Issues/Policy Timelines

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George H.W. Bush Policy Chronology
Issues/Policy Timelines:

Invasion of Panama

Gulf War

Cold War End Game Diplomacy


William Bennett, Federal Drug Czar

James Baker, Secretary of State

Brent Scowcroft, National Security Adviser

James Lilley, U.S. Ambassador to China

January 20 George H. W. Bush is inaugurated as the forty-first President.
Inaugural address available at:, via “Research” and “Public Papers.”
February 6 President Bush, at a White House press conference, introduced his bail-out plan for troubled savings and loans banks. His complex plan provided for a sale of $50 billion in government bonds to finance the bail-out of failed banks, and gave the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) regulatory oversight over S&Ls.
Press conference announcing the plan available at:, via “Research” and “Public Papers.”
March 14 The Bush administration, at the urging of federal drug czar William Bennett, announced a temporary ban on the importation of semi-automatic rifles, a reversal of President Bush’s earlier statements that no restriction on these firearms would be enacted.
March 24 In the worst oil spill on American territory, the Exxon Valdez supertanker ran aground in southeastern Alaska. The tanker dumped 240,000 barrels of oil into the surrounding waters and caused extensive environmental damage.
April 17 President Bush offered a program of special assistance for Poland, whose communist government had agreed to negotiations with the opposition party Solidarity that produced a plan for free elections. Elections were held in August, 1989, which led to the end of single-party rule in Poland.
Speech, “Remarks to Citizens in Hamtramck, Michigan, April 17, 1989, at:, via “Research” and “Public Papers.”
June 4 The People’s Liberation Army, the military arm of the Chinese government, used tanks and armored cars to suppress a burgeoning pro-democracy movement that had encamped in Tiananmen Square, Beijing, China. Estimates on the number of demonstrators killed vary between 700 and 2,700.
June 5 In the wake of the Tiananmen Square massacres, President Bush announced a number of condemnatory actions, including the suspension of the sale of American weapons to China.
Press Conference, June 4, at:, via “Research” and “Public Papers.”
National Security Archives, briefing book on the Tiananmen crisis, especially documents 12 through 29.
August 9 President Bush signed into law the Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery, and Enforcement Act of 1989, a compromise with Congress on the bail-out of savings and loans. This law differed from President Bush’s February 6 proposal by financing the bail-out from the Treasury Department, and not a bond sale. It offered $166 billion worth of aid to troubled savings and loans institutions and created a new government body, the Resolution Trust Company, to oversee the merger or liquidation of troubled banks.
Bill signing ceremony, August 9, at:, via “Research” and “Public Papers.”
November 9 The Berlin Wall fell, marking the symbolic end of communism in eastern Europe and the Cold War.
November 17 President Bush signed the Fair Labor Standards Amendments of 1989, which by April 1991 would raise the minimum wage to $4.25 an hour. The law was a significant victory for Bush over congressional Democrats, who in the spring of 1989 passed a bill that raised the minimum wage to $4.55, which President Bush vetoed on June 13.
Veto message of June 13 and comments at the November 17 signature ceremony,, via “Research” and “Public Papers.”
November 21 President Bush signed a new anti-drug law that provided over $3 billion for expanded anti-drug programs, including treatment facilities, federal prison expansion, education, and law enforcement.
December 2-3 President Bush and Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev hold their first meeting of Bush's presidency in the harbor of Valetta, Malta to discuss nuclear disarmament and the strengthening of Soviet-American trade relations. Both leaders announced that the Cold War was effectively over.


December 20 American armed forces invade Panama to capture Manuel Antonio Noriega, the country’s military dictator. Noriega, who had been indicted in the United States on drug trafficking charges, surrendered on January 3, 1990. On April 9, 1992, Noriega was convicted on drug charges and sent to prison.


June 1 At a summit meeting in Washington, D.C., President Bush and Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev signed the broadest arms reduction agreement in two decades. The agreement provided that the United States and the Soviet Union would scrap 25% and 40%, respectively, of their nuclear stockpile.
June 26 President Bush, in a written statement released to the press, reneged on his pledge from the 1988 presidential campaign of “no new taxes” by stating that in order to solve the deficit problem, tax revenue increases might be necessary in the federal budget for the 1991 fiscal year.
Statement at the Bush Library via

July 26 President Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act, which affected over 43 million Americans, and forbade discrimination in employment, public accommodations, and transportation.
August 2 Iraq invaded Kuwait. President Bush strongly condemned Iraq's actions, setting the stage for an American response.


October 3 Seven months after East Germans overwhelmingly approve re-unification, the two German states were formally reunited.
October 22 President Bush vetoed the Civil Rights Act of 1990, stating that the bill would “introduce the destructive force of quotas into our nation's employment system.”
Veto message available at the Bush Library via
November 5 President Bush signed a budget law intended to reduce the federal budget by almost $500 billion over the next five years. The law included $140 billion dollars in new taxes.


November 8 President Bush increased the number of American troops in Saudi Arabia to 400,000.

November 15 President Bush signed the Clean Air Act of 1990, which tightened air pollution standards, with the goals of reducing urban smog, cutting acid rain pollution by one-half, and eliminating industrial emissions of toxic chemicals by the end of the century.
November 19 The United States, Canada and twenty other European nations signed the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty (CFE). The CFE limited NATO and Warsaw Pact weapons holdings and capped the American troop presence in Central Europe at 195,000.
November 29 President Bush signed the Immigration Act of 1990, the most extensive revision to immigration law in more than a half century. The new law allowed for the admission of 700,000 aliens each year.

January 15 The Persian Gulf War, code-named Operation Desert Storm, began with a massive, American-led air attack on Iraq.


February 24 Ground troops, including a large contingent of American soldiers, began operations in Operation Desert Storm.


February 27 After liberating Kuwait, coalition troops advanced rapidly into Iraqi territory, encountering no resistance. President Bush, deciding that the war’s objectives had been met, called off the ground offensive.

July 10 President Bush lifted most American sanctions against the Republic of South Africa, saying that the movement to end apartheid was now “irreversible.”
Press conference at
July 31 President Bush and Mikhail Gorbachev met in Moscow to sign a nuclear arms reduction treaty (START-I) that calls for both nations to make significant reductions in the number of nuclear warheads in their respective arsenals.
October 15 Clarence Thomas, President Bush’s nominee to replace retiring Justice Harry A. Blackmun on the Supreme Court, was confirmed by the Senate in a close 52-48 vote. Thomas’ confirmation hearings focused on charges of sexual harassment made by Anita F. Hill, a black law professor.
November 21 President Bush signed the Civil Rights Act of 1991, which made it easier for employees to sue employers on grounds of discrimination.
Comments upon signing the act at
December 31 The constituent republics of the Soviet Union dissolved the Union of the Soviet Socialist Republics.

January 10 The Labor Department announced that unemployment rose to 7.1% in December 1991, the highest mark in over five years.
Department of Labor collection of labor statistics available at

February 1 At the presidential retreat at Camp David, Maryland, President Bush and Russian President Boris Yeltsin met to discuss U.S.-Russia relations and officially declared the end of the Cold War.

February 18 President Bush won the New Hampshire primary, but faced a strong challenge from conservative media personality Patrick Buchanan. The conservative wing of the Republican Party supported Buchanan, revealing a division in the party.
April 1 President Bush announced an aid plan of $24 billion to help the development of democracy and a free market economy in the former Soviet Union.

May 23 The United States signed agreements with Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, and Kazakhstan that ensured these nations’ participation in the nuclear arms reduction treaties singed by the USSR before its collapse in late 1991.

June 12 Speaking at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, President Bush announced that the United States would not sign a treaty designed to protect rare and endangered animals and plants, saying that it would retard the development of technology and the protection of ideas. The U.S. did sign the Framework Convention on Climate Change aimed at preventing further global warming.
June 16 President Bush and President Yeltsin announced an agreement by which the United States and Russia would reduce their nuclear warheads to between 3,000 and 3,500 by the year 2003.

June 22 President Bush signed a supplemental appropriations act that provided aid to inner cities, specifically Los Angeles, which was trying to recover from the riots of April, 1992.
July 3 President Bush signed the Unemployment Compensation Amendments of 1992, which extended coverage for the unemployed for 26 weeks, after their initial 26 weeks of benefits had expired. The Labor Department announced the previous day that the unemployment rate had reached 7.8%, its highest level since 1984.

August 19-20 The Republican Party nominated President George Bush for a second term as President. The party also re-nominated Vice-President Dan Quayle. There is some evidence that the Bush team had considered replacing Quayle on the Republican ticket.

See The Presidency of George Bush by John Robert Greene for a full account of the 1992 race.
Transcript of Bush’s acceptance speech at
November 3 Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton, a Democrat, was elected President after defeating President Bush and Ross Perot, an independent from Texas. Clinton won 43% of the vote and 370 Electoral College votes, to Bush’s 38% and 168, and to Perot’s 19% and 0.
December 9 American troops landed in Somalia as part of the UN-sponsored “Operation Restore Hope.” The humanitarian mission’s first goal was to ensure the distribution of food and medical aid and supplies to suffering Somalis. Somalia had been wracked by starvation, drought, and violence.
January 20 President Bush and his wife Barbara flew home to Houston, Texas.
1. Carruth, Gorton. The Encyclopedia of American Facts and Dates. 10th ed. New York: HarperCollins, 1997.
2. Grenville, J. A. S. A History of the World in the Twentieth Century. Vol. 2. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press, 1997.
3. Howard, Michael, and Wm. Roger Louis, editors. The Oxford History of the Twentieth Century. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998.
4. Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: George Bush, 1992-1993. Book 1. Washington, D.C.: GPO, 1993. (also 1989, 1990, 1991)

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