George H.W. Bush had such a quiet and humble demeanor that many of his historic accomplishments are sadly overlooked, says Bush's chief of staff John Sununu, author of a new book about the nation's 41st president.
"George Bush's demeanor may have been his biggest problem. His mother told him 'George, never brag,''' Sununu said Wednesday on "The Steve Malzberg Show" on Newsmax TV.
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"After 25 years, I thought I ought to put together a compilation of what he really accomplished, that a lot of people really don't know, even a lot of people that were watching never really appreciated."
Sununu said the title of his new memoir — "The Quiet Man: The Indispensable Presidency of George H.W. Bush,"
published by Broadside Books — was based on his former boss's own words.
"Since he was so quiet, that was an appropriate title. It came from his 1988 acceptance speech: "I am a quiet man, but I hear the quiet people that others don't."'
Sununu told Steve Malzberg that Bush's presidency — 1989 to 1993 — came during a tumultuous time in world history.
"It was such a momentous time and … he made, for example, his steering of the collapse of the Soviet Union … look so easy that people underappreciated it," he said.
Sununu said the Clean Air Act, which had been floundering around Congress for 13 years without passing, was another Bush triumph.
"[It] had been stymying. Now you have a conservative president who understands market forces. If he doesn't pass the Clean Air bill then, Bill Clinton comes in and passes a liberal command-and-control Clean Air bill," he said.
"So what George Bush ended up pushing through Congress, and we worked it hard, was a market-based, free-enterprise based, Clean Air bill that uses incentives rather than command and control and ended up achieving all the reductions that everybody wanted at 1/5th of the projected cost that we had.
"This was something that dealt with a need. It removed, if you will, that issue from the table so that the liberals couldn't pass an insane piece of legislation later. It served the country well."
Sununu recalled Bush as a "very disciplined guy" who worked hard behind the scenes.
"He really worked hard to put an agenda together. Mostly working with governors on the domestic side. He liked to listen to people.... The president listened to options," he said.
"He sorted things out and then when he made a decision, he expected it to be followed. He was committed to his own decisions and expected his staff to be committed to his own decisions."
One of Bush's biggest political goofs was his 1988 campaign promise, "Read my lips: no new taxes" — a vow he later broke and which was later used against him by Bill Clinton.
"He hated taxes, but [Sen. George] Mitchell and [House Speaker Tom] Foley who controlled Congress really were determined to force him to pay the ransom of taxes," Sununu said.
Asked about Bush's similarity to his two sons, former President George W. Bush and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who is expected to announce his candidacy for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination, Sununu said:
"They're all different personalities, really. Jeb has a lot of the personality, more of his mother's personality than his father's. George W. is sort of a free spirit soul, which is a little bit different than President Bush. They're all three different personalities."
And does Sununu believe there will be a third Bush presidency with the election of Jeb?
"I don't know, but this country needs a Republican president. I lean towards governors and former governors," Sununu said.
"We have a handful of really good governors and former governors running. We need that kind of experience to fix the mess that [President Barack] Obama's leaving this country."
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