New Hampshire and the nation have lost a treasured American in the passing of George H.W. Bush. The life he led and the manner in which he served his family and his country ought to be taught to schoolchildren and ought to be remembered by adults as our politics continue a downward spiral.
When the 18-year-old pilot was shot down in the Pacific, he and his country were lucky that he was rescued by a passing American vessel. Otherwise, Bush would have ended up prisoner on a nearby island where the Japanese were beheading their captives.
Bush knew how lucky he was; but rather than sit back to a life of ease, he forged ahead, building a business, marrying a remarkable woman, and repeatedly suffering political losses that would have caused a lesser man to turn tail and hide.
New Hampshire was a proving ground for him. He lost here in 1980, famously sitting on his hands on a Nashua debate stage while Ronald Reagan, “paying for this microphone,’’ ran rings around him.
Bush learned from that. He had been called a “wimp’’ by this newspaper in that primary; but when Publisher William Loeb’s memory was being honored at a Washington dinner, it was Vice President Bush who gamely and gracefully stepped up to poke fun at himself and to praise Loeb and his widow.
Bush came to appreciate New Hampshire’s primary, understanding it as an institution that must be won by mettle and a willingness to engage real people in real settings, not just in commercials and controlled events. In 1988, he gave it another shot and this time left with the words, “Thank you, New Hampshire!’’
We will leave it to historians to rank Bush among the Presidents. But as a passionate, talented and brave American who loved his country and gave it much in return, he was one of the best.