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WikEd fancyquotes.pngQuotesBug-silk.pngHeadscratchersIcons-mini-icon extension.gifPlaying WithUseful NotesMagnifier.pngAnalysisPhoto link.pngImage LinksHaiku-wide-icon.pngHaikuLaconic

Read my lips. No new taxes.

"We're going to keep trying to strengthen the American family. To make them more like The Waltons and less like The Simpsons."
—Speech at the 1992 Republican National Convention. Two days later...

"Hey, we're just like the Waltons. We're all praying for the end of the depression, too."
Bart Simpson, delivering a memorable version of The Stinger in The Simpsons.

George Herbert Walker Bush was the 41st President of the United States. In his earlier life, he had been a World War II naval aviator (and for a time was the youngest one), completing one mission with an aircraft on fire. He also spent a year as Director of the CIA. He is the father of the other President Bush, George W. Bush.

Known as "George Bush" while in office, H. W. was Ronald Reagan's Vice-President and largely ran - and won - as Reagan's third term. This campaign featured three memorable moments - the Willie Horton ads, Dan Quayle being told he is not someone else, and Democratic candidate Michael Dukakis attempting to look tough by riding a tank but instead looking horribly out-of-place.

Often seen as being in Ronald Reagan's shadow—a lot of Reagan Democrats who had liked Reagan and voted GOP in The Eighties defected back to the Democrats to vote for Clinton during the '92 election—Bush had a much more nerdy and geeky image than Reagan's movie star persona and wasn't as good as making speeches, but was nevertheless quite accomplished in the field of foreign policy. He had been an ambassador and later served as the head of the CIA. As Reagan's VP, he had been a part of many internal policy debates, and was much more decisive than his then-image would imply. He came into office at a time when the Soviet Union and the communist bloc were collapsing, and many credit him with presiding over an orderly end to the Cold War, though he and Margaret Thatcher apparently had some very heated discussions during this period over what to do. He also fought the first Gulf War, declaring a "New World Order" of international cooperation (providing fodder for conspiracy theorists to this day), when Saddam Hussein took the weapons Reagan, Brezhnev and Mitterand had given him to fight theocratic Iran and instead invaded Kuwait in an attempt to corner the market on the region's oil and be able to essentially hold the West and the rest of the world hostage. Backed by broad international support, Bush sent in the armed forces—led by Generals Norman Schwartzkopf and Colin Powell—and successfully drove Hussein's forces out of Kuwait (to this day, Bush still has an extremely high favorability rating among grateful Kuwaitis). He then wisely chose not to go all the way to Baghdad and depose Saddam, and pulled the troops out in mid-1991 (arguing that an invasion of Iraq would become a quagmire...a lesson his own son didn't learn until after launching the Iraq War). That being said, although Bush was very accomplished on the foreign policy front, it was domestic issues that sunk his reelection bid. Running on a promise of "Read my lips—No new taxes!", he did in fact raise taxes after being pressured by the Democratically-controlled Congress. It ended up being a Never Live It Down moment for Bush, as many voters—especially Republicans—felt betrayed by this action. A recession also played a large role in hampering his reelection efforts, and he lost to Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton, who had been a key player in the Democratic Leadership Caucus, a group of moderate-minded Democrats. Many have also blamed third party candidate Ross Perot for drawing many Republican votes away from Bush.

Bush has received a much higher retrospective rating in public opinion polls, however, and has even teamed up with Bill Clinton (who he is now friends with) for several charitable projects such as providing relief for the victims of the 2005 tsunami in Asia and other natural disasters.

Along with John Adams, one of two Presidents whose son also became President, hence "H. W.", "Bush the Elder", "Bush Senior", "Bush 1.0", or "Bush 41" to distinguish him from his son.

His satirical portrayal in media was largely guided by Dana Carvey's impression of him as a Cloudcuckoolander, though said impression became more of a character in itself as time went on. Also mocked were Bush's professed dislike of broccoli and an incident in January 1992 where, overcome by illness at a state dinner, the president vomited into the lap of the Japanese prime minister (this is why bush-suru means "to vomit" in Japanese). However, it would be the perceived deficiencies of vice-president Dan Quayle that would become the main focus of satire during the presidency.

His most memorable quote and general media contribution in the minds of liberals is the phrase "Voodoo economics" to describe the economics of Ronald Reagan back when they were rivals. Many people also remember him for using the term "a thousand points of light," in his speeches. However, less remember that it was a metaphor for a number of Americans stepping up to volunteer in charity organizations after government funding was cut for many federal programs. On the other hand, this could be seen as Bush's way of proving that Americans could accomplish these tasks without the government, in which case he was proven correct.

His wife Barbara was often parodied for her white hair, which made her look older than her husband.

He was the first sitting Vice President to win election to the presidency since Martin Van Buren, 152 years earlier. ——

George H. W. Bush provides examples of:

  • Arch Enemy: Saddam Hussein
  • Badass: In 1989, during his first televised speech to the nation, Bush held up a bag of cocaine purchased at Lafayette Park, using it as an example of the need to combat recreational drug use.
    • Ambadassador: Foreign policy scholars have argued that out of the US Presidents of the late 20th century, he probably had the most diplomatic acumen.
  • Beam Me Up, Scotty: A 1992 New York Times article famously portrayed Bush as being amazed by a common supermarket scanner, which helped to paint him as an elitist who was out of touch with everyday American life. In reality, the scanner that Bush was so impressed with was an advanced prototype that could weigh groceries and decipher mangled and torn bar codes.
    • It was later discovered that the writer of the infamous article wasn't even present at the convention where Bush was shown the scanner in question.
  • Conspiracy Theory: A common conspiracy theory is that Bush knew about the Iran-Contra affair or was actively involved in it. A much more obscure one claims that he is a pedophile.
    • Lets not forget Ruby Ridge, which to this day is huge fodder for conspiracy theorists.
      • His talk of a post-Cold War "New World Order" was meant to be an optimistic image of the global community coming to a consensus in favor of liberal democracy and human rights, but paranoid conspiracy theorists immediately seized on the phrase and began feverishly fantasizing about secret international conspiracies, insane theories that NAFTA was some sort of first step to a "North American Union", and other bizarre theories.
  • Defeat Means Friendship: Bush is good friends with Bill Clinton, the Democratic challenger who unseated him in the 1992 Presidential election.
  • Generation Xerox: 8 years after his Presidency ended, his eldest son George was sworn in as the 43rd President of the United States.
    • Ironically enough, Dubya was also a wartime President whose time in office was mostly defined by foreign policy.
    • One of Dubya's twin daughters is named Barbara, after Bush Sr.'s wife and former first lady Barbara Bush.
  • Headbutting Heroes: Despite the US and England being strong allies, Bush and Margaret Thatcher disagreed on almost everything related to handling the major changes occurring in the world in the late 80s/early 90s. For example, Thatcher distrusted Mikhail Gorbachev and was opposed to the reunification of Germany, while Bush supported Gorbachev and the German reunification, and regularly overruled and undermined Thatcher's opinions and initiatives related to handling said changes. He got along a lot better with her successor, John Major.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight: An episode of Tiny Toons Adventures featuring Bush aired just days after he lost the 1992 Presidential election.
  • Hypercompetent Sidekick: To Ronald Reagan.
  • Iconic Item: Do his Coke-bottle trifocals count?
  • Irony: * George Bush Senior was hailed as a foreign policy elder statesman and widely praised for his ability to form an international consensus during the Gulf War and during the fall of the Soviet empire. His son George W, however, is widely seen as having been inept in foreign policy matters. Perhaps the most glaring piece of the irony here is the fact that George Sr. refused to launch a full-scale invasion of Iraq to oust Saddam Hussein, ignoring the loud urgings from some hawks in Congress and warning everyone that it would become a quagmire, while George W ended up launching the unpopular Iraq War years later.
    • Bush's attempts at combating the deficit caused significant damage to his popularity. 20 years later, a source of current President Barack Obama's unpopularity is him being seen as not doing enough to combat the deficit.
  • Nerves of Steel: As Vice President, in 1983 Bush confronted El Savadorian leader Alvaro Magana, threatening to end all US aid to his country unless he ended the use of death squads and held fully free elections.......while sitting in a bloodstained room in Magana's palace, surrounded by gunmen brandishing semiautomatic rifles.
  • Never Live It Down: Most people today only remember him for how he famously reneged on his campaign promise of "No New Taxes".
    • Some just remember him for the fact that he is George W. Bush's father.
    • Others just remember how he famously vomited on the lap of the Japanese Prime Minister.
    • Others just know him as the guy who served between Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton.
    • Some just remember him for all the stupid things his Vice President Dan Quayle did.
  • Oh Crap: Bush hilariously displayed a "Oh Crap" look on his face after Bill Clinton handily outwitted him on a question he fumbled in a 1992 Presidential debate. Many have theorized it was at that moment that Bush realized that he was going to lose the election.
  • Opaque Nerd Glasses: He regularly wore a pair of double bridged trifocals during public appearances throughout his Vice Presidency and Presidency. He is the only President since Harry Truman who regularly wore glasses (at least in public).
  • Overshadowed by Awesome: While Bush was respected, he never achieved the widespread adulation that Ronald Reagan enjoyed. He was first overshadowed by Reagan's awesomeness during the 1980 Presidential primaries, when Reagan defeated Bush for the nomination, and then was overshadowed again during the Reagan-Bush presidency, and then during Bush's own presidency Reagan still seemed to overshadow him. That being said, the two ended up having a close relationship and the eulogy Bush delivered at Reagan's funeral is definitely a Tear Jerker.
  • Politician Guest Star: Bush frequently made appearances in TV shows and movies throughout his Presidency. Notable in that he actually played himself, as opposed to the film just using archive footage to portray the President.
  • Reckless Sidekick: Bush's Vice President, Dan Quayle.
    • Many Republicans saw Quayle as such a liability that they suggested that Bush find a new running mate for his 1992 reelection bid.
  • The Spymaster: Was the head of the CIA at one point. Afterwards, his experience in this field helped hone his foreign policy skills.
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute: When running for President in 1988, he sold a Bush Presidency as being comparable to a third term for sitting President Ronald Reagan.
  • The Eighties: Bush was a major political figure throughout the decade.
    • Despite being President for the first three years of the decade, people generally don't associate him with The Nineties.
  • War Hero: Bush was a fighter pilot for the US Air Force during World War II. He narrowly escaped capture by Japanese forces after his plane was shot down. He is the last World War II veteran to serve as President.
  • What Could Have Been: It is widely debated how differently world events would have turned out if he had overthrown Saddam Hussein at the end of the Gulf War.
    • During the 1988 election season, Republican staff members were wary about choosing Dan Quayle for the VP slot. They wanted someone with some star power. And for a very brief period, they suggested to Bush that he give the nod to a moderate Eisenhower Republican movie star who was then-currently serving as Mayor of Carmel, California: Clint Eastwood. That's right, we could have had Clint Eastwood as a Vice President Badass, and perhaps someday he could have been a Badass in Charge if he'd become President. That being said, the idea was dropped after a very short period of time, and in any case, Mr Eastwood never planned to stay in politics after his Mayoral term was over anyway. Still, it's cool fantasizing about how awesome things could have been...
  • What the Hell, Hero?: In 1988, Bush famously promised "No new taxes" during his Presidency. However, one of his biggest goals was the eliminate the huge budget deficits left over from Reagan; While Bush wanted to accomplish this with spending cuts and closing tax loopholes, the Democratic majority in Congress refused to consider any proposal that didn't include tax increases. Scrambling, Bush caved to the Democrats and increased tax revenues. While reneging on a prominent campaign promise was bad enough, the fact that the United States was in the middle of a recession at the time made his decision look even more stupid.
  • You Are What You Hate: During his Vice Presidency and Presidency, he regularly spoke out against drug and alcohol abuse.....while one of his sons was an alcoholic.
    • Actually this would seem to be the exact reason why he wanted to wage a war against drug and alcohol addiction. Having a son going through alcohol addiction meant that President Bush had a quite understandable distaste for drug/alcohol abuse and likely he thought of it in a "Now It's Personal" type of way.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Bush was a very competent foreign policy President who steered America through the 1989 invasion of Panama, the fall of Communism in late 1989, the reunification of Germany in 1990, the Gulf War of 1990-1991 and the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 to unanimous success and high approval ratings. However, as the world stabilized and attention turned instead to domestic issues through 1992, which Bush handled lacklusterly and admitted that he wasn't as interested in as foreign policy, his popularity tanked and voters happily voted him out in favor of Democratic challenger Bill Clinton later that year.
  • Vindicated by History:
    • Despite having a 34% approval rating throughout 1992, a survey conducted in December 2008 showed that 60% of Americans now view him as a good President.
    • Bush's commitment to reducing the Reagan budget deficits is widely justified today, as the current large budget deficits and high amount of public debt the United States government faces is now a major political issue.
    • Word of God says that the reason why Bush didn't overthrow Saddam Hussein at the end of the Gulf War is because he felt that overthrowing Hussein would lead to a long and messy occupation of Iraq that he wouldn't want the United States to be involved in. While many questioned his decision at the time, it was later justified as his prediction of a long and messy occupation came true when his son overthrew Hussein 12 years later.
  • Vomit Indiscretion Shot: In January 1992, Bush was famously videotaped vomiting in the lap of then-Japanese Prime Minister Kiichi Miyazawa after falling ill at a state dinner.

In media:

Anime and Manga



 "Poppy" (paraphrased): Drinking and partying... You're a Bush, not a Kennedy! Jr. explains that he was celebrating getting into Yale(?) school of business and: "Of course you did, who do you think pulled the strings to get you in?"

And later, in one of Jr.'s nightmares: Dream!Poppy: A hundred years it took to build up the Bush name and you single-handedly destroyed it!

  • He appears at the beginning of Under Siege, giving the ship it's final sendoff.

Live Action TV

  • He visits McKinley High School in Freaks and Geeks. Though he is never shown, the episode ends with Liz asking him a pointed political question.
  • His puppet was a frequent visitor to D.C. Follies
  • Dana Carvey has talked about the time that Bush invited him to the White House. So Bush does have some sense of humor.
    • Bush actually appeared on Saturday Night Live, essentially imitating Dana Carvey's imitation of him ("Wouldn't be prudent.")
  • One episode of The Golden Girls featured a Secret Service member interviewing the girls for a potential meet and greet with the president; Dorothy, an outspoken liberal, plans to chew him out. This backfires when he actually shows up.:

 Bush: You're a teacher. Do you have any ideas on how we could improve the education system?

Dorothy: (shaking his hand) ...Bush!

Bush: Well then, it's nice to meet you too. ...Could you let go of my hand now?

  • The script of The Day After called for a Bush impersonator to make the presidential speech broadcast near the end of the film. For unknown reasons, the production actually used a voice actor who sounded like Ronald Reagan, which prompted criticism (as the writer correctly forecast) from the political right; in later DVD releases, the speech is given by a stereotypically presidential voice unlike either Reagan or Bush.


  • Ministry's "New World Order" looped quotes from his speech mentioned above, arguably making it the first Stupid Statement Dance Mix.
  • Epica used George HW Bush's "No new taxes" quote in their song "Semblance of Liberty." However, it should be stated that he said this twenty years ago, and hardly has the same level of relevance (some say they picked the wrong Bush to attack).
    • Megadeth used the same quote much sooner after the fact, in 1992's "Foreclosure Of A Dream."
  • Neil Young references Bush's "thousand points of light" comments in "Rockin' in the Free World".
  • Anthrax also references "thousand points of light" with the song "1000 Points of Hate".
  • The 2LiveCrew sampled a soundbite where he proclaims the United States government to be a government "Of the people, for the people, by the people" in their 1990 song "Banned in the USA". Video of Bush giving the soundbite is included in the song's music video.

Newspaper Comics

  • In Doonesbury, like many politicians, he was a literally Invisible President. After simply not being depicted for a time (outside of an sequence where he "signed his manhood over" to President Reagan), representing his avoiding the Iran-Contra and Noriega affairs and low-key style, then by a spark referring to a "thousand points of light" speech.

Web Comics

Web Original

  • He appears in Fear, Loathing and Gumbo on the Campaign Trail '72, an Alternate History about a different 1972 presidential election. Bush, who was serving as Nixon's representative to the United Nations, is made Secretary of State by President Spiro Agnew. However, he's appalled by the President's ineptitude and swiftly becomes important in a conspiracy to have him impeached.

Western Animation

  • Has one of the more epic introductions in Saturday Night Live "TV Playhouse" segment "The X-Presidents", and they always lampoon his active post-presidential life. Whenever the team is summoned, he's having sex with Barbara. Whenever the X-First Ladies are summoned, Barbara is smoking.
  • He moves to Springfield in one episode of The Simpsons. "Now apologize for the tax-hike".
    • Later on, he is not allowed to attend Mr. Burns' birthday because he was a single termer. He was kicked to the curb with Jimmy Carter.

 Bush: [shoving Carter out of his way] Get away from me, loser.