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Virginia Tech professor emeritus weighs in on Bush 41's impact

Charles Walcott comments on Bush's motivation, successes, flaws

BLACKSBURG, Va. – Many experts are weighing in with analysis of the time former President George H.W. Bush spent in the White House after the former president's death Friday night.

Charles Walcott, a decorated former Virginia Tech politics professor, said Saturday that Bush 41 is a reminder of a better, more cooperative time in politics.

“Politics was viewed as public service. There was a sense that there’s a greater good that you’re striving for,” Walcott said. “What we seem to have degenerated to these days is tribal politics where we put our party ahead of all else and simply refuse to compromise with the other people that we think of as not just wrong or misguided, but evil.”

In his view, Bush had talent for compromising, which the major parties wouldn’t applaud to the same degree in today’s climate.

He said the former president was motivated to do what was best for America -- not always what was best for himself, which is not common in the current era.

“The key decision that came back to haunt him was, in his view -- and retrospectively in mine -- doing the right thing by going along with the tax increase that helped limit the deficit,” Walcott said. “That was something that elements of his party never forgave him for.”

He said that decision, in part, led to his failure to win re-election.

He believes Bush senior should be remembered fondly.

“I think we ought to all look back at H.W. Bush and ask how did a politician get to be as admirable as a human being and as good at politics simultaneously as Bush was,” he said.

One of the moments in global history for which Bush’s role is remembered is the end of the Cold War. Walcott said he was the right person to lead the U.S. and bring a peaceful conclusion to the conflict.

“As president, he managed our relations with the crumbling USSR skillfully during what could have been a dangerous period,” Walcott said.

In comparing Bush senior to the presidents who followed him, Walcott believes many people viewed the former president as out of touch with the American public. Voters thereafter gravitated more toward candidates who appeared more relatable.

“... politicians who stir the emotions. Bush could not and did not do that and I think he felt it was somewhat inappropriate to even try,” he said.

Walcott has been a member of the Virginia Tech community since 1989 and focused his research on the U.S. presidency, executive politics and organizational theory, which brought national and international attention to the university.


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