Probably one of my favorite and underrated presidents in recent history is George H.W. Bush, because I can identify with him the most. He’s someone who should have never been elected. He won because voters thought they were getting four more years of Reagan, the Willie Horton ad was really effective (so much so that it even overshadows much of the legacy of his presidency), and Michael Dukakis was a really lousy candidate. Bush had little charisma, looked sorta dorky with his oversize glasses, and was the antithesis of other Republican candidates in that he eschewed being ‘relatable’ but rather embraced and accepted his socially detached genteel elitism and intellect. “No, I’m not gonna have a beer with you.” I can respect that kind of authenticity, which is lost in our era of pandering and faux populism. Nixon was sorta similar in this regard. One could say Kennedy ushered in the era of the ‘rockstar’ or down-to-earth president. When Bush famously checked his wristwatch during a 1992 town hall debate with Clinton, I cannot fault him. I too would feel incredulous listening to a serial sex offender and liar pretending to care about other people’s pain.
And I can also respect how Bush put duty and loyalty for the Office and Country above politics, even if it cost him a second term, but the 1991 recession obviously did not help either. He pulled out of Iraq instead of letting it become a quagmire as his son did. From Voa News Former President George H.W. Bush Dies: A Life of Commitment to US, his stance on Iraq proved prescient:
Upon later reflection, Bush’s foray into Kuwait was considered as something less than a total victory in that many Iraqi troops were pushed back into their homeland, rather than captured or killed, and Hussein remained in power, only overthrown years later in the 2003 U.S. invasion ordered by Bush’s son, President George W. Bush.
The elder Bush said he rejected an overthrow of the Iraqi government because it would have “incurred incalculable human and political costs. We would have been forced to occupy Baghdad and, in effect, rule Iraq.”
Yes, he had globalist tendencies and was probably a neocon, but they all are to varying degrees [yes, even Trump in his unfailing support for Israel, defense spending, and hawkish foreign policy, although less so than G. W. Bush]. And he defected from his party and raised taxes, which in retrospect was not a good idea but at least showed some courage to do what he thought what was best for the economy instead of politically expedient. He signed the Americans with disabilities act, which I oppose, but it at least shows a compassionate side. I would say he is is one of the most humble presidents in recent history, along with Carter. John Sununu wrote a book about how he was a good listener, which is a trait you don’t find in many politicians these days. That does not mean in terms of legacy he was a good president [for example, In the case of Carter, despite being humble his foreign policy was a failure by letting the Shah fall], but he exhibited a sort of thoughtfulness and sense of duty that is lacking these days.