BUSH, GEORGE H.W. (1924-2018). Forty-first president of the United States and father of George W. Bush, the forty-third U.S. president. ALS. (“GB”). 2pp. Oblong 12mo. Washington, D.C., December 7, (1980). On his Washington stationery. To Senator DANIEL PATRICK “PAT” MOYNIHAN (1927-2003).
“Of course I recall you. You were the guy at the Ming Tombs, with your son John, saying Indira was in and China was out. John & I paid little heed. The Dome falling could make our moral plurality into an emasculated, debt-ridden minority. Pray when will we see you…”
After serving in the U.S. Navy, Bush, the son of a Connecticut Senator, entered the oil business, and became a millionaire by age 40. He was also a successful politician, representing Texas in the House of Representatives from 1967-1971. President Nixon appointed him U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations and under President Ford he served in a diplomatic position with China. Bush was CIA Director for one year before joining Ronald Reagan’s presidential ticket and served two terms as vice president. In 1988, he ran for president and defeated his Democratic rival Michael Dukakis. The Bush administration witnessed the collapse of the Soviet Union, the invasion of Panama, the Gulf War, and the signing of the North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). In 1992, Bush ran for reelection but was defeated by Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton.
Moynihan served the Kennedy and Johnson administrations as assistant secretary of labor until 1965. Following a failed bid for election to the New York City Council, Moynihan became director of the Harvard–MIT Joint Center for Urban Studies. Despite being a Democrat, he was selected by Richard Nixon to be his counselor on urban affairs, and in 1973, Nixon appointed him U.S. ambassador to India, the world’s largest democracy, in an effort to smooth over the two country’s sometimes fractious relationship. Moynihan served as President Ford’s ambassador to the United Nations where he was, among other things, an outspoken supporter of Israel. After leaving the Ford administration, Moynihan served as a senator from New York from 1977 to 2001.
“President George H.W. Bush… was a good friend from the Nixon years whom Moynihan wanted to support in any way he could. Moynihan had stayed with Bush in Beijing on the way back to the United States from India and – as Pat noted in his journal – Barbara Bush even did his laundry,” (Daniel Patrick Moynihan: A Portrait in Letters of an American Visionary, ed. Weisman). After a 1974 lunch with Bush in Washington, Moynihan wrote of him in his diary, “This one has real class. Real class and his own. He is nice to me.” Later, after staying with the Bushes in China the following year, he wrote, “They are quintessential gentle folk, who have lived most of their lives in oilfields, political conventions, and now Red China; a triumph of good manners and good digestion. It could have been a unruffled life. From Bones [Skull and Bones] down to Brown Bros. [the investment banking firm] and back, as it were, to New Canaan. He chose instead to do for himself what had already been done for him, with the ups and downs that takes,” and called him a “damn good Ambassador,” (ibid.). Later, because of their relationship, “Moynihan was emotionally and intellectually caught up in the fate of President George H.W. Bush, a political leader with whom he was friends but with whom he disagreed on his approach to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990,” (ibid.).
Bush’s remark about the “Dome falling” likely refers to the recent loss of a supermajority by the Democrats who lost control of the Senate in November 1980 as well as the presidency with Reagan’s defeat of Jimmy Carter, beginning the so-called conservative Reagan Revolution. Bush’s comment about the “moral Plurality” likely references Baptist Minister Jerry Falwell’s political lobby, the Moral Majority, which played no small role in Reagan’s election and the integration of Christian evangelical ideals into the Republican Party’s platform. Incidentally, Reagan’s supporters were suspicious of what they perceived to be Bush’s centrism and patrician New England roots. Bush also harkens back to their respective diplomatic postings in China and India. Our letter mentions Moynihan’s youngest child, John McCloskey Moynihan (1960-2004), author of the posthumously published, and well-received, The Voyage of the Rose City: An Adventure at Sea. “Indira” refers to Indira Gandhi (1917-1984), then the prime minister of India.
A friendly and humorous letter, written after Bush had been elected vice-president but prior to taking office. Written on the recto and verso of a blue-bordered correspondence card. With an ink date stamp to the right of the salutation. In very fine condition. [indexhistory]