Gov. Henry McMaster spoke for South Carolinians in paying tribute to George H.W. Bush upon the death of the nation’s 41st president.
"The greatness of President Bush’s generation has been defined by their selfless humility and dedication to public service, our nation, and to the fight for freedom around the world. He fought in World War II and helped to end the Cold War. President and Mrs. Bush have touched the hearts and lives of many South Carolinians. Their reunion in heaven is certainly joyous, yet it is bittersweet to us all, as they will be remembered and deeply missed."
South Carolina had a special relationship with Bush, whose chief political strategist was the late Lee Atwater and key political ally was the late Gov. Carroll A. Campbell.
While the late Republican president is praised as a moderate politician who worked across the aisle with Democrats in a different era of American politics, the Bush fought his share of political battles.
South Carolina played a key role in him becoming president. After losing in the state’s first-in-the-South political primary in 1980 to eventual nominee and President Ronald Reagan, Bush found South Carolina just what the doctor ordered in his next bids for the presidency.
In 1988, South Carolina gave him the victory he needed over then-Sen. Bob Dole. Bush won the nomination and defeated Michaek Dukakis for the presidency.
Then in 1992, Bush faced an insurgency from the right in the form of Pat Buchanan, who shook up the political landscape with a win in the New Hampshire primary.
Campbell and the South Carolina Republican Party became Bush’s firewall, helping him engineer a major victory in the GOP primary here. But the president faced a “new Democrat” that November and the moderate Bill Clinton ended Bush’s bid for a second term.
Perhaps there is now no more tribute to Bush than the affection he and Clinton shared in the years after their presidencies. They worked together on many projects and reportedly were very close.
Upon Bush’s death, Clinton stated: "I will be forever grateful for the friendship we formed. From the moment I met him as a young governor invited to his home in Kennebunkport, I was struck by the kindness he showed to Chelsea, by his innate and genuine decency, and by his devotion to Barbara, his children, and their growing brood."
Praise for Bush is generally universal, with friend and foe alike coming forward to say the former president was the embodiment of what American politics should be about. As much as it might once have been said such praise is to be expected upon the death of a former president, the landscape of today’s politics is different. Animosity from all sides knows no bounds.
Perhaps the death of George H.W. Bush will remind all that civility is still important, that political differences do not make fellow Americans enemies, that Republicans and Democrats can work together -- and that presidents deserve respect while in office and after.