While both his predecessor and his successor – Presidents Reagan and Clinton – have received more acclaim for their time in the White House than has President George Herbert Walker Bush, one can make the case that it was Bush whose presidency was the most successful. In fact, the case is pretty easy to make. Consider the five greatest accomplishments of his Administration – then you be the judge.
1. The fall of the Berlin Wall
No, this didn’t happen under President Reagan. After World War II, the major allied powers (France, Great Britain, the United States, and the Soviet Union) divided both the nation of Germany and its capital city, Berlin, into four zones of occupation. In the late 1940s, France, Great Britain, and the United States unified their zones under a democratic government, known as West Germany. The Soviet Union refused to participate, and East Germany remained under communist control. Fast forward 40 years. President Reagan, seeking the democratization of Germany, famously stood on the border and scolded the Soviet President, Mikhail Gorbachev with those historic words – “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” But it was George Bush who actually finished the task. The Wall came down under his watch.
2. The collapse of the Soviet Union and end of the Cold War
Following World War II, the United States and the Soviet Union entered a lengthy time of great tension, which threatened the security of both nations. Beginning in 1947, the Cold War did not end until President Bush’s presidency. Under Ronald Reagan, the U.S. military build-up and financial stress applied to the U.S.S.R. began the long process that resulted in American dominance. But it was on December 3, 1989, under President Bush, that the Cold War officially ended, when Gorbachev met with Bush aboard a Soviet ship docked at Malta’s Marsaxlokk harbor. The summit and joint press conference paved the way for peace. Final documents securing the end of Soviet-American tensions would be signed within two years – under the leadership of President Bush.
3. The first Gulf War and Operation Desert Storm
Iraq invaded Kuwait, and President Bush responded. In a war that lasted just over six months (beginning August 1, 1990), Bush rallied an enormous coalition of 35 countries to expel the Iraqi forces. The U.S. stepped up to defend Saudi Arabia with Operation Desert Storm in early 1991. As a result of the War, sovereignty was restored to Kuwait, Saddam Hussein was defeated (but allowed to retain power in Iraq), sanctions were enacted against Iraq, and President Bush’s approval rating hit 93 percent – by far the highest level of any President in American history.
4. The American with Disabilities Act
Pushed by the Bush Administration, this 1990 law was a civil rights initiative which prohibits the discrimination of American workers on the basis of their disabilities. The law affords the same protections that were given by the Civil Rights Act of 1964. But unlike the Civil Rights Act, the ADA also requires covered employers to provide reasonable accommodations to employees with disabilities, and imposes accessibility requirements on public accommodations.
5. The Clean Air Act
Though Republicans are traditionally criticized as anti-environment, it was President Bush who signed into law the Clean Air Act of 1990. This was the first, and remains the most comprehensive, environmental law ever passed by the U.S. Congress. Its regulations are enforced by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).