Washington Secrets

George H.W. Bush upgraded to 'near-great' president

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Politics,Paul Bedard,Washington Secrets

He was booted from office in a three-way contest won by Bill Clinton in 1992, but former President George H.W. Bush is headed for "near-great" status based on his foreign policy successes, according to a presidential scholar who runs the LBJ library.

"You're seeing George H.W. Bush's reputation really burnished in history," said Mark K. Updegrove, director of the Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library. "We bounced him from office in 1992 in favor of Bill Clinton. I think he's going to be considered one of our near-great presidents, particularly in light of the foreign policy," added Updegrove, who is writing a book about the two Bush presidencies.

Bush, considered something of a forgotten president overshadowed by his son, former President George W. Bush, Ronald Reagan, for whom he served as vice president, and his no tax pledge flip-flop is seeing his reputation rehabilitated as the politics of his years is forgotten and his victory in the first Gulf War and management of the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

Updegrove joined the directors of other libraries at a recent seminar where he said it takes a decade or more for the impressions and histories of presidents to move from an emotional remembrance to colder and realistic analysis.

For example, when asked if the public could get an honest analysis of George W. Bush from the Texan's new museum, Updegrove said "I don't think that that's possible. I don't think while a president is alive, while they have some direction over their presidential library, that an objective view is possible. They are in some degree directing the content of that."

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