No president has ever lived longer than George Bush

George H.W. Bush turned 94 Tuesday, which is notable because not a single U.S. president has ever lived to be 94.

And soon, there might be two. Jimmy Carter turns 94 in October.

Presidents Ford and Reagan were 93 when they died.

Bush’s son, Neal, penned a tribute to his father in USA Today today.

“Long before he got involved in politics, my father was a volunteer — starting the United Negro College Fund on his college campus; helping to launch the YMCA in Midland, Texas; coaching an inner-city baseball team in Houston; and with my mother, starting the Bright Star Foundation to aid in leukemia research after my sister died.

After leaving the White House and well into retirement, Dad never quit giving back. Some of his proudest moments were when he partnered with President Clinton to raise money for tsunami and hurricane victims.”

So old school.

Here’s a piece I wrote four years ago today.

It’s amazing, really, how one word can dog a person. Newsweek applied the “W word” to former President George Bush in 1987. And people repeated it until it stuck for the same reason characterizations stick today in social media: People often believe what they’re told to believe, and much of politics is marketing.


Not a particularly popular president, and certainly one whose political strategies are fair game for questioning (See Atwater, Lee), George Bush nonetheless is the only living president who actually fought in a war, enlisting when he was 18. It wasn’t for show when he parachuted out of a burning plane during a battle in the South Pacific.

It’s a safe bet that the writers at Newsweek never did, but the word stuck anyway.

It took 24 years for the magazine to correct its characterization of the former president, which it did in 2011, reporting on Bush’s trip as vice president to confront the death squads of El Salvador.

Wimps don’t generally jump out of perfectly good aircraft on their 90th birthday.

A few years ago, in one of the last talk shows I ever did for MPR News, I interviewed Jon Meacham, whose biography of Bush was a best seller and for good reason.

I recall during the interview, I kept looking at the little screen that tells me who’s on the line and what question they want to ask, but there were none. “How could it be, nobody has a question about George Bush?” I kept thinking to myself. No matter, I was thrilled, actually, to not have to interrupt what a great conversation.

It was only later that I realized I had the screen for the previous hour up and people were stacked up to answer questions and none of them made it on the radio.

I’ve felt bad about that ever since. So… sorry.

  • >> It wasn’t for show when he parachuted out of a burning plane during a battle in the South Pacific.<<

    I may not have agreed on his policies or politics, but a "wimp" he was not.

  • chlost

    “…much of politics is marketing.”
    Oh, that was a window to the future of politics if I’ve ever seen one. Today, Politics=Marketing. Or propaganda, whichever term you prefer.
    Happy Birthday, Mr. President. I never thought much of you when you were in office. I appreciate you so much more today.

  • It is interesting that both Bush and Carter put a high value on service and were – and are still – articulate. Happiness, service to others, friendship, ability to communicate – all contribute to a long and healthy life. It puts me in mind of The Nun Study:

    Some of the participants no doubt were my teachers back in Mankato Catholic elementary and high school. (I’m not sure if the aggravation I caused them added to or subtracted from their longevity…!)

    • That was a big part of the interview with Meacham and also a big part of the Republicans in the old days before the East Coast Republicans lost their battle with the Goldwater Republicans. With privilege comes the responsibility to service.

      That’s no longer the case. Now it’s “you’re all on your own.”

  • Jim in RF

    I still remember Willie Horton. Bush didn’t invent it, but he didn’t say no to it either.

    • Lee Atwater was racist before racism was made “in” again