George H. W. Bush

George H. W. Bush

Marriage and Family

Jonathan Yeo PaintingIn 1977, he was introduced by friends at a backyard barbecue to Laura Welch, a school teacher and librarian. Bush proposed to her after a three-month courtship and they were married on November 5 of that year. The couple settled in Midland, Texas. Bush left his family’s Episcopal Church to join his wife’s United Methodist Church. In 1981, Laura Bush gave birth to fraternal twin daughters, Jenna and Barbara; they graduated from high school in 2000 and from the University of Texas at Austin and Yale University, respectively, in 2004.

Prior to his marriage, Bush had multiple episodes of alcohol abuse. In one instance, on September 4, 1976, he was arrested near his family’s summer home in Kennebunkport, Maine for driving under the influence of alcohol. He pleaded guilty, was fined $150 and had his Maine driver’s license suspended until 1978. Bush’s alleged usage of drugs is less clear; when asked questions about past alleged illicit drug use, Bush has consistently refused to answer. He defended his refusal to answer in a publicized casual conversation with a friend saying that he feared setting a bad example for the younger generation.

Bush says his wife has had a stabilizing effect on his life, and attributes influence to her in his 1986 decision to give up alcohol. While Governor of Texas, Bush said of his wife, “I saw an elegant, beautiful woman who turned out not only to be elegant and beautiful, but very smart and willing to put up with my rough edges, and I must confess has smoothed them off over time.”

Early Career

Professional life of George W. Bush

In 1978, Bush ran for the House of Representatives from Texas’s 19th congressional district. His opponent, Kent Hance, portrayed him as being out of touch with rural Texans; Bush lost the election by 6,000 votes (6%) of the 103,000 votes cast. He returned to the oil industry and began a series of small, independent oil exploration companies. He created Arbusto Energy, and later changed the name to Bush Exploration. In 1984, his company merged with the larger Spectrum 7, and Bush became chairman. The company was hurt by a decline in oil prices, and as a result, it folded into Harken Energy. Bush served on the board of directors for Harken. Questions of possible insider trading involving Harken arose, but the Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) investigation concluded that the information Bush had at the time of his stock sale was not sufficient to constitute insider trading.

Bush moved his family to Washington, D.C. in 1988 to work on his father’s campaign for the U.S. presidency. He worked as a campaign adviser and served as liaison to the media; he assisted his father by campaigning across the country. Returning to Texas after the successful campaign, he purchased a share in the Texas Rangers baseball franchise in April 1989, where he served as managing general partner for five years. He actively led the team’s projects and regularly attended its games, often choosing to sit in the open stands with fans. The sale of Bush’s shares in the Rangers in 1998 brought him over $15 million from his initial $800,000 investment.

In December 1991, Bush was one of seven people named by his father to run his father’s 1992 Presidential re-election campaign as “campaign advisor”. The prior month, Bush had been asked by his father to tell White House chief of staff John H. Sununu that he should resign.

Governor of Texas

As Bush’s brother, Jeb, sought the governorship of Florida, Bush declared his candidacy for the 1994 Texas gubernatorial election. His campaign focused on four themes: welfare reform, tort reform, crime reduction, and education improvement. Bush’s campaign advisers were Karen Hughes, Joe Allbaugh, and Karl Rove.

After easily winning the Republican primary, Bush faced popular Democratic incumbent Governor Ann Richards. In the course of the campaign, Bush pledged to sign a bill allowing Texans to obtain permits to carry concealed weapons. Richards had vetoed the bill, but Bush signed it after he became governor. According to The Atlantic Monthly, the race “featured a rumor that she was a lesbian, along with a rare instance of such a tactic’s making it into the public record — when a regional chairman of the Bush campaign allowed himself, perhaps inadvertently, to be quoted criticizing Richards for appointing avowed homosexual activists’ to state jobs”. The Atlantic, and others, connected the lesbian rumor to Karl Rove, but Rove denied being involved. Bush won the general election with 53.5% against Richards’ 45.9%.

Bush used a budget surplus to push through Texas’s largest tax-cut ($2 billion). He extended government funding for organizations providing education of the dangers of alcohol and drug use and abuse, and helping to reduce domestic violence. Critics contended that during his tenure, Texas ranked near the bottom in environmental evaluations, but supporters pointed to his efforts to raise the salaries of teachers and improved educational test scores.

In 1998, Bush won re-election with a record 69% of the vote. He became the first governor in Texas history to be elected to two consecutive four-year terms. For most of Texas history, governors served two-year terms; a constitutional amendment extended those terms to four years starting in 1975. In his second term, Bush promoted faith-based organizations and enjoyed high approval ratings. He proclaimed June 10, 2000 to be Jesus Day in Texas, a day on which he “urge[d] all Texans to answer the call to serve those in need”.

Throughout Bush’s first term, national attention focused on him as a potential future presidential candidate. Following his re-election, speculation soared. Within a year, he decided to seek the Republican nomination for the presidency.

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