Ideological Housecleaning

George H.W. Bush fired the majority of Reagan's appointees in an attempt to distance himself from his predecessor. "It was an ideological housecleaning," says presidential historian John Robert Greene. "And Reagan appointees are shown the door in a harsh transition that makes it look like a Democrat is coming in."



Narrator: Now, with a chance to be his own man, George Bush began to distance himself from Ronald Reagan.

John Robert Greene, presidential historian: First thing that he does is -- through his transition team, which was run in part by his son, George W., was went in and booted all of the Reagan appointees, and told them, with a great deal of harshness, that they were to be out of town before sundown. It was an ideological housecleaning, and Reagan appointees are shown the door, in a harsh transition that makes it look like a Democrat is coming in.

Narrator: Wasting little time, Bush tackled some of the problems he inherited. On the domestic front, he decided to clean up a messy banking problem that Reagan and Congress had all but ignored. In 1986, when the real estate market collapsed, hundreds of savings and loan banks had gone bust. The cost of bailing out depositors was pushing $50 billion and was projected to triple. Bush knew it would be expensive and politically thankless.

John Robert Greene, presidential historian: You do it, not to advance your interests. You do it because it's in the interest of millions of people who will never vote for you and will certainly never give you any credit for doing it. That's responsibility. That's accountability. That's the old establishment way of discharging the privileges of leadership.

Herbert Parmet, biographer: He's separating himself from Reagan. One of the things that haunted Bush all the way through was his being compared to Reagan. And immediately, from his acceptance speech, "a gentler and kinder country," he's separating himself from Reagan. And this was some of the major residue of the Reagan administration.


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  • Additional funding for this program was provided by

  • NEH