George Bush Sr. on Homeland Security

President of the U.S., 1989-1993; Former Republican Rep. (TX)


Disturbed by candidates who took military deferments

Trump was always well aware of how the Bush dynasty viewed him--he was not part of the plan. Jeb Bush was supposed to win the Republican nomination, and Trump got in the way. But George H.W. Bush's dislike of Trump ran deeper than Trump assumes. Bush was particularly disturbed when Trump, who received four student deferments from military service between 1964 and 1968, and one medical deferment after college, famously attacked John McCain at a Christian conservative gathering in the summer of 2015. "I like people who weren't captured," Trump said, referring to the Arizona senator's 5 years as a prisoner who was tortured at the infamous "Hanoi Hilton" during the Vietnam War. "He's not a war hero. He was a war hero because he was captured," Trump said.

"I can't understand how somebody could say that and still be taken seriously," Bush said, particularly upset because of his own service during World War II. "I'm getting old," he told friends, "at just the right time."

Source: Team of Five, by Kate Andersen Brower , Apr 21, 2020

Missile defense for "handfuls not hundreds" of missiles

The arms control crowd believed that scrapping the ABM Treaty was heresy. Preventing Russia and the US from having national missile defenses was at the heart of "Mutual Assured Destruction" (MAD), the 1960s strategy intended to dissuade the Soviets from initiating a nuclear exchange that would prove terminally destructive to both sides. This arms control canon was reflected in the benediction that the ABM Treaty was "the cornerstone of international strategic stability."

I suggested that we replace the ABM Treaty with one barring Russia and the US from building missile defenses against first strikes. Bush had no intention of building such a capability, as conceived in Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI, derided by its critics as "Star Wars"). Instead, he wanted to create defense against strikes by "handfuls not hundreds" of missiles, the levels of forces Iran or North Korea might acquire in the near future, or by accidental launches in Russia or China.

Source: Surrender is Not an Option, by John Bolton, p. 54-56 , Nov 6, 2007

Criticized journalists who identified CIA agents

Valerie Plame, the CIA undercover agent had her cover blown--and her career ruined--in order to get back at her husband, diplomat Joseph Wilson, who questioned George Jr.'s reasons for going to war against Iraq.

To appreciate the magnitude of this act, remember that George Sr. had once been director of Central Intelligence, and had often criticized journalism, congressmen and anybody else who, through their work, identified an intelligence agent and thereby jeopardized not only that life, but the lives of countless others who had worked with them over the years. Barbara Bush in her memoirs accused--incorrectly--a former CIA agent of having written a "traitorous tell-all" book that got the agency's station chief in Athens murdered. She was sued, and had to delete that reference in the paperback edition--but it illustrates how sacrosanct the family held American intelligence agents. Until, of course, the husband of one of them was deemed an enemy and a threat.

Source: America's Next Bush, by S.V. Date, p. 58 , Feb 15, 2007

WWII kamikaze pilots were uniformed officers, not terrorists

In July 2002 Dad traveled back to the Pacific Island of Chi Chi Jima where he was shot down in September 1944.

Because his trip was facilitated in part by the Japanese government, Dad first visited the Japanese mainland.

Dad took part in raising a ceremonial US flag on Mount Suribachi on Iwo Jima, site of a victorious 1945 battle where the US Marines suffered some 28,000 casualties [killed and wounded] and where Japan lost some 21,000.

His hosts asked him if he would mind stopping at a memorial for the kamikaze pilots. "I felt funny at first since my own ship had been attacked by kamikaze pilots, but I am glad I did it. Those Japanese pilots were not terrorists. They were uniformed officers who paid the last full measure of devotion attempting to save the lives of their embattled compatriots," Dad said to me.

Source: My Father, My President, by Doro Koch Bush, p.497-498 , Oct 6, 2006

1983: tie breaking vote to being producing nerve gas

On July 13, 1983, Bush cast the Senate's tie-breaking vote to save President Reagan's plan to resume production of nerve gas. The bill was killed in the House of Representatives, but then Reagan insisted it be reintroduced. George cast a 2nd tie-breaking vote on Nov. 8, which allowed the Senate to pass a bill (47-46) to begin producing nerve gas. George's vote retained $124 million for production of nerve-gas bombs in a defense appropriations bill. But again it was eventually defeated in the House.
Source: The Family, by Kitty Kelley, p.386-387 , Sep 14, 2004

1986: Changed US policy for Iran arms-for-hostages deal

In July 1986, Bush stopped in Jerusalem was to meet with Amiram Nir, Israel's deputy on counterterrorism, who was negotiating between the Americans and the Iranians over hostages. Months later documentary evidence revealed that the meeting was an arms-for-hostages deal. The Vice President was told that if the Iranians received weapons, they would arrange the release of 2 hostages--not all 7 of the American hostages being held in 1986, just two. By Nov. 1986 two hostages were released.

The Vice President later claimed in interviews that he did not know the breakfast meeting's purpose. Then he amended his statement and admitted there was some discussion of arms sales but only as a means to "reach out to the moderate elements" in Iran. Within the next year he would practically strangle himself in a cat's cradle of evasions, omissions, and equivocations, repeating over and over, "I was out of the loop."

Source: The Family, by Kitty Kelley, p.436-437 , Sep 14, 2004

1989: "Very pleased" that the Berlin Wall fell

When the Berlin Wall fell in November 1989, Bush's response was so unimaginative as to be a national embarrassment. "I am very pleased with this development," he told the press; he didn't want to 'rub it in.'

The President tried to defend his reticence: "My restraint or prudence was misunderstood. [Opponents say]: 'He ought to go to Berlin, stand on the Wall, dance with the young people to show the joy that we all feel.' I still feel that would have been the stupidest thing an American president could do because we were very concerned about how the troops would react. We were very concerned about the nationalistic elements in the Soviet Union maybe putting Gorbachev out. I think if we'd have misplayed our hand and had a heavy-handed overkill, you know, gloating, 'We won, Mr. Gorbachev, you've lost, you're out,' I think it could have been a very different ending to this very happy chapter in history when the wall came down."

Source: The Family, by Kitty Kelley, p.484-485 , Sep 14, 2004

Sold F-16's to Taiwan after Tiananmen Square

In 1972, in the Shanghai Communique, the US "acknowledges that there is but one China and that Taiwan is part of China." As long as he remained in office, Nixon maintained the US embassy in Taipei and the treaty commitment to defend the Republic of China.

Jimmy Carter, however, severed diplomatic relations with Taiwan, terminated the security treaty, and recognized the People's Republic as the sole legitimate government of China. A firestorm ensued. Reagan reaffirmed the Shanghai Communique--that Taiwan was a part of China--and agreed to cut back arms sales to the island. In 1982, the US declared that it intends to reduce gradually its sales of arms to Taiwan, leading over a period of time to a final resolution.

While this writer, among others, opposed the Shanghai Communique and the more far-reaching Carter and Reagan concessions, the day when Taiwan might have declared independence with US support is gone. After Tiananmen Square, President George H. W. Bush sold F-16s to Taiwan.

Source: Where The Right Went Wrong, by Pat Buchanan, p.133-134 , Aug 12, 2004

Claims he objected to Iran-Contra; Reagan says he did not

The Iran-Contra scandal mired the Reagan/Bush administration in its most serious controversy. Both the credibility of the president and the political prospects of his vice president had been damaged with the continuing revelations about the administration's covert arms dealings with Iran and the stunning news that money from those transactions was channeled to the Contra rebels fighting communism in Nicaragua.

The problem for Bush went beyond his role as Reagan's loyal cheerleader and would-be successor. Bush was a former CIA director and a member of the National Security Council; it was the council's staff that carried out the arms deals and the funneling of money to the Contras. The worst case scenario occurred, however, after Reagan told the press that Bush raised no objections to arms shipments to Iran, an assertion that was in direct conflict with Bush's contention that he had expressed "certain reservations" about "certain aspects" of the dealings with Iran.

Source: Fortunate Son, by J.H.Hatfield, p. 76 , Aug 17, 1999

Army service is an honor; vets shouldn't ask for more

Responding to questions, about his youthful trials in combat, President Bush likes to invoke what was drummed into him at home even before he enlisted: honor. As he says, his service in that war was "a duty, yes, but truly an honor." He also feels strongly it was an obligation of citizenship that requires no additional reward. "What are we `owed'? he asks. "Nothing. Not one damn thing."

He insists he is owed nothing. In fact, he believes that World War II was such an overwhelming threat that those who served did so out of an obligation that should not require special treatment forevermore. He believes some veterans' organizations are wrong to keep asking for more and more benefits. As he says, "Serving in World War II, I was a tiny part of something noble."

Source: The Greatest Generation, by Tom Brokaw, p.276-278 , Nov 30, 1998

Military experience helped make right decision on war

My own military experience was of enormous benefit to me when I became President. I knew firsthand the horrors of combat. I had respect for the way the military operates. As President I knew it was my responsibility to do the diplomacy and the politics. But I was certain that once the battle began the politicians should not get in the way of letting the military do their job.

I can think of times when my own experience way back in the 1940s "played a role in my thinking, my decision making." Certainly when I had to decide to use force in Panama & in Desert Storm & even in Somalia, I was better able to make those decisions having served myself.

The toughest decision a President ever has to make is when he has to send someone else's son or daughter into combat--put their lives in harm's way. No one else can make this decision--only the President; and I am absolutely certain that my having been in the military, albeit years before, helped me make the right decisions regarding the use of force.

Source: Letter from George Bush in All The Best, p.612 , Mar 9, 1998

Post-Cold War: fight 3rd World technological sophistication

Take a look at the functioning sectors of the economy--computers, electronics, aeronautics, metallurgy--these dynamic sectors of the economy are very heavily subsidized by the public, and much of it flows through the Pentagon system. During the Cold War period it was always possible to claim that we do this because of the Russians. Well, now you need other excuses, and it's intriguing that instantly, as soon as the Russians were gone, the excuses changed. Now we need it, not because of the Russian threat, but as the Bush administration put it in March 1990, because of the "technological sophistication" of Third World powers. That's why we need it. So the Pentagon budget has got to remain the same, or even go up.

This Third World argument doesn't even merit ridicule. In fact, a large part of their technological sophistication is the arms that we sell them. And the public pays for that, too, through subsidies.

Source: Dialogues, by Gov. Jerry Brown, p.222-3 , Feb 12, 1996

Agrees with prohibition on assassination of foreign leaders

Q: Dan Quayle in his book [Standing Firm] said, "I believe the executive order prohibiting assassination of foreign leaders should be rescinded so the President has one more option in extraordinary circumstances." Do you agree with that?

President Bush: No. I didn't see that he said that, but having been the Director of Central Intelligence for one fascinating year, I don't believe that order should be rescinded. Now, if you want to put it into the contest of the war, Saddam Hussein was the commander in chief of the Iraqi forces, and if his life had been snuffed out in a bombing attack or something--too bad, that's one of the prices of war. But I don't believe we should clandestinely target foreign leaders for assassination.
Interview with David Frost, "President Bush: Talking with David Frost," Houston, Texas

Source: Heartbeat, by Jim McGrath, p.305 , Jan 16, 1996

Crowning achievement: eliminating SS18s with START-II

The Russian visit goes well. The centerpiece of the visit was, of course, the signing of the START II Agreement. I think one of the crowning achievements of my Presidency will be the elimination of all these SS18 missiles, probably the most destabilizing weapons in the superpower arsenals--getting rid of them entirely. I had long frank tales with Yeltsin at dinner and then riding out to the airport. He vows to stay with us on Bosnia. I told him I recognize there were so many big differences there, but I think it's most important that America and Russia not drift apart on this.
Source: Letter from George Bush in All The Best, p.582 , Jan 3, 1993

Important to maintain 150,000 US troops in Europe

Q: Your Secretary of the Army said he had no plans to abide by a congressional mandate to cut US forces in Europe from 150,000 to 100,000 by 1996. Should American still be taxed to support armies in Europe?

BUSH: For 40-some years, we kept the peace. If you look at the cost of not keeping the peace in Europe, it would be exorbitant. We have reduced the number of troops that are deployed and going to be deployed. I have cut defense spending. And the reason we could do that is because of our fantastic success in winning the cold war. We never would have got there if we'd gone for the nuclear-freeze crowd. I think it is important that the US stay in Europe and continue to guarantee the peace. We simply cannot pull back.

PEROT: Right now we spend about $300 billion a year on defense. The Germans spend around $30 billion. Europe is in a position to pay a lot more than they have in the past. I agree with the President, when they couldn't, we should have; now that they can, they should.

Source: The First Clinton-Bush-Perot Presidential Debate , Oct 11, 1992

Post-Cold War: Cancel B-2; small ICBMs & Peacekeeper missile

Two years ago, I began planning cuts in military spending that reflected the changes of the new era. But now, this year, with imperial communism gone, that process can be accelerated. Tonight I can tell you of dramatic changes in our strategic nuclear force. These are actions we are taking on our own. After completing 20 planes for which we have begun procurement, we will shut down further production of the B-2 bombers. We will cancel the small ICBM program. We will cease production of new warheads for our sea-based ballistic missiles. We will stop all new production of the Peacekeeper missile. And we will not purchase any more advanced cruise missiles.

If the former Soviet Union will eliminate all land-based multiple-warhead ballistic missiles, I will do the following: We will eliminate all Peacekeeper missiles. We will reduce the number of warheads on Minuteman missiles by 1/3. And we will convert a substantial portion of our strategic bombers to primarily conventional use.

Source: Pres. Bush's 1992 State of the Union message to Congress , Jan 28, 1992

Cooperate with USSR to cancel Peacekeeper ICBMs

Author's note: President Bush later referred to his next address to the nation, delivered September 27 from the Oval Office, as the "broadest and most comprehensive change in US nuclear strategy since the early 1950s, when we launched the containment strategy that saw us through the Cold War..The speech outlined at least 9 major initiatives--including the cancellation of the mobile Peacekeeper intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) program--while identifying various areas where the 2 superpowers could cooperate. With the Soviets prepared to match US force reductions.

"New leaders in the Kremlin and the republics are now questioning the need for their huge nuclear arsenal. The Soviet nuclear stockpile now seems less an instrument of national security and more of a burden. As a result, we now have an unparalleled opportunity to change the nuclear posture of both the US and the Soviet Union."
(Address to the nation on US nuclear weapons, Oval Office)

Source: Heartbeat, by Jim McGrath, p.158-160 , Sep 27, 1991

Refocus SDI on limited ballistic missile strikes

Now, with remarkable technological advances like the Patriot missile, we can defend against ballistic missile attacks aimed at innocent civilians.

Looking forward, I have directed that the SDI program be refocused on providing protection from limited ballistic missile strikes, whatever their source. Let us pursue an SDI program that can deal with any future threat to the United States, to our forces overseas, and to our friends and allies.

Source: Pres. Bush's 1991 State of the Union message to Congress , Jan 29, 1991

Stay strong to protect the peace

To the world, we offer new engagement and a renewed vow: We will stay strong to protect the peace. The “offered hand” is a reluctant fist; but once made, strong, and can be used with great effect. There are today Americans who are held against their will in foreign lands, and Americans who are unaccounted for. Assistance can be shown here, and will be long remembered. Good will begets good will. Good faith can be a spiral that endlessly moves on.
Source: Inaugural Address , Jan 20, 1989

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Other past presidents on Homeland Security: George Bush Sr. on other issues:
Former Presidents:
Barack Obama(D,2009-2017)
George W. Bush(R,2001-2009)
Bill Clinton(D,1993-2001)
George Bush Sr.(R,1989-1993)
Ronald Reagan(R,1981-1989)
Jimmy Carter(D,1977-1981)
Gerald Ford(R,1974-1977)
Richard Nixon(R,1969-1974)
Lyndon Johnson(D,1963-1969)
John F. Kennedy(D,1961-1963)
Dwight Eisenhower(R,1953-1961)
Harry S Truman(D,1945-1953)

Past Vice Presidents:
V.P.Joseph Biden
V.P.Dick Cheney
V.P.Al Gore
V.P.Dan Quayle
Sen.Bob Dole

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Page last updated: Feb 22, 2022