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The Bush legacy

12/6/2018, 6 a.m.
We believe that one’s life is like a scorecard or balance sheet — filled with both positives and negatives. And ...

We believe that one’s life is like a scorecard or balance sheet — filled with both positives and negatives. And when one dies, others (perhaps even God) will look at the ledger and add up both sides.

Even the ancient Egyptians believed that one’s heart would be weighed in death against the single feather of Ma’at that represented the ethical and moral principles (think Ten Commandments plus some) with which daily life was to be conducted. If one’s heart was found to be lighter or equal in weight to the feather, then the deceased had led a virtuous life and would go on to a heaven. A heavy heart would condemn the person to remain in a purgatory-like underworld.

So it is that we weigh the life of former President George H.W. Bush, who died last week at age 94. We want to remind readers of what we view as positives and negatives of his time in office.

At first glance, President Bush comes out a clear winner, particularly when we compare him to the current occupant of the White House. But that easy comparison doesn’t get at the true character, actions and impact of the late president, who served as commander in chief of this nation from 1989 to 1993. We need to look deeper.

President Bush was a young Navy pilot during World War II and now is the last president to have served on active duty in the military during wartime. Before being elected as the 41st president, he served sequentially as a member of Congress representing a district in Texas, ambassador to the United Nations, chairman of the Republican National Committee, chief of the liaison office in China and director of the CIA. After being knocked out of the Republican nomination for president in 1980, he wound up as Ronald Reagan’s running mate and served as vice president from 1981 to 1989.

We believe several positives arose from President Bush’s tenure in the Oval Office, chief among them the Americans with Disabilities Act. He signed into law the ADA that provides major civil rights protections for people with disabilities, including banning discrimination in employment, public accommodations and public transit.

Because of the ADA, we now have ramps, elevators, automatic doors and lifts making buses, restrooms, workplaces, public facilities and environments more accessible to people with disabilities. It has made a major difference in the lives of individuals and the families of people who depend on a wheelchair or other assistive devices for mobility and inclusion.

On the environmental side, President Bush also reauthorized the Clean Air Act to boost air quality and reduce acid rain by limiting emissions from coal-burning fuel plants.

He signed a bill into law providing compensation to cancer victims who contracted the disease from harmful exposure to products of uranium mining and nuclear weapons testing by the United States during the Cold War.

His signing into law the Immigration Act of 1990, which was sponsored by Democratic Sen. Ted Kennedy, increased by 40 percent the number of legal immigrants that entered the United States.