Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Leadership of George Bush by Roman Popadiuk

As deputy assistant to the president and deputy press secretary for foreign affairs from 1998 to 1992, Roman Popadiuk was closely involved with many of the day-to-day decisions of the George H. W. Bush White House.

In his new book, The Leadership of George Bush: An Insider's View of the Forty-First President, Popadiuk ─ who now serves as executive director of the George Bush Presidential Library Foundation ─ looks at how the former president's personal leadership style influenced how he formed and executed his policies.

Popadiuk will be the featured author at the Snowcroft Institute on International Affairs-sponsored Meet the Authors Series event to be held Wednesday at the George Bush School of Government and Public Service.

(Later this week, Bush will also be on campus with President Barack Obama for a Presidential Forum on Community Service, co-hosted by the Points of Light Institute.)

August 19, 1991. President Bush heads from the main house at Walker's Point to address the press regarding the coup against Soviet leader Gorbachev. Left to right: National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft; President Bush; Linda Casey, assistant to Andy Card; the author; and the president's personal aide, Michael Dannenhauer, followed by Secret Service agents. (Courtesy: George Bush Presidential Library)

An excerpt:
On policy matters, Bush's willingness to gamble occasionally put him ahead of his staff. When the issue of congressional support for the impending war against Saddam ws raised, many on the White House staff were hesitant; there was a widespread belief that Congress would not support the president. Bush felt very strongly about having such a resolution. Unlike many of his advisers, Bush believed that he could obtain congressional support. In an Oval Office meeting he was adamant and confident. He told those around him," I don't want to be an LBJ." President Johnson got Congress to pass the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution after North Vietnam attacked a U.S. ship, and he used the vote as proof of congressional support for the subsequent escalation of U.S. involvement in Vietnam. Bush wanted clear and unarguable support before any military action was taken. On January 12, 1991, Bush got the vote, days before the military campaign was launched. In a joint resolution, the Senate voted 52-47, and the House supported the president by a vote of 250-183.

August 16, 1990. Bush fishes off the coast of his home, Walker's Point, in Kennebunkport, Maine, and reads at the same time. (Courtesy: George Bush Presidential Library)

Bush also took a chance when he relied on his first impression of Gorbachev at their initial meeting in 1985 at the funeral of Soviet leader Konstantin Chernenko to guide his views on the evolving situation in the Soviet Union. In a cable he wrote back to President Reagan, Bush indicated that he saw Gorbachev as a different sort of Soviet leader and as someone who could clearly do business with the West. During his visit to France in July 1989 for a G-7 meeting Bush pushed his advisers on the possibility of a meeting with Gorbachev. Both Baker and Scowcroft were skeptical, fearing that the president could be blindsided if a firm agenda were not set ahead of time. Bush, however, overruled them. On the return flight home, he penned a letter to Gorbachev proposing a meeting, which eventually became the Malta Summit in December of that year. This was the start of a close personal working relationship between the two leaders as well as the beginning of cooperation between the two countries on various issues.

January 29, 1991. President Bush starts a Cabinet meeting with a prayer. Prayer was important to Bush in dealing with the challenges of the presidency. (Courtesy: George Bush Presidential Library)

Over the years, Bush came to enjoy Gorbachev's friendship and his sense of humor, particularly his willingness to tell jokes about himself. For Bush, Gorbachev's call on Christmas day in 1991 to tell of his resignation as the Soviet leader was particularly emotional.

Felt like I lost a friend," Bush subsequently stated about the event."

For more on the Bush White House, check out these titles from Texas A&M University Press.


  1. Good writing. Keep up the good work. I just added your RSS feed my Google News Reader..

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