Images evoke memories of President Bush in Dover

DOVER — Images of George H. W. Bush’s campaign visit to Dover likely brought back memories for many Delaware State News readers last Sunday.

Photographer Gary Emeigh shared the shots with us after learning about the former president’s death.

It was Oct. 5, 1992, in the stretch run of the race between President Bush and Democratic candidate Bill Clinton.

About 7,800 people gathered on The Green to see President Bush.

His speech was heavy on criticism of the Arkansas governor’s record, particularly on education and poverty.

“This campaign, like every one, is about one simple question: What kind of America do we want for the young people here today? I know (Gov. Clinton) talks a good game, but behind his words are a very different reality,” President Bush said that day.

President Bush vowed to work toward a $10 trillion economy by the year 2000 and more jobs through expanded exports, drastic reforms in education, an overhaul of a “crazy” legal system and affordable, accessible health care for even “the poorest of the poor.”

“Finally, I’m fighting for economic security for every man, woman and child in America,” President Bush said that day. “America’s greatest resource is her people. Good intentions and noble rhetoric are not enough. Our actions must match our words.”

President Clinton went on to win the election.

In Delaware, President Bush had a small majority of votes in Kent and Sussex, but Clinton was the overall winner with nearly 44 percent of the vote. Bush had 35 percent and the rest went to memorable independent Ross Perot.

President Bush’s 1988 win was the last for a Republican presidential candidate in Delaware.

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The Delaware State News coverage of President Bush’s 1992 visit included an interesting historical tidbit from then-Gov. Mike Castle, a Republican.

President Bush, he said, was the first president to visit all three Delaware counties. In 1991, he visited an adult high school class in Seaford. While he was a vice president, he campaigned at New Castle’s Battery Park in 1988.

Prior to the Bush visit in 1992, the last president to stand on The Green in Dover was Lyndon B. Johnson, who made a campaign appearance in 1964.

The Green, of course, has important historical significance to Delaware.

From where President Bush was standing, it was about 200 yards from the site of the Golden Fleece where Delaware delegates ratified the Constitution to give us the distinction of being the first state.

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Until 2009, the press had been banned from covering dignified transfers at Dover Air Force, with a few exceptions.

The ban dated back 18 years to the start of Operation Desert Storm when the Pentagon announced the policy, but the idea has been tied back to December 1990 when the U.S. military invaded Panama to depose dictator Manuel Noriega.

Just before Christmas that year, President Bush was angered by national television networks who had split-screen coverage of a news conference in Washington, D.C., and a dignified transfer ceremony at Dover Air Force Base.

The flag-draped transfer cases of four Navy casualties were being carried from a C-141 Starlifter to the base mortuary.

People from all around the country expressed their ire to the White House. President Bush, a few weeks later, brought it up at the next news conference.

He had no idea at the time that he was talking to reporters while the transfer ceremonies were taking place in Dover,

“I would respectfully request that if the urgency of the moment is such that that technique is going to be used, if I could be told and we’ll stop the proceedings,” President Bush said at the time. “I could understand why the viewers were concerned about this. “They thought their president, at a solemn moment like that, didn’t give a damn — and I do, I do. I feel it so strongly.”

For years, the ban was something that would bring about heated debates with opponents, saying it hid the human costs of war.

In 2004, former Vice President Joe Biden, then Delaware’s U.S. senator, called the policy shameful, saying the fallen military members were being “snuck back in the country under the cover of night.”

President Barack Obama asked Secretary of Defense Robert Gates to review the policy.

In 2009, Secretary Gates lifted the ban but announced a new policy that allowed family of the fallen to make the decision about news coverage.

Andrew West is executive editor of the Delaware State News.

Reach Executive Editor Andrew West at awest@newszap.com

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