of George Herbert Walker Bush (2015)
Bush understood his role, and made sure that Reagan understood that he was ready to serve the President.
Even before November 1980 was over, the responsibilities of Bush as VP were basically set. First, Bush would have a scheduled weekly luncheon with Reagan, with no staff present, and no set agenda. Second, Bush was automatically invited to all Presidential meetings, and third, Bush was to receive copies of all memoranda going to the President. Lastly, VP Bush's office would be in the West Wing of the White House. And to make matters even better for Bush, his long-time friend and political confident, James Baker III, was Reagan's Chief-of-Staff . . . with Baker, Bush had a "Friend in Court".
Reagan came to trust Bush after the Republican National Convention in Detroit due to his hard work and loyalty, but also because it was clear that Bush in no way wanted to outshine the President. As a result, Reagan pushed hard to be sure that Bush was included in the "Inner Sanctum" as much as possible. During his first term, Reagan was an effective delegator, especially when he had his "Triumvirate", and Bush was discreet and conscientious.
Bush received advice from Carter's former Vice-President Walter Mondale, and Bush had personally witnessed what happened to Ford's Vice-President, Nelson Rockefeller. Rockefeller was determined to be a major player in domestic policy in the Ford administration, and Ford's staff wouldn't allow Rockefeller to have any meaningful role, believing that Rockefeller was often trying to "one-up" the President. Bush thought that if he had a good relationship with Reagan, nothing else really mattered . . . Bush knew that his focus was solely on serving the President.
First Lady Nancy Reagan wasn't a fan of George or Barbara Bush, declining to include the Bushes socially, and she rarely invited them to the private residence in the White House. Fortunately, Nancy was the outlier in the Reagan administration in terms of any negative feelings towards Vice-President Bush.
Soon, Secretary of State Alexander Haig called Bush on Air Force 2, telling the Vice-President to return to D.C., but the line was full of static, and Bush had a hard time making sense of what he was told. It wasn't until Bush received a written message from Haig that Bush knew that Reagan had been shot. Air Force 2 landed briefly in Austin to refuel, and Bush would return to Andrews as fast as the jet could safely take him, and then to the White House.
Even during this crisis, Bush understood his role as Vice-President. Bush refused to answer reporter's questions until more information was gained. When Air Force 2 taxied into the hangar at Andrews, the plan was to fly Bush to the South Lawn at the White House by helicopter, which was far faster (and prestigious and "showier") than traveling down Massachusetts Avenue by car.
Once Bush arrived at the White House and entered the Situation Room, he asked to be updated. Bush at once concluded that SecState Haig and SecDef Caspar Weinberger had basically made a mess of things, but now Bush and the "Triumvirate" (Baker, Meese, and Michael Deaver) were present, and the situation dramatically improved. Vice-President Bush addressed the nation at 8:20 pm Eastern time with a brief statement. Bush closed his address by saying that the officers of the federal government fulfilled their obligations during the crisis with skill and care. Bush knew that statement wasn't true concerning Haig or Weinberger, but Bush thought it best to especially cast Haig in a positive light, if nothing else for Reagan's sake.
Bush decided against seeing Reagan in the hospital, instead paying a respectful visit to Nancy in the Residence.
In early-1983, Bush was tasked by Reagan to head to Europe and visit seven key nations in order to try and diffuse Reagan's image as a "Nuclear Cowboy". Also, Bush was to impress on the leaders of those nations, especially the USSR, that Reagan was serious about arms reductions. Bush was "up-but-edgy" with his high-profile trip to Europe, but Bush proved to be the perfect one to send, in that he was positive, experienced, and politically astute. By putting a reasonable face on U.S. policy, Bush was able to lower rhetorical tensions. British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher sent Reagan warm and encouraging words about Bush, which was only part of the proof of Bush's effectiveness in visiting seven nations in eleven days.
In April 1983, Reagan officially announced that he would run for a second term with Bush as Vice-President. However, 64% of conservative leaders wanted Bush replaced; they still weren't sold on Bush's conservative bona fides. While campaigning for Reagan in 1984, Bush seemed to lose his political focus and center, and was inarticulate-enough in the spotlight for critics to pounce.
Bush soon found himself in an unenviable "no-win" situation when he had to take on
Geraldine Ferraro in a Vice-Presidential debate. It became worse for Bush when Barbara told reporters that Ferraro could be described with a word that "rhymed with rich". Barbary was in agony, not only causing difficulty for her husband, but also believing that those words would be etched on her tombstone (her family teased her as the "Poet Laureate" of the Bush clan).
Bush continued to misstep during the 1984 campaign, and even took heat for attending the 40th Anniversary of his World War II Navy pilot mission. Even with Reagan winning 49 states in the Election of 1984, Vice-President Bush was worn-down. Bush went to Camp David to physically and emotionally recover, and started to think about the Election of 1988, which was "only" 47.5 months away . . .
* 2nd Term as Vice-President
* The Republican Primaries of 1988
* The Republican National Convention of 1988
* The General Campaign and the Election of 1988