Did George H.W. Bush leave a 'mess'?

Patrick Gaspar commented, on CNN, on Bill Clinton’s DNC speech. He said that Clinton and Obama are similar in that Clinton came in a cleaned up a ‘mess’ left by the previous administration.

Refresh my memory. Did GHW Bush leave a ‘mess’?

Even as a progressive liberal, I have to ackowledge:

Despite his pledge of ‘No new taxes’, he relented (reluctantly) to Democratic demands and did what was necessary to help the economy. He successfully prosecuted the Gulf War, and refused to go beyond the objective of freeing Kuwait by invading Iraq. (I’d rather not get into a debate about whether he should have.) I may not agree with his positions, but he is an intelligent person who acted responsibly within his beliefs.

How was I doing during his presidency? Pretty good, actually. I did better under Clinton, but I felt that jobs were more secure under GHW Bush than under his son’s administration, and I had enough money to fly and do other things.

Is it really fair to say that GHW Bush left a ‘mess’ that Clinton had to clean up?

He may have been referring to the aftermath of the first Gulf War. There are people on both sides of the aisle that believe the US should have pursued Iraq into submission at that point, but as you say, Bush I stuck with the plan and fought off attempts at scope creep. Some will point to that as a reason we had to go back there in the realm of Bush II - hence the “clean-up” phrase. Just a guess on my part, BTW.

Somalia was a bit of a mess - Bush sent the troops in at the very end of his administration, and Clinton got to deal with the impossible task of trying to bring stability to that failed state. I’m not saying Bush shouldn’t have gotten involved in the peacekeeping mission, but Clinton did end up paying the political cost for Bush the Elder’s call.

There was also the Savings and Loan mess. But that was really the fault of deregulation under Regan, rather than Bush.

If he did, Clinton did a much better job of cleaning up after it than Obama has.

He lied the country into a war that’s still bankrupting them. Then he bullied other nations into joining him. He endorsed torture, suspended habeus corpus, transformed Gitmo. He deregulated wall street till the world economy teetered on the brink of collapse. Failed to assist in the aftermath of Katrina.

Oh yeah. Big mess.

Such a big mess, no one, in his own party, dare say his name! He was not invited to the RNC.

Does it get louder or clearer? I don’t see how. If you can’t see it, you’re wearing blinders, in my opinion.

They are referring to the previous Bush. The one who wasn’t a blithering idiot.

The OP asked about GHW Bush, not GW Bush.

I’m asking about George H. W. Bush. Not George W. Bush.

Remember Clinton’s motto (internal to the campaign, but it leaked): It’s the economy, stupid. That is, in spite of GHW’s triumph over Saddam, the fact that the economy got bad around the end of his term was something that Clinton used against him to great effect.

I don’t think Clinton did that much to turn the economy around, he was the beneficiary of the internet bubble (which burst after he left office). He may have done some good things, he definitely did some things I disagreed with (aside from the whole blue dress fiasco). Essentially, in my view, his timing was very lucky in several different ways.

My bad.:o
My bad.:o
My bad.:o

Bush the first didn’t leave anywhere near the mess his son did.

You can’t get much worse than looming global economic collapse. I’d have to say Clinton was stretching the truth on this one. But if my short-term memory serves me, I believe he also said last night that no president has ever inherited a bigger mess than Obama did, so maybe it’s a comparative thing.

Yes. It was a bit of a mess, which was one of the reasons he lost to Clinton, but it is the difference between a room with a few books on the dresser and a teenager’s bedroom.

Interestingly, one of his problems during that campaign was being seen as being out of touch - for instance when he didn’t know how a supermarket UPC scanner worked. Still, he had been in high levels of public service for decades, and Romney is far more out of touch than he was.
He was also smart enough to see the consequences of a full out war in Iraq, he knew what voodoo economics was, and he put together a real, instead of a fake, coalition of the willing.

Note that the OP didn’t say that Clinton said he inherited a mess but that a CNN commentator said this.

He also successfully managed the collapse of the Soviet Union and its aftermath - that could have been botched in many, many exciting ways. George H.W. Bush wasn’t my favorite President, but he was thoroughly competent and professional; I wouldn’t want him in the White House again, but I wouldn’t be terribly upset about it.

Clinton was very lucky in terms of economic timing. There was a recession in 1991 that ended just before the presidential race got going. Since unemployment is a lagging indicator it peaked in June of 1992 and was going down the rest of the year. Economic numbers are always released several months after being collected so there was a lot of bad economic news during the presidential campaign even though we learned later that the economy was steadily improving the whole year of 1992 and the economy grew at 3.4% clip for the whole year. Bush had a huge problem because if he talked about how the economy was getting better he was painted as being out of touch. For example, the made up gaffe about the supermarket scanner.

One astoundingly subtle thing he did was authorize dropping the government restriction on GPS accuracy. I remembered it particularly because the company I worked for at the time* made a lot of money in military GPS units and the owners wrote several letters objecting strongly to the planned move.

The effect, though, was to make it so commercial interests could make their GPS units deliver results that showed the device’s location to better-than-a-football-field’s-distance accuracy. [Many have noticed with quite a bit of irritation that Verizon’s cell-tower triangulation method on their GPS-blocked phone is less accurate than that. Right now, my phone’s locator shows I’m about 2 blocks east of where I’m sitting]. When that restriction was dropped, everybody and their brother came out with devices for camping, hiking, biking, driving, flying, and boating to show you where you are and how to get to your destination. Then those devices got merged into cell phones, wrist watches, entertainment tablets, electronic books…

It was a subtle decision, but it spurred and changed many industries – with positive economic effects.

…I wanna know what that’s got to do
With what it takes to find out what’s true
When everyone from the President on down
is tryn’ to keep it from you.
. – Jackson Browne
. For America
. Lives in the Balance

*Did I post about them in the Worst Company You Ever Worked For thread?

GHWBush had nothing to do with the collapse of the Soviet Union. I believe he admits to that himself.

But Mr. Excellent is right in that GHWB managed the situation, responded diplomatically, and reacted to events, with remarkable deftness. Not perfect, of course; I could point to one or two things that were a bit clumsy. But Bush’s years of diplomacy paid off very well in that era.

(I was amused by his non-response to the request for recognition of the Baltic Republics. He said, in essence, “The U.S. has always recognized the Baltic Republics, so we don’t need to announce any policy change at this time.” A delightful example of finesse.)