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George H. W. Bush made multiple appearances at Cleveland’s City Club

December 5, 2018

George H. W. Bush made multiple appearances at Cleveland’s City Club

Former U.S. president George H. W. Bush, whose funeral is Wednesday at Washington National Cathedral, wore many hats in politics and government over the years, serving as a Texas congressman, U.S. ambassador, CIA director, Republican National Committee chairman and vice president.

He addressed the City Club of Cleveland in several of those capacities during his decades of public service, although he never visited the club while he was president. According to The Plain Dealer’s archives, here’s what he discussed during his appearances.

1972: U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations

While serving as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations in 1972, Bush used his City Club appearance to explain visits his boss - President Richard Nixon - made to Russia and China. He told the organization that Nixon’s trips “captured the imagination” of other countries’ representatives to the United Nations, and spurred hopes for peace.

“Bush defended the United Nations as the only forum the world has to hear widespread views on issues,” said The Plain Dealer’s coverage. “But he warned that the world body is structurally incapable of carrying out the role of keeping the peace unless the ‘Big Five’ nations agree on a course of action.”

1976: CIA director

Four years later, Bush was back in Cleveland, this time as CIA director. He used his 1976 visit to the City Club to rail against leaks by members of congressional committees with CIA oversight privileges, and declare “I believe no president should be denied covert capabilities.”

He also admonished the audience not to believe all disclosures about CIA activities merely because they’re in print, The Plain Dealer reported.

“We have been accused,” he said, “of stealing relics from Noah’s Ark.”

1980: Republican presidential candidate

In 1980, Bush returned to the City Club as a Republican presidential candidate who was badly trailing eventual nominee Ronald Reagan in the party’s delegate count. He faulted the incumbent president, Democrat Jimmy Carter, for surrounding himself with amateurs and political operatives instead of experienced government professionals, and compared Carter’s administration to Dennis Kucinich’s term as mayor of Cleveland.

“It’s a kind of a Dennis Kucinich administration in the highest levels of government,” said Bush. “And, just as Dennis lasted only one term in the city of Cleveland, I predict that Carterism – that is, government run by narrow political operatives of limited experience and vision, will last only one term in Washington.”

Kucinich responded to Bush’s remarks by telling The Plain Dealer: “I understand that Bush has been knocking me in every city he’s been in and Bush keeps losing.”

1986: Vice president

By the time he visited the City Club again in 1986, Bush was halfway through his final term as Reagan’s vice president and was positioning himself to succeed Reagan in the White House.

This time around, he defended himself against charges that he’d pandered to conservative fundamentalists by appearing before the Rev. Jerry Falwell’s organization and praising its efforts to promote school prayer and outlaw abortion.

“There’s nothing wrong for people of the more conservative, fundamentalist religions to get involved in the political arena like the rest do,” Bush said at a breakfast appearance attended by 600 people. “I hope that supporting that kind of activism and not criticizing those who come at it from the left of the political spectrum does not mean that makes me less compassionate, or less concerned about social justice, or less concerned about equality.”

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