A key focus of Bush’s presidency was foreign policy. He began his time in the White House as Germany was in the process of reunifying, the Soviet Union was collapsing and the Cold War was ending. Bush would be credited with helping to improve U.S.-Soviet relations. He met with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev (1931-), and in July 1991, the two men signed the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty.
Bush also authorized military operations in Panama and the Persian Gulf. In December 1989, the United States invaded Panama and overthrew the nation’s corrupt dictator, Manuel Noriega (1934-), who was threatening the security of Americans who lived there and trafficking drugs to the United States. Then, after Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein (1937-2006) launched an invasion and occupation of Kuwait in August 1990 and threatened to invade Saudi Arabia, Bush organized a military coalition of more than 30 countries who began a U.S.-led air assault against Iraq in mid-January 1991. After five weeks of the air offensive and 100 hours of a ground offensive, Operation Desert Storm ended in late February with Iraq’s defeat and Kuwait’s liberation.
On the domestic front, Bush, a moderate conservative, signed such important pieces of legislation as the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990. He made two appointments to the U.S. Supreme Court: David Souter (1939-) in 1990, and Clarence Thomas (1948-) in 1991.
While Bush gained support among the American public for his foreign policy initiatives, his popularity at home was marred by an economic recession. After promising “no new taxes” in his presidential campaign, he upset some by raising tax revenues in an effort to deal with a rising budget deficit.In 1992, Bush lost his bid for re-election to Governor Bill Clinton (1946-) of Arkansas. Clinton won 370 electoral votes and 43 percent of the popular vote, while Bush captured 168 electoral votes and 37.5 percent of the popular vote. Third-party candidate Ross Perot (1930-) garnered approximately 19 percent of the popular vote.