George H.W. Bush remembered by the SWFL community

Reporter: Chris Cifatte
Published: Updated:
FILE – In this Nov. 8, 1988 file photo, President-elect George H.W. Bush and his wife Barbara wave to supporters in Houston, Texas after winning the presidential election. Bush has died at age 94. Family spokesman Jim McGrath says Bush died shortly after 10 p.m. Friday, Nov. 30, 2018, about eight months after the death of his wife, Barbara Bush. (AP Photo/Scott Applewhite, File)

If you have lived in Southwest Florida for awhile, you may know that the Bush family has been a big presence here, often vacationing at Boca Grande.

The 41st president of the United States whose long life in the public sphere was defined by service to his country, died Friday at the age of 94. His wife of 73 years, Barbara Bush, died in April. 

MORE: Former US President George H.W. Bush dies at age 94

WINK News anchor Chris Cifatte sat down with retired CBS News correspondent Bob Orr, who covered President Bush for years, to discuss the deep connection his family has to our area.

“He was very personable, engaging, not stuffy,” Orr said.

Orr says the former president, also a former diplomat, congressman and head of the CIA often didn’t get the credit he deserved.

“I think George H.W. Bush suffered from being stuck between two very charismatic presidents. He had Ronald Reagan as his predecessor, and then he was followed by Bill Clinton. And both of those guys could walk in and fill a room,” said Orr.  “I think that does him a disservice. If you look back over all of his time in government service and as President, I think he’s going to be remembered for accomplishing a lot more than people give him credit for.”

He’ll also be remembered for his life after the White House.

Orr says he came out as more of a people person after his presidency, even parachuting at the age of 90.

And in Florida, he was a father to one of our most popular governors, Jeb Bush. The elder Bush was the founder of a political dynasty, but Orr says he never lost sight of who he was.

“He maintained his person when he was in office. He was easy to talk to, he was engaging.”

Through political successes like liberating Kuwait, which sent his approval ratings soaring, to losing his bid for re-election.

“He didn’t see that coming. When I talked to him in 1992 and he wanted to talk about foreign policy, which was his real love, and I kept saying to him, ‘but Mr. President- what about the economy? 7 in 10 people are worried about the economy,’ he just kind of brushed it off,” Orr said. “He wanted to talk about foreign policy. His loss in that election was almost predictable to many people. I think it surprised him. I think it hurt him deeply.”

A father, husband, grandfather, a part of our history and in a lot of ways part of our past: a politician respected by both sides of aisle.

“Of all the presidents I’ve come across, that’s about a half dozen that I’ve dealt with, in various capacities. He was my favorite.”

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