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The United States presidency provides a great source of contrast, comparisons and controversy. An analysis of the term of Ronald Reagan, the fortieth president of the United States and his successor and long-serving vice president, George Herbert Walker Bush provides a great and sufficient basis. Although the later carried out his term in the mighty shadow of the former, there are a great number of vital accomplishments he is accredited for which his predecessor is deemed not to have been capable of.
Ronald Reagan was revered for his charm and personality throughout his term and up to date while Bush is known as having been conscious of the people’s thoughts and needs which weighed down on him heavily throughout his presidency. Ronald Reagan’s achievements were numerous in Washington and in the United States at large which are unrivalled by his successor. Bush’s failure to win his re-election in which he lost to Bill Clinton, a Democrat, is sure proof. Nonetheless, Bush is accredited with a strong contribution to the international arena through foreign policy. His record is viewed as insurmountable and it is highly doubtful if Reagan would have been capable of such.
The fact that Bush sought office after Reagan’s second term so as to take over from where his predecessor, Reagan, had left off plays out the difference between these two even further. Bush therefore had no intention of bringing in any major changes but purported that he was supportive of existing policy which served to overshadow his term even further. His election message was that he would be the archetypal guardian president, who rather than leave a different legacy, preferred to consolidate the works of Reagan, which served to dwarf his record at home even further in comparison to Reagan’s. However, these two ended up being polar opposites.
A candid analysis of the realms of the vision, leadership styles, domestic politics and foreign policy is presented here-in on the basis of these two men. The effectiveness each president had on the United States and their policy towards other nations is here-by detailed. The conclusion from this analysis will be that regardless of all achievements each of these presidents had, public image can only be maintained via the successful handling of the media, an attribute Bush seems not to have had. In order to draw parallels between these two presidents, there is a need to evaluate the major achievements and failures of each of them during their presidency:
The contributions Ronald Reagan made are far felt by the entire world and he will remain to be remembered by all generations. He facilitated in ending the cold war, when he took the presidential office of the United States, there was an already existing threat of America from the communists. He was stiff and stood against Soviet Union and termed it as an evil empire. He also gave support to the rebels and managed to battle the Marxist from Nicaragua to Angola. The contributions were a big blow to the union and caused its collapse, hence bringing down the cold war. He also brought to halt the Soviet Union by making its economy stagnant, by persuading Saudi Arabia to produce more oils that led to fall in oil prices hence weakening the financial power of Soviet Union since oil was their major source of revenue (Reagan 1990, p. 120).
President Ronald Reagan also instigated the development of an economic boom that lasted for over twenty years in the United States. He did this by authorizing tax reductions and deregulation. Before his reign, the poverty index of America was about 20% but by the time he was out of the office, it was at about 10%. This era of economic boom was referred to as Reaganomics. It is also worthy to note that it was this time in the history of America that there were creation of 16 millions job positions. Reagan not only pushed for tax rate cuts, but also he also advocated for tax reforms to be enacted and this lead to simplification of income tax code by getting rid of many shelters that were present, lowering the number of deductions and also the tax brackets.
He is also remembered as the American leader who initially recognized and saw that it was fit for America to have a woman in the Supreme Court which highly impacted the United States’ judicial system. This was after he has pledged to appoint one to the court during his campaigns in 1980. He nominated Sandra Day O’Connor after justice potter Stewart retired. On this point he portrayed that he was not in any way discriminative on the basis of gender. He also nominated Vaughn Walker, a known homosexual judge to the court of California but he was not confirmed until his successor George Bush re-nominated him.
Ronald Reagan also revitalized the GOP and the conservative movement. Reagan was able to form a coalition that won the heart of Americans. This coalition had monetary conservatives, his blue collar democrats, family value voter and also the intellectuals who were neo-conservatives by then. Today all the American conservatives candidates, set their goals use him as their standard due to how he revitalized the GOP using free markets, small governments, and pro-liberty conservatism.
Ronald Reagan also achieved through achieving peace via strength. When he came into power, he found an army that had been brought down and so his first course of action was to try and rebuild it. He held a philosophy that peace can only be arrived at if strength was in force. Ht he therefore started by reviving B-1 bomber which had been cancelled by Carter, then ordering the commencement of production of missiles and also forced NATO to set up pershing missiles to west part of Germany. He attained high defense levels by using over 40% of the American income to increasing troops levels, and increasing pipeline space parts. His efforts therefore are still recognizing for making America to remain as the super power.
He contributed to development of an advertisement in the television referred to as morning in America; this showed that the country was to have a new dawn. This showed his optimism, America by then needed optimism and the economic boom in order to survive after it had gone in the era of Carter. His carefully planned defense initiative termed as unfeasible by his opponents caused the fall of the Soviet Union. His critics were proved wrong after the use of patriot missile batteries in the first gulf war was successful hence providing missile that were completely environmentally safer that the ballistic ones.
Reagan is known to have respect of life as he strongly supported the pro life movements. He was a kind of a leader who gave place to people who served the United States with devotion and constantly told of the wisdom the founders of America. During the societal upheavals that took place between 1960’s-70’s he seemed to support family values movements and pro-lifers. Reagan also showed strong skills in governance since during the federal air traffic controllers strike, he declared the strike as a risk and detrimental national security and fired 11000 traffic controllers which was a good example to show that union workers were not supposed to be pampered. This was vital since if the strike could have continued, may be there could have developed a national security problem (Humes 2007, p. 58).
As every leader has his own battlements, Reagan had some failures that he committed when he was in power. During the incident of the air traffic controllers’ strike, he seemingly violated the rules of the labor unions and it was confused as if he was sending a message across to all employers that there is always a possibility of going against the rules of the unions. The act of firing 11000 traffic controllers was against all what he had been fighting against, all the years before stepping into power.
Reagan showed his failure during the Lebanon and the Grenada operation that used the code Operation Urgent Fury in 1983. In Beirut during the Lebanese war, there was an attack of the American peace keepers which left 241 dead United States servicemen died and left over 60 casualties. This lead to Reagan structuring a plan of bombing the Abdullah barracks after the white house team had visited the site. This mission was later brought to halt. On 7th February 1984, he ordered the withdrawal of marines from Lebanon. During an attendance to the Rev. Jerry Farwell’s Baptist fundamentalism “84” held in Washington, he read the note which has the first hand information of the bombing which had been written by the chaplain of the navy, Arnold Resnicoff. It was to be later said that Reagan order of the withdrawal of the army from Lebanon was a form of weakness.
He later ordered that the American forces should attack Grenada, this operation was to be referred by the code: the operation urgent fury. An official request from the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) caused the American forces to intervene; also he cited supposedly a regional threat that was being issued by a Soviet-Cuban military located in Caribbean and the fear for the security of many medical students at the St. George’s University majority of whom had the American origin, as good reason to attack. This was the first major army operation that American military was involved in from the war against Vietnam. After a few days of this operation, America emerged as victorious. It resulted to one hundred and sixteen wounded America soldiers and nineteen American fatalities .the American forces then withdrew after a new governing body was appointed by the Governor-General in mid December.
Ronald Reagan also caused an escalation of the cold war. This is by how he speeded up the policy of détente to be reversed starting from 1979 after Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan. He ordered a great building up of the American forces and applied new laws and policies which were directly targeting the Soviet Union. This involved bracing the B-1 bomber and yet it had been prohibited by the government of carter and also the production of MX missile which he branded peacekeeper missile. After seeing that the Soviet Union had deployed the ss-20, he in response to Soviet deployment of the SS-20, Reagan managed NATO's deployment of the Pershing II missile in West Germany (Mann 2009, p. 110).
Reagan also combined powers with the prime minister of the United Kingdom to denounce the ideological terms of the Soviet Union. During the speech he made at the British parliament, Reagan remarked that in the march to freedom, Marxism-Leninism will be left of the heap of ash in history, by democracy. During his speech in 3rd march he prophesied the fall of communism, he did this with so much certainty and commented that communism history was being written. He also used vulgar language which can be judged to contain hate for the Soviet Union, when he was before the National Association of Evangelicals he referred that empire as an evil one.
Reagan’s bitterness can also be seen on how he regarded the drowning of Korean air line flight on 1st September 1983. Since the plane was drowned by the soviet fighters, Reagan termed this as massacre and went ahead to declare that the soviet union was against all people of the world and that they no longer respect the human rights and human relations of the people across the globe. This was taken harshly by the Reagan administration and consequently, they suspended the entire Soviet passenger airlines to the United States and also dropping some sensitive agreements that were being negotiated between the two and hence causing much financial harm to Soviet Union. From the shoot-down, and hence causing KAL 007 to go astray supposedly due to navigational problems, Reagan, indicated that after the global positioning system is completed, it would be made availed to people to use freely, to avoid any other navigation errors in future.
The Reagan doctrine
Reagan and his people were said to provide financial aid referred to as overt and covert aid to those who were in the anti communist resistance movements in order to reverse the soviet governments to continents like Africa, Latin America and possibly Asia. He also sent his central intelligence agency officers to Pakistan and others to Afghanistan in order to train equip and possibly lead the mujahidin forces against the forces of Soviet Union. To Reagan, his covert aid program was a good tool to bring to halt the occupation of the Soviet Union in Afghanistan, but he failed to realize that these programs would be a threat to the America’s forces in the war against Afghanistan in 2000. Reagan also seems to go against the policy of carter of arming Taiwan. He compromised with china government, which was communist to reduce the arms sold to Taiwan.
During the month of March in the year 1983, He initiated a defense project (SDI) that was to be solely to be used in the aim of protecting America from any attack using nuclear based ballistic missiles. In himself he thought that the this mechanism would make the impossibility of any nuclear attack but he did not believe that the technology would ever allow his opponents to create or imitate such “star wars” and predicted that others could not attain such technology. This made the Soviet Union to think that the project SDI would lead the world to an eminent danger, there for the project can be seemed to have hastened the cold war. Therefore Reagan to the outside world can be seen to impose aggressive policies which are imperial and war spreading though the conservatives from America argues that they were to safe guard the interest of the people of America and the country’s security (Kengor 2006, p. 412).
The Libya bombing during the reign of Reagan can be termed as gradual controversial since the incident that happened on the Gulf of Sidra in the year 1981. This grudge was revived during the month of April in the year 1986 after a bomb that injured 63 Americans and killed one American serviceman exploded in Berlin. Reagan then implied that Libya was the one that directed the bombing. He therefore sent his forces to Libya and gave them power to use force against the country. This resulted to a high number of airstrikes in Libya. This targeted on instilling fear on Gaddaffi to stop exportation of terrorism and giving him a chance to change his behavior. When he was in the Oval office, he made a speech indicating that as long he is in office, any attack on an American, will be revenged irrespective on where it has happened.
During the year 1986, the Iranian –contra affair scandal resulted which changed the operation of the governance. It was from the so called use of the gains from the sale of covert arms to Iran for funding those Contras who were in Nicaragua which has been restricted by the act of congress. This was the major scandal with political associations that ever occurred in the United States in the 80’s. As per the judgment made at the international court of justice, America was found guilty of violating international laws in Nicaragua. This was ruled that way because due to the fact that America was intervening into other states’ affairs.
When asked, he showed his ignorance on the issue and as a result, he chose two republicans and one democrat to a commission intended to look into the scandal. This commission was referred to as:”Tower Commission”. This commission failed to get evidence of the Reagan involvement in the case. It therefore resorted to criticize him from failing to manage his staff appropriately and therefore facilitating indirectly to money loss. This lead to a decline in popularity with an average of about 10% in a span of about one week, he marked a quickest and greatest decline of popularity for the president. This scandal caused fourteen staff condemned and eleven having been convicted (Diggins 2007, p. 493).
The majority of the America’s population argues that Reagan must have been in support of communists since of his support of the contras, there still also exist some who says that he saved them. It was by 1986 that the world court declared America guilty of imposing wars against Nicaragua.
At around the year 1980, the then president of Panama, Manuel Noriega, who had previously supported the United States in its endeavor to counter terrorism and drug trafficking, was placed under investigations. The United States consequently invaded Panama and captured the dictator. Immediately after the Reagan’s administration marked the struggle to remove him from power, a time when the country was recovering from some economic sanctions imposed on her. Bush succeeded in removing Noriega in power, an attempt that Reagan was unable to achieve, though his plans were partly unsuccessful (post-invasion) and later on became a barrier to Panama’s needs at a time when the young democratic government was being established.
In 1989, there were some democratic elections held by Panama, whereby Guillermo Endara was voted in as the president. Later Noriega’s Government annulled the results. In an attempt to respond to this, Bush sent an additional 2000 more troops. Noriega successfully suppressed a potential military coup besides some other riots and demonstrations that were organized against his rulings. However after a serviceman from the US was shot dead by forces in Panama in December 1989, Bush sent a further additional 24,000 troops so as to forcefully remove Noriega and his government from power. This was dubbed ‘Operation Just Cause’ (Pollack 2002, p. 79).
Later on Noriega surrendered to the US before he was convicted and imprisoned in 1992, an allegation having it that he was guilty of racketeering and trafficking of drugs. The US president Bush, together with his wife, First lady Barbara Bush, visited Panama in June 1992, and their main motive was to support the first post-invasion government in Panama This mission was highly successful and served to demonstrate that Bush was willing to use the military if diplomacy failed.
After the fall of the wall of Berlin, the United States sought to meet with the Soviets which took place as the famous Malt Summit so as to end the long standing feud between the United States and the USSR(the then unified Soviet Union. This meeting served as the onset of a United States-Soviet Union Treaty that was negotiated for the next nine years which led to the two world giants agreeing to reduce nuclear weapons by 35 percent and all land-based intercontinental missiles by 50 percent. The treaty, Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), is regarded as one of the major achievements of the Bush administration in regard to foreign policy. Afterwards, bush declared the very US-Soviet cooperation amid the Persian War in 1990-1991 had actually assisted in the laying of the groundwork the ensuing partnership when it came to solving of bilateral and even world problems. It is however notable of how some European leaders encouraged Bush to go ahead and meet Gorbachev.
Some of these European leaders included Francois Mitterrand and Margaret Thatcher. May be due to the pressure around him, Bush went to meet Gorbachev in December 2 and 3 in the year 1989. Apparently there was not even a single agreement that was signed but many believed that the meeting was in a great deal crucial one. The moment when Gorbachev was asked to mention something about the nuclear war, in response he said that earlier he had assured the American president that the Soviet Union would never get involved in any war against the US. He also tried to explore of how he was ready for peace talks with the US and requested for complete cooperation in trying fully address issues pertaining to wars, especially in the entire world.
Persian Gulf War
In 1990, August 1, Iraq went ahead and attacked their neighbors who were an oil-rich country, Kuwait, and consequently Bush condemned the action, and as a result he began making all sorts of opposition of Iraq in the US and even in European, the Asian and even the Middle Eastern allies. The then Secretary of Defense, Richard Bruce “Dick” Cheney made an attempt to travel up to Saudi Arabia to meet King Fahd; who went ahead and requested the assistance by the US, and this was meant to be a militaristic aid though he still he had fears that his country could face the similar invasions as well. Earlier before, the request was met by the use of the Air Force Fighter jets.
In the due course Iraq made some attempts in negotiation of a deal that would then enable the country own half of Kuwait, hence having total control over it. However Bush was not the one to condone this and he just ruled that total withdrawal of Iraq forces was the immediate action that was bound to take place. The ground operation planning which was initiated by the US-led coalition forces came into operation at around the year 1990, with General Norman Schwarzkopf (Kellner 1992, p. 129).
Iraq’s attack sparked off a crisis, despite the fact that the Iraqi troops were being driven out a couple of months later. It is worth noting of how invading Kuwait convinced Washington that the Iraqi president Saddam Hussein was becoming a threat to both region and also to the west, and allegations had it that this threat was day by day growing. The ensuing capture of the Emirate that was oil-rich was referred to as “The Revolution of august 2”, particularly by Baghdad, and also Kuwait’s rightful coming back to Iraqi sovereignty.
A speech by Bush, at a joint session of the American Congress , which was based on the authorization of the controversial air land attacks, put forward some other four immediate topics: Iraq’s withdrawal from Kuwait and not only immediately and completely, but also without condition. There was also the point regarding to Kuwait’s legitimate government be restored, restoration and also maintenance of the Persian Gulf be guaranteed and finally those of the American citizens who live abroad ought to be protected against any injustice that was bound to be imposed on them.
Finally he summarized the entire speech by a one long-term, and the fifth objective, he claimed that freer from what may be referred to as threat of terror, much stronger when it came to the pursuit of justice, and finally much more secure when it came to the question about quest for peace. Considering the fact that the United Nations Security Council was strongly opposed to the Iraq’s violence, the Congress had no other option other than allowing the use of military force, having one and only purpose for their mission to liberate Kuwait and return the entire control to the Kuwaiti government, and still ensuring that the America’s interests were protected.
On 17th of January 1991, the allied forces launched the first attack and these actually included around four thousand bombing runs that were administered by coalition aircraft. Apparently this particular pace was meant to go on for the next about four weeks, till a time when a ground invasion was administered on February 24. The Allied forces found their way into the Iraq lines and then advanced towards at the Kuwait’s city while being on the west side. Still the forces were intercepting a retreating Iraqi Army. It was then that Bush decided to immediately stop the offensive, in duration of only 100 hours.
Subsequently there arose critics that condemned this action as premature, as in the course many Iraqi forces managed to escape. In order to counter the rising critics, Bush gave a simple response that this was an attempt to minimize the US casualties. Those of the opponents greatly criticized this decision and claimed that Bush ought to have continued attacking, hence pushing the Army belonging to Hussein back to the Baghdad, and the final blow being to remove him from power. Bush responded to protect his strategies that they were not aimed at removing the Iraq government from power as it would have just caused untold incalculable human and also political costs (Ibrahim 1990, p. 100).
The approval ratings belonging to Bush skyrocketed immediately after the successful offensive. Bush and the United States’ Secretary of the state Baker had a feeling that it was due to the coalition victory that had in a great deal improved the United States prestige outside and were optimistic that usage of political capital that originated from the coalition victory would soon revitalize the existing Arab-Israeli peace course. It was then that the administration quickly went back to the Arab-Israeli peacemaking considering that the Gulf War was over; and later the Madrid Conference was held in the year 1991.
The Somali Civil War
Putting into consideration of how Somalia was faced with humanitarian disaster and was also faced with total breakdown of the country’s civil order, the UN formed the UNOSOM 1 mission in April 1992. It is noteworthy that this given mission never made it up to their mandated strength. The Resolution 794, that was unanimously applied by the United Nations Security Council in the year 1992 and then they immediately allowed the US to intervene in order to ensure prevalence of peace as the humanitarian efforts in Somalia were in progress. In his response, the US president George H. W. Bush initiated the so called the Operation Restore Hope on the 4th of December 1992, under which the US would just assume command in line with resolution 794 (Fineman 1993, p. 139).
Major Contrasts between Ronald Reagan vs. George Bush Senior
After reviewing the major achievements and failures that each of these presidents had during office, it is evident that there are major differences that play out between the two:
Image, Personality, and Media Relations
When it comes to personality, image and media relations, Ronald Reagan, from the onset of his term surely depicted an inherent talent in maintaining this. He could easily communicate to the American populace which was a major boost to his re-election bid. At a time when the then political orthodoxies in practice had failed, Reagan successfully introduced radical changes which were crucial in boosting his public image. These were greatly accepted due to his winsome personality, great eloquence and sweeping charisma. His radical reforms normally led to a widely acknowledged comparison to Margret Thatcher though Ronald Reagan enjoyed more popularity from the Americans than 'Thatcher the Milk Snatcher' had in Britain. Comparing Reagan’s rise in popularity to that of Bush hands superiority to Reagan’s the former.
Although Bush was elected on a higher majority of the votes in comparison to Reagan, his popularity largely dwindled in his first term as the United States president which saw him lose his re-election bid to a democrat. Bush was seen as an establishment politician, who was regarded as advancing what Reagan had put in place rather than come up with an ideally different way of approaching domestic and fiscal policy. He was known to have a lot of political clout that he kept close and cared about what others regarded him as which he unconsciously carried into the decision-making arena. He was rather reluctant to bull-doze his way through relatives and close family which largely contributed to his loss of popularity. In addition, he was very conscious of his lack of oratory skills and mass communication shortcomings. However, he favored sound and well-informed decision-making on a small-scale which acted as one of his major strengths. As such, his communication to the public at large was mainly through press conferences.
The White House under Reagan insisted on stage-managing all media coverage. They went as far as setting a ‘line of the day’ and making up quotes allegedly stated by Reagan when there was nothing major there was to comment about. On the other hand, George Bush Senior’s White House was more open and accessible to the media. Instead of influencing the policy that he would like concentrated on, he left this to the media. Press conferences were his major point of contact in which he held 280 conferences in a span of four years which sharply contrasts to Ragan’s 47 press conferences in his two-four year terms (Rozzell 1998, p. 127-138).
This difference in image, personality and media relations cannot be just attributed to poor oratory skills on Bush Senior’s part but rather a strong indicator of the different leadership styles favored by the two presidents. Reagan brought in radical changes, new ideas and reform while Bush was essentially a guardian president whose presidency majored on conciliation and consolidation. While Reagan’s White House insisted on having something for the media in the evening news, Bush went out of his way to treat the media with respect in an effort to grant it autonomy. He was highly unimpressed by gimmickry and chose a leadership style that was less newsworthy in the belief that he would eventually gain favorable coverage in the press.
Domestic Policy Record
Short Term Aims
The 1982 fiscal budget was Ronald Reagan’s greatest achievement in the domestic policy record. It was presented to Congress on the 10th March 1981 and its passage there-on was firmly secured through high level political maneuvering albeit in an amended form. Through use of the ‘Bully Pulpit’, Reagan was able to successfully market the bill to the public who further served to secure its passage. In his first term, he largely concentrated on economic perspectives rather than social policies while maximizing on smaller span strategies rather than spread himself thin on wider projects. This apparently paid off and his popularity ratings were particularly high throughout his term.
His short-term strategy ensured he remained popular amid the increasingly hostile democrat majority and the media-savvy populace. This has not only been attributed to his sagacity in reading the restricted possibilities his presidential role held but also the fact that quick-time results appeal to the public. In the political sphere, implementing better long-term strategies is never rewarding and only leads to ‘political impatience.’ Concise, real-time results are favored by both the congress and the public and are highly likely to be passed in comparison to fundamental long-term principles. In order to safe-guard any chances of re-election, it is only imperative that results be immediate and tangible so as to highly impress the voting public.
Reagan was largely in favor of the Gramm-Latta compromise, which was in close resemblance to his budget proposal. He managed to safely steer it through congress which earned him respect from the media. However, he faced a major challenge: The Democrats were effectively using subcommittees which were empowered with discretionary spending powers and therefore were willingly using such powers to negate the effects of this bill. Reagan’s solution lay in challenging congress to amend the Gramm-Latta compromise in favor of Gramm-Latta II. However, this posed a dilemma. Were he to lose, the effect would be disastrous. Losing meant a great blow to his administration but winning provided a greater show of might, strength and legitimacy of his leadership. Although his advisors were in opposition to such a move, Reagan went into action almost immediately.
By trading on favors, coming into compromises with fellow Congressmen and using a wide range of persuasion skills in less than a week, he managed to convince the Democrats in the House of Representatives to vote in favor of Gramm-Latta II by 217 votes to 210 votes (Ruffin 1985). 33The effects of this landmark win were almost immediate. He gained overnight favorable media coverage and his popularity ratings shot up. The New York Times commented as follows in its following edition: (Reagan) "proved that the presidency remains a pre-eminent force, provided only that its occupant knows how to combine an election victory with a sense of executive priority and bargaining skill" (Kramer 1984)33-38
On the other hand, there is little that can be said of Bush’s initiatives in domestic policies. In an interview with the New York Times, Bush stated that his Domestic policy had largely been implemented in childcare, education, environment and judicial and other appointments. However, as proven here-in, there is little to show for such. For a man who had declared his interests ion leaving a legacy as the ‘education president,’ there was little to show at the end of his term. The measures in these sectors that were successfully implemented under his leadership are viewed as measures that could be passed under any presidency and are therefore not outstanding and cannot be regarded as part of his legacy.
However, George Bush Snr is known to have made good use of his right to veto. Since President Ford, only Bush came close to vetoing more legislation in passing bills that were more acceptable to the White House.
Bush’s legacy partially lays claim to judicial appointments. However, such appointments only cover areas that he was personally interested in such as affirmative action and the empowerment of women, abortion, legal rights for some minority sections and religious freedom. There were only 185 federal district and circuit court judges whose appointments he directly influenced and an additional 2 Supreme Court justices who were appointed under his term.
Bush mainly favored a close and conciliatory relationship with congress which sharply contrasted to that of his predecessor, Reagan, who favored a hands-on approach in which Reagan employed voter-trading and trading of favors rather than relying on personal favors garnered over cultivated relationships over the years. This was Bush’s undoing for this counted little on Capitol Hill.Bush and Reagan's Legacy
Reagan’s eight year term was based on short-termism and real-time results. This greatly hindered Bush’s first and only term in office and left him little room for maneuver. Reagan once failed in submitting a balanced (without deficit) budget proposal to Congress and left a total deficit due to heavy public borrowing of $152 billion which was still rising when Bush took office. In addition, for all its talk of reduced spending, Reagan’s government had increased national expenditure by 25 percent and ax terms were still neutral by the time he left office. This practically left Bush with little funding for programs that he had professed an interest in and had been his vehicle to White House. However, the biggest political damage Bush did can be solely placed on him for reneging on his promise during his election campaign not to increase taxes.
Overall, Bush’s record in domestic policy has been viewed as a lesser achievement in comparison to Reagan’s legacy who continues to enjoy a reputation as a brave and outstanding innovator with lots of courage. While they are sometimes depicted as two opposite poles in their leadership styles, this is as times exaggerated and it is evident that Reagan achieved success in the legislative and domestic sphere while Bush achieved his in the international arena (Kesselman & Krieger& Josep 2009, p.337-339).
Vision and Leadership
Bush is normally criticized as not having had a clear vision or coherent and tangible objectives pre-defined in his objectives, an allegation that cannot be directed at Ronald Reagan. The fast rate at which his popularity dwindled in a span of four years can be largely attributed to his domestic policies which were not clear-cut. The American voters expected a leader with a visionary style, especially so from an administration that came into power just after the Reagan’s administration that was highly radical and strongly visionary. This led to the voters into being discontent, a fact that was manifested in his failure to win his re-election bid. Bush himself admitted that he had no ‘visionary thing,’ something not expected from the United States’ Chief Executive Officer.
Reagan had great oratory and eloquence skills which greatly captured the public via his colorful rhetoric and his predictions that prophesied of doom and economic ruin but which he would steer away his country under an ingenious grand plan into a rose-tinted future. Reagan was highly capable of presenting complex issues to the public while reassuring and inspiring public faith in the presidency especially after the Watergate Scandal under Richard Nixon and the Vietnam War which the United States had lost.
Whilst Reagan’s popularity, power and reputation were mainly enhanced by sound domestic policies; Bush was rather outstanding in forging foreign policy and diplomatic missions as depicted in George Bush’s successes. Bush frequently contacted and joined hands with other leaders of the world as detailed in his successes in contrast to Reagan who was commonly embroiled in arms scandals and denounced the Russian Empire as evil. Bush was highly appreciative of the significance and respect he was accorded in international matters which otherwise frequently eluded him at home.
Reagan, on the other hand, was detached and had no interest in the decisions made by his staff. The Iran-Contra affair, which involved the sale of arms as detailed, cost him dearly in loss of public confidence and respect which he had worked too hard to cultivate. In addition, although Reagan is credited with ending the Cold War, his handling of the matter is disputable.
In light of the then deteriorating Soviet economy and the election of Gorbachev, who was bent on implementing market reforms, his Star Wars Defense Initiative and the continued hostile stance has stood out enigmatically as a depiction of poor foreign policy knowledge. Although there was no resultant real damage, his inflammatory stance and unnecessary comments had a potential of straining the already improving relations or creating a total stand-off up to the point of war though this stance has been viewed as a major factor that worked in favor of Gorbachev in convincing his government to start disarmament, as argued by Wildavsky, “outspoken moral rejection of the Soviet system and a confident affirmation of democratic capitalism by an American President may have helped the Soviets face up to their inability to justify their dictatorial communism.” (Wildavsky 1994, p. 233)
George Bush Senior is credited with having steered the world through a period that would have resulted in a third world war. His legacy cannot be fully and completely mentioned since there is no guarantee that any other president would have steadily influenced and bargained for world peace in such a conciliatory ‘guardian’ leadership style that saw the end of communism while avoiding all possible hazards.
Bush’s foreign policy in Central America depicted him as a capable military leader and a great diplomat which greatly overshadows his predecessor’s poor foreign policy. The capture of the Panama dictator, General Noriega, in 1989 boosted his popularity. A mixed demonstration of the power of negotiation, and in the extreme cases, the use of force, which was also explicitly evidenced in dealings with the then East Germany and the Soviet Union, clearly proved his superiority in the international arena. As Mervin has it, “(Bush’s foreign policy) is not easy to fault.” (Mervin 1996, p. 9)
War in the Gulf
The 1990 Persian Gulf War served as the defining moment of the Bush presidency. Having successfully liberated Kuwait, popularity ratings rose to 89 percent, the greatest a United States president is known to have ever enjoyed. George Bush directly identified the bigger security threat Iraq posed to the United States as opposed to how feuds should be solved between independent parties. Although Bush was particularly known to be lacking in eloquence and big speeches in comparison to Reagan, he was not completely lacking, which was evidenced in the Iraqi-Kuwait War although he felt that having been elected by the majority, he was not to degrade himself into explaining every move but rather the populace should trust his sound judgment and await positive results.
George Bush attitude was surely what cost him his re-election bid. He disliked using the media to convey what he was doing and instead relied on a blind faith that the electorate would trust him from the results. Further, he disliked having to campaign avidly for his re-election bid believing that the voters would vote for him given his record so far. It seemed far-fetched and inconceivable that he would not be elected, having had an all-time high popularity rating in the previous year. Rather than seize the tremendous popularity status he was enjoying at the time and influence the congress so as to instill more effective changes in the domestic sphere, he let the opportunity slip. Although Mervin feels a president should be judged not by some universal standard but rather by the accomplishment of the set goals in the agenda, decisive action cannot be overlooked as compulsory if any president is to wield and retain power in a democratic government. A president should center on identifying the chief needs of his country rather than shrinking from them if their interests and agenda are to be implemented and achieve tangible results which can be appreciated by the citizens.
On a very simplistic basis, the differences between Reagan and Bush can be painted as exact opposites. Reagan was content in knowing the basics of any theory and preferred to delegate such tasks while Bush avoided all press coverage but was painstakingly intimate on detail regarding any policy his government was working on. Bush cultivated a relationship with most persons on Capitol Hill but was unable to convert this to a sound capital base through which he could influence Congress while Reagan’s administration thrived on coercing and bargaining with Congress members so as to pass short-term policies.
Reagan is however criticized for making multiple blunders on the international arena which Bush is much accredited for. Bush had the highest ever popularity rating but failed to transform this to a successful re-election failure mainly due to his failure in playing the media game. Reagan, on the other hand, gave the press something to write about every day, thereby gaining media favors.
With today’s media-savvy electorate, a president must successfully handle the media or else risk losing his or her popularity. This is since detractors can easily define his or her achievements in a different approach altogether. As Rozell states, "there is no more compelling evidence of the substantive necessity of presidential rhetoric and symbolism than the vast disconnect between what people close to Bush perceive about the man and what much of the public ultimately believed".
Reagan not only managed in bringing about an overwhelming change in the domestic policy but also managed to establish a powerful connection to the electorate via the media. This not only served to earn him respect and a fond memory in the hearts of most United States citizens after he left office but also enabled him to achieve what he desired whilst in office. Where Bush could have easily been depicted as the better president if only he had the requisite media handling techniques, Reagan came out of office succinctly more successful than his successor.