more, how does it feel as his son who knows the inner turmoil--at least to some degree--of what he went through, how does it feel to see him put into this historical context?
NB: When I see the changing world, or the way America addresses global issues, I always put in the back of my mind based on my experience of studying dad’s presidency and [President] George W. [Bush]’s, to a certain degree, say what would dad do? How would he handle this? Would he be doing these same kinds of things? Would he be making the same kinds of assumptions? And I find myself almost always questioning what’s going on. Are we using diplomacy? In a way that could prevent conflict? In a way that uses America’s great benevolence and strength, but to bring peace and order to the world? Having had the backstage pass to history when it was being developed through two administrations, the Bush administrations, has given me a perspective that allows me to be very opinionated about things.