By David Von Drehle
December 6, 2018

George H.W. Bush, the careful and pragmatic manager of the Cold War’s final dramas, had nearly every tool a great president needs. He had fire and drive, which are indispensable to a great statesman. From his glamorous youth through his momentous single term as 41st President of the United States, Bush was consumed, in the words of one biographer, by “an almost insatiable ambition and competitiveness.” He had experience, gained over decades in private business and public service. He had good judgment, cultivating the quality that Aristotle called “practical wisdom,” but which Bush referred to as “prudence.” He had the courage to make difficult decisions. He was discerning in his choice of strong advisers, and was comfortable with dissenting views. Bush was a natural born leader.

All of which points to the riddle of his life: why did his presidency end in rejection?

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Contact us at editors@time.com.

This appears in the December 17, 2018 issue of TIME.

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