Former President George H.W. Bush dies at age 94

HOUSTON (AP) — George H.W. Bush, a patrician New Englander whose presidency soared with the coalition victory over Iraq in Kuwait, but then plummeted in the throes of a weak economy that led voters to turn him out of office after a single term, has died. He was 94.

The World War II hero, who also presided during the collapse of the Soviet Union and the final months of the Cold War, died late Friday night, said family spokesman Jim McGrath. His wife of more than 70 years, Barbara Bush, died in April 2018.

The son of a senator and father of a president, Bush was the man with the golden resume who rose through the political ranks: from congressman to U.N. ambassador, Republican Party chairman to envoy to China, CIA director to two-term vice president under the hugely popular Ronald Reagan. The 1991 Gulf War stoked his popularity. But Bush would acknowledge that he had trouble articulating "the vision thing," and he was haunted by his decision to break a stern, solemn vow he made to voters: "Read my lips. No new taxes."

He lost his bid for re-election to Bill Clinton in a campaign in which businessman H. Ross Perot took almost 19 percent of the vote as an independent candidate. Still, he lived to see his son, George W., twice elected to the presidency — only the second father-and-son chief executives, following John Adams and John Quincy Adams.

The 43rd president issued a statement Friday following his father's death, saying the elder Bush "was a man of the highest character."

"The entire Bush family is deeply grateful for 41's life and love, for the compassion of those who have cared and prayed for Dad," the statement read.

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George W. Bush and George H.W. Bush (41 and 43)
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George W. Bush and George H.W. Bush (41 and 43)
President George H. W. Bush and family
Former US President George H. W. Bush shakes hands with his son, former US President George W. Bush's, during a dedication ceremony at the George W. Bush Library and Museum on the grounds of Southern Methodist University on April 25, 2013 in Dallas, Texas. The Bush library is dedicated to chronicling the presidency of the United State's 43rd President, George W. Bush. AFP PHOTO/Brendan SMIALOWSKI (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
ARLINGTON, TX - OCTOBER 31: Former President of the United States, George W. Bush, throws out the first pitch as his father Former President George H.W. Bush looks on before the Texas Rangers host the San Francisco Giants in Game Four of the 2010 MLB World Series at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington on October 31, 2010 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
ARLINGTON, TX - OCTOBER 31: Former President of the United States, George W. Bush, embraces his father Former President George H.W. Bush after throwing out the first pitch before the Texas Rangers host the San Francisco Giants in Game Four of the 2010 MLB World Series at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington on October 31, 2010 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Former presidents George H.W. Bush, left, and George W. Bush share a laugh during dedication ceremonies for the new George W. Bush Presidential Center in Dallas, Texas, Thursday, April 25, 2013. (Paul Moseley/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/MCT)
Former presidents George H.W. Bush, left, and George W. Bush look over the crowd at dedication ceremonies for the new George W. Bush Presidential Center in Dallas, Texas, Thursday, April 25, 2013. (Paul Moseley/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/MCT)
Houston, USA. 17th Nov, 2013. Former U.S. Presidents George W. Bush, left, and George H.W. Bush ride onto the field before a game between the Houston Texans and Oakland Raiders where they served as honorary team captains for the Texans on Sunday, Nov. 17, 2013, in Houston. Credit: George Bridges/MCT/Alamy Live News
ARLINGTON, TX - OCTOBER 31: Former President of the United States, George W. Bush, throws out the first pitch as his father Former President George H.W. Bush looks on before the Texas Rangers host the San Francisco Giants in Game Four of the 2010 MLB World Series at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington on October 31, 2010 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
US President George W. Bush (L) waves as he walks out of the Oval Office with his father, former President George H. W. Bush, after Bush signed the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 at the White House in Washington, DC, September 25, 2008. The “ADA Amendments Act” will help ensure that individuals with disabilities – including people with diabetes, epilepsy, and cancer – qualify for protection under the ADA and obtain reasonable accommodations. AFP PHOTO/Jim WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
US President George W. Bush (C) looks back towards photogrpahers as he walks out of the Oval Office with his father, former President George H. W. Bush, after Bush signed S. 3406, the ADA Amendments Act of 2008, at the White House in Washington, DC, on September 25, 2008. AFP PHOTO/Jim WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
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After his 1992 defeat, George H.W. Bush complained that media-created "myths" gave voters a mistaken impression that he did not identify with the lives of ordinary Americans. He decided he lost because he "just wasn't a good enough communicator."

Once out of office, Bush was content to remain on the sidelines, except for an occasional speech or paid appearance and visits abroad. He backed Clinton on the North American Free Trade Agreement, which had its genesis during his own presidency. He visited the Middle East, where he was revered for his defense of Kuwait. And he returned to China, where he was welcomed as "an old friend" from his days as the U.S. ambassador there.

He later teamed with Clinton to raise tens of millions of dollars for victims of a 2004 tsunami in the Indian Ocean and Hurricane Katrina, which swamped New Orleans and the Gulf Coast in 2005. During their wide-ranging travels, the political odd couple grew close.

"Who would have thought that I would be working with Bill Clinton, of all people?" Bush quipped in October 2005.

In his post-presidency, Bush's popularity rebounded with the growth of his reputation as a fundamentally decent and well-meaning leader who, although he was not a stirring orator or a dreamy visionary, was a steadfast humanitarian. Elected officials and celebrities of both parties publicly expressed their fondness.

After Iraq invaded Kuwait in August 1990, Bush quickly began building an international military coalition that included other Arab states. After liberating Kuwait, he rejected suggestions that the U.S. carry the offensive to Baghdad, choosing to end the hostilities a mere 100 hours after the start of the ground war.

"That wasn't our objective," he told The Associated Press in 2011 from his office just a few blocks from his Houston home. "The good thing about it is there was so much less loss of human life than had been predicted and indeed than we might have feared."

But the decisive military defeat did not lead to the regime's downfall, as many in the administration had hoped.

"I miscalculated," acknowledged Bush. His legacy was dogged for years by doubts about the decision not to remove Saddam Hussein. The Iraqi leader was eventually ousted in 2003, in the war led by Bush's son that was followed by a long, bloody insurgency.

George H.W. Bush entered the White House in 1989 with a reputation as a man of indecision and indeterminate views. One newsmagazine suggested he was a "wimp."

But his work-hard, play-hard approach to the presidency won broad public approval. He held more news conferences in most months than Reagan did in most years.

50 PHOTOS
George H.W. Bush through the years
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George H.W. Bush through the years
View of US Representative to the United Nations (and future US President) George HW Bush during a press conference, New York, New York, 1971. (Photo by PhotoQuest/Getty Images)
George H. W. Bush standing in front of a 'Yale Fence' in his baseball uniform at Yale University, circa 1945-48. (George Bush Presidential Library/MCT via Getty Images)
United States Ambassador to the United Nations (and future US President) George HW Bush golfs with his wife (and future First Lady), Barbara Bush (nee Pierce), Washington DC, October 1971. (Photo by Leonard McCombe/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)
Washington, DC. December 1989 President George H.W. Bush gestures to reporters in the Rose Garden. Credit: Mark Reinstein (Photo by Mark Reinstein/Corbis via Getty Images)
George H.W. Bush, Andover Philips Academy Year Book in 1964. (Photo by Brooks Kraft LLC/Sygma via Getty Images)
View of US Representative to the United Nations (and future US President) George HW Bush during a press conference, New York, New York, 1971. (Photo by PhotoQuest/Getty Images)
George Bush was captain of championship Yale baseball team, while completing college in 2-1/2 years after war service, Phi Beta Kappa, Economics, in 1948. (George Bush Presidential Library/MCT via Getty Images)
Unspecified - 1975: George HW Bush on ABC's 'Issues and Answers' program. (Photo by ABC via Getty Images)
BEIJING, HEBEI, CHINA - 1975/05/01: Left to Right: Ted Castaneda, US 5K runner, George H.W. Bush, Chief of the U.S. Liaison Office in the People's Republic of China, speaks with Milt Richmond, journalist at the Track Stadium in Beijing, China in May 1975. The Chinese invited the US Track team to compete in 1975 in preparation for the 1976 Olympics held in Montreal. It was seen as a historic opening up of relations for communist China. (Photo by John J Boitano/Stephen J. Boitano/LightRocket via Getty Images)
GRAND RAPIDS, MI - APRIL 16: (NO U.S. TABLOID SALES) (L-R) Lady Bird Johnson, President George H.W. Bush, Barbara Bush, President Gerald R. Ford, Betty Ford, President Jimmy Carter, and Rosalyn Carter pose for a formal group portrait at the Gerald R. Ford Library re-dedication on April 16, 1997 in Grand Rapids, Michigan. (Photo by David Hume Kennerly/Getty Images)
During his campaign for the Republican Presidential nomination, American politician (and future US President) George HW Bush stands beside an open car door, Iowa, January 1980. (Photo Robert R. McElroy/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 1981: Vice President George H.W. Bush explaining the new post of 'Crisis Manager' to the press in March 1981 in Washington, DC. (Photo by David Hume Kennerly/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC -- FEBRUARY 23: President Ronald Reagan (R) walks with Vice President George H.W. Bush as the President arrive at the Vice President's residence on February 23, 1981 in Washington, DC. President Reagan and First Lady Nancy Reagan were visiting the Vice President's residence for the first time. (Photo by David Hume Kennerly/Getty Images)
Detroit, MI - 1980: (L-R) Barbara Bush, George HW Bush, Ronald Reagan, Nancy Reagan at 1980 Republican National Convention from Joe Louis Arena, in Detroit, MI. (Photo by ABC via Getty Images)
American politician (and future US President) George HW Bush speaks at an event during his campaign for the Republican Presidential nomination, Iowa, January 1980. His wife, future First Lady Barbara Bush, stands beside him. (Photo Robert R. McElroy/Getty Images)
Harnessed to Staff Sergeant Bryan Schell of United States Army Golden Knights, former US President George HW Bush (center, bottom) parachutes in celebration of his 80th birthday, outside Houston, Texas, June 13, 2004. The jump was performed near the Bush Presidential Library and was his fifth. (Photo by US Army via CNP/Getty Images)
During his campaign for the Republican Presidential nomination, American politician George HW Bush (left) speaks with journalist Stryker McGuire on a airplane during a flight, January 21, 1980. (Photo Robert R. McElroy/Getty Images)
KENNEBUNKPORT, ME - JULY 19: George HW Bush and his wife, Barbara Bush, greets supporters along Ocean Avenue in Kennebunkport, Maine on July 19, 1980. Bush is campaigning for the Republican presidential nomination. (Photo by Janet Knott/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC -- CIRCA 1983: U.S. Vice President George H.W. Bush and Mrs. Barbara Bush at the Vice President's residence circa 1983 in in Washington, DC. (Photo by David Hume Kennerly/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC -- CIRCA 1986: U.S. Vice President George H.W. Bush circa 1986 in in Washington, DC. (Photo by David Hume Kennerly/Getty Images)
Vice President George H.W. Bush (R), during re-enactment of Senate Swear- In. (Photo by Cynthia Johnson/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images)
American politician and US President Ronald Reagan (1911 - 2004) (right) and Vice President (and future President) George HW Bush relax together on Reagan's ranch, Santa Barbara, California, August 7, 1984. (Photo Robert R. McElroy/Getty Images)
Washington, DC. 6-25-1984 Vice-President George H.W. Bush and his wife Barbara Bush attend a fish fry on the South Lawn of the White House. Credit: Mark Reinstein (Photo by Mark Reinstein/Corbis via Getty Images)
President George H.W. Bush and Barbara Bush 1990. (Photo by Pete Souza/ABC via Getty Images)
ARLINGTON, TX - APRIL 3: George H.W. Bush throws out the first pitch before the Texas Rangers Opening Day game against the Chicago White Sox at The Ballpark in Arlington on April 3, 2000 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
HOUSTON -- JUNE 10: Laura Bush, Texas Governor George W Bush, George HW Bush and former First Lady Barbara Bush at the Astrodome during part of the gala event celebrating the former president's 75th birthday in Houston, Texas on June 10, 1999. (Photo by David Hume Kennerly/Getty Images)
Former Presidents George HW Bush, Jimmy Carter, and Gerald Ford at a memorial service for King Hussein held at the American Embassy, Amman, Jordan, February 8, 1999. (Photo by David Hume Kennerly/Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS - DECEMBER 7: Former U.S. Presidents Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush speak at the University of New Orleans campus December 7, 2005 in New Orleans, Louisiana. Former U.S. Presidents Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush, along with Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco, announced how the Bush-Clinton Katrina Fund would be dispersed. Grants worth $30 million would go to Gulf region higher education institutions devastated by Hurricane Katrina, $20 million in grants would go to a ministerial partnership with local and regional faith-based organizations and $40 million would be divided among the three states of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama for their recovery and relief funds. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
BEIJING, CHINA - NOVEMBER 15: (CHINA OUT) Former U.S. President George H.W. Bush speaks with post-surgery patients of Smile Train during a ceremony to launch the charity's new project on November 15, 2005 in Beijing, China. Free cleft lip surgery and related treatment provided by Smile Train, a non-profit organization, has helped many poor children in China. (Photo by China Photos/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - SEPTEMBER 02: Former U.S. President George H.W. Bush, left, and his wife Barbara, acknowledge the audience on day two of the Republican National Convention (RNC) at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minnesota, U.S., on Tuesday, Sept. 2, 2008. The RNC will run until Sept. 4. (Photo by Joshua Roberts/Bloomberg via Getty Images)
ST. PAUL, MN - SEPTEMBER 02: Former U.S. President George H.W. Bush attends day two of the Republican National Convention (RNC) at the Xcel Energy Center on September 2, 2008 in St. Paul, Minnesota. The GOP will nominate U.S. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) as the Republican choice for U.S. President on the last day of the convention. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Buddy Peterson, left, Louisville, shook hands with former President George H.W. Bush near the 10th green at the 37th Ryder Cup at Valhalla Golf Cub on Friday, September 19, 2008, in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by David Perry/Lexington Herald-Leader/MCT via Getty Images)
Former President Bill Clinton (L), former President George H.W. Bush and his wife Barbara Bush stand for the National Anthem at the Points of Light Institute Tribute to Former President George H.W. Bush at The John F. Kennedy Center for Performing Arts on March 21, 2011 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Paul Morigi/WireImage)
HOUSTON - APRIL 08: Brad Mills, manager of the Houston Astros greets former US President George H.W. Bush at Minute Maid Park on April 8, 2011 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TX - APRIL 13: Former President George H.W. Bush watches a baseball game between the Chicago Cubs and the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park on April 13, 2011 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
KENNEBUNKPORT, ME - JUNE 12: (EDITORS NOTE: Retransmission with alternate crop.) Former first lady Barbara Bush greets her husband and former U.S. President George H.W. Bush with a kiss after his successful skydive down to St. Anne's Episcopal Church on June 12, 2014 in Kennebunkport, Maine. The President is celebrating his 90th birthday today. (Photo by Eric Shea/Getty Images)
COLLEGE STATION, TX - OCTOBER 21: (L-R) Former United States Presidents Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush, Barack Obama, George W. Bush, and Bill Clinton address the audience during the 'Deep from the Heart: The One America Appeal Concert' at Reed Arena on the campus of Texas A&M University on October 21, 2017 in College Station, Texas. (Photo by Rick Kern/Getty Images for Ford Motor Company)
U.S. first lady Barbara Bush is pictured with President George H.W. Bush durina a presidential vacation in Kennebunkport, Maine, U.S., in this undated photo. U.S.. Former U.S. first lady Barbara Bush, the wife of the 41st president, George H.W. Bush, and mother of the 43rd, George W. Bush died on April 17, 2018. She was 92. REUTERS/Rick Wilking
FILE PHOTO: Former U.S. President George H.W. Bush waves from the field before game five of the 2017 World Series between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Houston Astros in Houston, Texas, U.S. on October 29, 2017. REUTERS/David J. Phillip/Pool via USA TODAY Sports MANDATORY CREDIT
Former U.S. President George H.W. Bush participates in the coin toss ahead of the start of Super Bowl LI between the New England Patriots and the Atlanta Falcons as former first lady Barbara Bush looks on in Houston , Texas, U.S., February 5, 2017. REUTERS/Adrees Latif TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Mar 29, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; United States former president George H.W. Bush and wife Barbara Bush greet Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo , head coach Jason Garrett and tight end Jason Witten before the finals of the south regional of the 2015 NCAA Tournament between the Duke Blue Devils and Gonzaga Bulldogs at Reliant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
U.S. President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama are greeted by former President George H.W. Bush upon their arrival on Air Force One in Houston, Texas April 9, 2014. Obama is in Houston to attend two Democratic Party fund raisers. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS)
U.S. President Barack Obama and former President George H. W. Bush (R) applaud during an event to honor the winner of the 5,000th Daily Point of Light Award at the White House in Washington July 15, 2013. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS)
Former U.S. presidents George W. Bush (C) and his father George H.W. Bush laugh alongside former first ladies Laura Bush (R) and Barbara Bush (L) during the dedication ceremony for the George W. Bush Presidential Center in Dallas, April 25, 2013. Obama is in Texas to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with former president George W. Bush in what could serve as a powerful reminder of the ongoing struggle against terrorism, from the Sept. 11 attacks to the Boston Marathon bombings. REUTERS/Jason Reed (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS)
HOUSTON, TX - OCTOBER 29: Former United States Presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush prepare to throw out the ceremonial first pitch before in game five of the 2017 World Series at Minute Maid Park on October 29, 2017 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 15: Former President George H. W. Bush sits in a wheelchair during an event in the East Room at the White House, July 15, 2013 in Washington, DC. Bush joined President Obama in hosting the event to honor the 5,000th Daily Point of Light Award winner. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
Former U.S. President George H.W. Bush salutes as he departs the East Front of the U.S. Capitol Building after Barack Obama was sworn in as the 44th president of the United States in Washington January 20, 2009. Barack Obama took power as the first black U.S. president on Tuesday and quickly turned the page on the Bush years, urging Americans to rally to end the worst economic crisis in 70 years and repair the U.S. image abroad. REUTERS/Tannen Maury/Pool (UNITED STATES)
Former U.S. President George. H.W. Bush (C) smiles at his wife Barbara (L), as their son and former President George W. Bush (R) laughs, during the "All Together Now - A Celebration of Service" at the John F. Kennedy Center for Performing Arts in Washington March 21, 2011. REUTERS/Jim Young (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS ENTERTAINMENT IMAGES OF THE DAY)
Former U.S. President George H.W. Bush (R) watches as his son, former President George W. Bush, throws a ceremonial first pitch prior to the start of Game 4 of Major League Baseball's World Series between the San Francisco Giants and the Texas Rangers, in Arlington, Texas, October 31, 2010. REUTERS/Brian Snyder (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT BASEBALL IMAGES OF THE DAY)
Former U.S. President George H.W. Bush attends the funeral service for his wife, former first lady Barbara Bush, with his son the 43rd U.S. President George W. Bush at St. Martin's Episcopal Church in Houston, Texas, U.S., April 21, 2018. REUTERS/Richard Carson TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
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The Iraq crisis of 1990-91 brought out all the skills Bush had honed in a quarter-century of politics and public service.

After winning United Nations support and a green light from a reluctant Congress, Bush unleashed a punishing air war against Iraq and a five-day ground juggernaut that sent Iraqi forces reeling in disarray back to Baghdad. He basked in the biggest outpouring of patriotism and pride in America's military since World War II, and his approval ratings soared to nearly 90 percent.

The other battles he fought as president, including a war on drugs and a crusade to make American children the best educated in the world, were not so decisively won.

He rode into office pledging to make the United States a "kinder, gentler" nation and calling on Americans to volunteer their time for good causes — an effort he said would create "a thousand points of light."

It was Bush's violation of a different pledge, the no-new-taxes promise, that helped sink his bid for a second term. He abandoned the idea in his second year, cutting a deficit-reduction deal that angered many congressional Republicans and contributed to GOP losses in the 1990 midterm elections.

An avid outdoorsman who took Theodore Roosevelt as a model, Bush sought to safeguard the environment and signed the first improvements to the Clean Air Act in more than a decade. It was activism with a Republican cast, allowing polluters to buy others' clean-air credits and giving industry flexibility on how to meet tougher goals on smog.

He also signed the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act to ban workplace discrimination against people with disabilities and require improved access to public places and transportation.

Bush failed to rein in the deficit, which had tripled to $3 trillion under Reagan and galloped ahead by as much as $300 billion a year under Bush, who put his finger on it in his inauguration speech: "We have more will than wallet."

Seven years of economic growth ended in mid-1990, just as the Gulf crisis began to unfold. Bush insisted the recession would be "short and shallow," and lawmakers did not even try to pass a jobs bill or other relief measures.

Bush's true interests lay elsewhere, outside the realm of nettlesome domestic politics. "I love coping with the problems in foreign affairs," he told a child who asked what he liked best about being president.

He operated at times like a one-man State Department, on the phone at dawn with his peers — Mikhail Gorbachev of the Soviet Union, Francois Mitterrand of France, Germany's Helmut Kohl.

Communism began to crumble on his watch, with the Berlin Wall coming down, the Warsaw Pact disintegrating and the Soviet satellites falling out of orbit.

He seized leadership of the NATO alliance with a bold and ultimately successful proposal for deep troop and tank cuts in Europe. Huge crowds cheered him on a triumphal tour through Poland and Hungary.

Bush's invasion of Panama in December 1989 was a military precursor of the Gulf War: a quick operation with a resoundingly superior American force. But in Panama, the troops seized dictator Manuel Noriega and brought him back to the United States in chains to stand trial on drug-trafficking charges.

Months after the Gulf War, Washington became engrossed in a different sort of confrontation over one of Bush's nominees to the Supreme Court. Clarence Thomas, a little-known federal appeals court judge, was accused of sexual harassment by a former colleague named Anita Hill. His confirmation hearings exploded into a national spectacle, sparking an intense debate over race, gender and the modern workplace. Thomas was eventually confirmed.

In the closing days of the 1992 campaign, Bush fought the impression that he was distant and disconnected, and he seemed to struggle against the younger, more empathetic Clinton.

During a campaign visit to a grocers' convention, Bush reportedly expressed amazement when shown an electronic checkout scanner. Critics seized on the moment, saying it indicated that the president had become disconnected from voters.

Later at a town-hall style debate, he paused to look at his wristwatch — a seemingly innocent glance that became freighted with deeper meaning because it seemed to reinforce the idea of a bored, impatient incumbent.

In the same debate, Bush became confused by a woman's question about whether the deficit had affected him personally. Clinton, with apparent ease, left his seat, walked to the edge of the stage to address the woman and offered a sympathetic answer.

Bush said the pain of losing in 1992 was eased by the warm reception he received after leaving office.

"I lost in '92 because people still thought the economy was in the tank, that I was out of touch and I didn't understand that," he said in an AP interview shortly before the dedication of his presidential library in 1997. "The economy wasn't in the tank, and I wasn't out of touch, but I lost. I couldn't get through this hue and cry for 'change, change, change' and 'The economy is horrible, still in recession.'

George Herbert Walker Bush was born June 12, 1924, in Milton, Massachusetts, into the New England elite, a world of prep schools, mansions and servants seemingly untouched by the Great Depression.

His father, Prescott Bush, the son of an Ohio steel magnate, made his fortune as an investment banker and later served 10 years as a senator from Connecticut.

George H.W. Bush enlisted in the Navy on his 18th birthday in 1942, right out of prep school. He returned home to marry his 19-year-old sweetheart, Barbara Pierce, daughter of the publisher of McCall's magazine, in January 1945. They were the longest-married presidential couple in U.S. history. She died on April 17, 2018.

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Barbara and George H.W. Bush through the years
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Barbara and George H.W. Bush through the years

Pres. George Bush and First Lady Barbara (in sunglasses) riding in their Cigarette boat Fidelty w. an unident. man.

(Photo by Susan Biddle/White House/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)

George and Barbara Bush with their four boys: George W., Neil, Jeb and Marvin.

(Photo by Robert Daemmrich Photography Inc/Sygma via Getty Images)

George Herbert Walker Bush poses with his wife Barbara during his campaign for Congress in the 1960's. Born 12 June 1924 in Milton, Massachussetts, George Bush Yale graduated with a degree in Economics in 1948, made a fortune drilling oil before entering politics in 1964. US Congressman from Texas (1966-1970), ambassador to the United nations (1971-1974), Special Envoy to China (1974-1975), Republican National Chairman (1975-1976), Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) director (1976-1977), vice president of the US (1981-1959) George Bush is eventually elected president of the US 08 November 1988 against Democratic nominee Michael Dukakis.

(AFP/Getty Images)

George Herbert Walker Bush poses with his wife Barbara in Beijing in 1974. Born 12 June 1924 in Milton, Massachussetts, George Bush Yale graduated with a degree in Economics in 1948, made a fortune drilling oil before entering politics in 1964. US Congressman from Texas (1966-1970), ambassador to the United nations (1971-1974), Special Envoy to China (1974-1975), Republican National Chairman (1975-1976), Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) director (1976-1977), vice president of the US (1981-1959) George Bush is eventually elected president of the US 08 November 1988 against Democratic nominee Michael Dukakis.

(AFP/Getty Images)

President Gerald R. Ford and Barbara Bush watch as Justice Potter Stewart swears in George H.W. Bush as the new Director of the CIA, at CIA HQ in Langley, Virginia, January 26, 1976. The outgoing Director William Colby is at the left in the background.

(Photo by David Hume Kennerly/Getty Images)

Republican Presidential candidate George Bush, wearing a t-shirt referencing his son George W. Bush, stands with his wife Barbara November 1978 in Texas, USA. Bush is campaigning for the presidential primary elections.

(Photo by Dirck Halstead/Liaison)

Republican Presidential candidate George Bush looks at his wife Barbara November 1, 1978 in Hoston, TX. Bush is campaigning for the presidential primary elections.

(Photo by Dirck Halstead/Liaison)

Vice President George Bush and his wife Barbara attend the 1988 Republican National Convention in New Orleans. Bush won the 1988 United States presidential election over democratic challenger Michael Dukakis.

(Shepard Sherbell/CORBIS SABA/Corbis via Getty Images)

Barbara Bush stands with Vice President George Bush, who is holding their grandchild during the 1988 Republican National Convention in New Orleans, Louisiana.

(Shepard Sherbell/CORBIS SABA/Corbis via Getty Images)

Pres. & signature pearls wearing Barbara Bush interacting affectionately during awards ceremony in WH East Rm.

(Photo by Dirck Halstead/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images)

President George H.W. Bush and First Lady Barbara Bush stand at the South Portico of the White House awaiting the arrival of Diplomatic guest.

(Photo by Mark Reinstein/Corbis via Getty Images)

Pres. & Barbara Bush waving before boarding pres. plane, leaving Italy.

(Photo by Dirck Halstead/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images)

President George Bush and Barbara Bush during Chris Evert Celebrity Tennis Classic at Boca Raton Resort & Club in Boca Raton, Florida, United States.

(Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage)

George H.W. Bush and his wife Barbara celebrate with George W. Bush and his wife Laura, after the networks declared George W. Bush the winner of the US presidential election.

(Photo by Brooks Kraft LLC/Sygma via Getty Images)

Former U.S. President George H.W. Bush and former first lady Barbara Bush attend a portrait unveiling at the George Bush Library April 21, 2003 in College Station, Texas. A painting of the father/son presidents went on display.

(Photo by Joe Mitchell/Getty Images)

Barbara Bush and her husband 41st President George H Bush watch Andy Roddick play Rainer Schuettler of Germany during the Tennis Masters Cup November 13, 2003 at the Westside Tennis Club in Houston, Texas.

(Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

Former First Lady Barbara Bush, right, and another person react shortly after former President George H. W. Bush received a lapel pin referencing director Michael Moore on the second day of the Republican National Convention in New York, August 31, 2004.

(Photo by Dennis Brack/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

American politician (and future US President) George HW Bush speaks at an event during his campaign for the Republican Presidential nomination, Iowa, January 1980. His wife, future First Lady Barbara Bush, stands beside him.

(Photo Robert R. McElroy/Getty Images)

Former US President George H.W. Bush (L) with wife, former First Lady Barbara Bush, and grand-daughters Barbara (L) and Jenna, wave as they walk through the Rotunda on Capitol Hill 20 January, 2005. With a pledge to battle terrorism and promote democracy around the world, US President George W. Bush was to launch his new term today under an unprecedented security blanket and a dusting of snow. Bush, 58, was to be sworn in outside the US Capitol at noon (1700 GMT), in the 55th US presidential swearing-in and the first since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks that transformed his time in office.

(ROBERT SULLIVAN/AFP/Getty Images)

Barbara Bush (L) wipes water off the shoulder of her husband former US president George Bush (R) during the inauguration of the William J. Clinton Presidential Center in Little Rock, Arkansas, 18 November 2004. Constant rain fell during the opening ceremony of the center which contains some 76.8 million pages of paper documents, 1.85 million photographs and over 75,000 museum artifacts from Clinton's eight years in the White House.

(ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images)

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Pictured: (l-r) U.S. Vice President George Bush, Second Lady Barbara Bush during the first inauguration of President Ronald Reagan on January 20, 1981 in Washington D.C.

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Vice President George Bush stands with his wife Barbara August 1983 in Kennebunkport, ME. Bush is vacationing in Maine with his family.

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Former President George H.W. Bush reacts alongside Barbara Bush as their son, President George W. Bush delivers the commencement address during the Texas A&M University graduation ceremony at Reed Arena in College Station, Texas, on December 12, 2008.

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Former President George H.W. Byush and Mrs. Barbara Bush
 

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Former US president George H.W. Bush and his wife Barbara arrive for the inauguration of Barack Obama as the 44th US president at the Capitol in Washington on January 20, 2009.

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Former US president George H.W. Bush (C) and his wife Barbara (L) step off Air Force One with their grandaughter Barbara (R), the daughter of US President George W. Bush, step off Air Force One May 11, 2008 upon arrival at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland. US President George W. Bush and his family were returning to Washington, DC after attending the wedding of his daughter Jenna at his Crawford, Texas ranch.

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US President George W. Bush (R), his mother Barbara Bush (2R), former President George H. W. Bush (C), First Lady Laura Bush (3L) and her mother Jenna Welch (2r) wave as they arrive at Fort Hood, Texas, for Easter Service 08 April 2007.

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Former first lady Barbara Bush waives to friends as former President George H.W. Bush, right, and former Secretary of State James A. Baker III look on during a baseball game between the Chicago Cubs and the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park on April 13, 2011 in Houston, Texas.

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Former President George H.W. Bush and wife Barbara watch the game between the Colorado Rockies and the Houston Astros on Opening Day at Minute Maid Park on April 6, 2012 in Houston, Texas.

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Film Subject President George H.W. Bush and his wife, Mrs. Barbara Bush attend the HBO Documentary special screening of '41' on June 12, 2012 in Kennebunkport, Maine.

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From left US President Barack Obama, former first lady Barbara Bush, former US President George H. W. Bush and former US President George W. Bush say an opening prayer during a dedication ceremony at the George W. Bush Library and Museum on the grounds of Southern Methodist University April 25, 2013 in Dallas, Texas. The Bush library, which is located on the campus of Southern Methodist University, with more than 70 million pages of paper records, 43,000 artifacts, 200 million emails and four million digital photographs, will be opened to the public on May 1, 2013.

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Former President George H.W. Bush and Former First Lady Barbara Bush meet with Andrea Bocelli and wife Veronica Bocelli before his concert at Toyota Center on December 11, 2016 in Houston, Texas.

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Former President George H.W. Bush (R) and former First Lady Barbara Bush give the thumbs-up from inside the presidential viewing stand overlooking Pennsylania Avenue during the Inaugural Parade 20 January 2005 in Washington, DC. In the 55th US presidential inauguration and the first since the September 11, 2001 attacks, Bush solemnly took the oath of office and declared that defeating terrorism required embracing a global mission to foment democracy.

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Former First Lady Barbara Bush and former President George H.W. Bush look on during a game between the Gonzaga Bulldogs and the Duke Blue Devils during the South Regional Final of the 2015 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at NRG Stadium on March 29, 2015 in Houston, Texas. Duke won 66-52.

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Former President George H.W. Bush and former First Lady Barbara Bush are introduced prior to game three of the American League Division Series between the Houston Astros and the Kansas City Royals at Minute Maid Park on October 11, 2015 in Houston, Texas.

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Lean and athletic at 6-foot-2, Bush became a war hero while still a teenager. One of the youngest pilots in the Navy, he flew 58 missions off the carrier USS San Jacinto.

He had to ditch one plane in the Pacific and was shot down on Sept. 2, 1944, while completing a bombing run against a Japanese radio tower. An American submarine rescued Bush. His two crewmates perished. He received the Distinguished Flying Cross for bravery.

After the war, Bush took just 2½ years to graduate from Yale, then headed west in 1948 to the oil fields of West Texas. Bush and partners helped found Zapata Petroleum Corp. in 1953. Six years later, he moved to Houston and became active in the Republican Party.

In politics, he showed the same commitment he displayed in business, advancing his career through loyalty and subservience.

He was first elected to Congress in 1966 and served two terms. President Richard Nixon appointed him ambassador to the United Nations, and after the 1972 election, named him chairman of the Republican National Committee. Bush struggled to hold the party together as Watergate destroyed the Nixon presidency, then became ambassador to China and CIA chief in the Ford administration.

Bush made his first bid for president in 1980 and won the Iowa caucuses, but Reagan went on to win the nomination.

In the 1988 presidential race, Bush trailed the Democratic nominee, Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis, by as many as 17 points that summer. He did little to help himself by picking Dan Quayle, a lightly regarded junior senator from Indiana, as a running mate.

But Bush soon became an aggressor, stressing patriotic themes and flailing Dukakis as an out-of-touch liberal. He carried 40 states, becoming the first sitting vice president to be elected president since Martin Van Buren in 1836.

He took office with the humility that was his hallmark.

"Some see leadership as high drama, and the sound of trumpets calling, and sometimes it is that," he said at his inauguration. "But I see history as a book with many pages, and each day we fill a page with acts of hopefulness and meaning. The new breeze blows, a page turns, the story unfolds."

Bush approached old age with gusto, celebrating his 75th and 80th birthdays by skydiving over College Station, Texas, the home of his presidential library. He did it again on his 85th birthday in 2009, parachuting near his oceanfront home in Kennebunkport, Maine. He used his presidential library at Texas A&M University as a base for keeping active in civic life.

He became the patriarch of one of the nation's most prominent political families. In addition to George W. becoming president, another son, Jeb, was elected Florida governor in 1998 and made an unsuccessful run for the GOP presidential nomination in 2016.

The other Bush children are sons Neil and Marvin and daughter Dorothy Bush LeBlond. Another daughter, Robin, died of leukemia in 1953, a few weeks before her fourth birthday.

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See AP's complete coverage of George H.W. Bush here: https://www.apnews.com/tag/GeorgeHWBush

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Graczyk retired from the AP in July 2018, after a 45-year career with the news service.

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