George Bush was an uncomfortable leader, a distant patrician figure who spoke awkwardly and was long thought to lack "the vision thing". And yet, as Timothy Naftali argues, there was no person of his generation better prepared for the challenges facing the United States as the Cold War ended. Bush brilliantly shepherded Russian reformers through the liberalization of their socialist system and skillfully orchestrated the reunification of Germany. And following the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990, he united the global community to defeat and punish Saddam Hussein. Domestically, Bush reasserted principles of fiscal discipline and political accountability.
Yet it was ultimately his trademark propriety that cost Bush his chance at a second term. Bush's landmark budget deal was characterized as a political defeat rather than a show of fiscal responsibility; his caution in dealing with Saddam Hussein was considered by many Republicans a pathetic compromise. With his party divided, Bush lost his bid for reelection in 1992, but in a final irony, the conservatives who scorned him would return to power eight years later, under his son and namesake.
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