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Statecraft: The Bush 41 Team

Tune in Tuesday, Aug. 4, 2020 at 10 p.m. on KPBS TV + Stream with the PBS Video App

President George H. W. Bush waves after taking the oath of office, Jan. 20, 1...

Credit: Courtesy of George H. W. Presidential Library & Museum

Above: President George H. W. Bush waves after taking the oath of office, Jan. 20, 1989.

Documentary revisits U.S. diplomacy under President George H.W. Bush

“Statecraft: The Bush 41 Team” offers a unique look at the foreign policy legacy of President George H.W. Bush as told via the George H. W. Bush Presidential Oral History, the historical record and the accounts of the advisers who shaped it.

“Statecraft: The Bush 41 Team” reflects on the pillars and strategies of American diplomacy at the end of the Cold War. When George H.W. Bush became president of the United States in 1989, much of the world was in turmoil and it was clear that American diplomacy was entering a new era.

Statecraft: The Bush 41 Team: Preview

Examine the presidency of George H.W. Bush and his foreign policy team's expertise as they navigated international crises like the fall of the Berlin Wall, reunification of Germany, the collapse of the Soviet Union the Panama invasion and Operation Desert Storm.

This documentary features captivating archival footage and revealing interviews with members of Bush 41’s foreign policy team, including James Baker, Dick Cheney, Robert Gates, Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice, and Brent Scowcroft.

Photo credit: Courtesy of George H. W. Presidential Library & Museum

(From left) Colin Powell, Richard Cheney, Brent Scowcroft, and James Baker meet with President Bush, June 26, 1992

Detailed, first-person accounts of major world events — the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Malta Summit, the U.S. invasion of Panama, the reunification of Germany, the Gulf War, and the collapse of the Soviet Union — provide a glimpse into one of the most fascinating foreign policy presidencies of the modern era.  

Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney on Coalition Building

Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney describes efforts to put together a coalition against Iraq during Desert Storm and the many countries involved. He goes into detail about Iraq’s strategy to bomb Israel so that the Israelis would retaliate. If Israel had retaliated, the Arab coalition against Iraq would have crumbled. The United States worked hard to protect Israel and keep them out of the war.

“Bush picked people who worked well together,” Director Lori Shinseki said. “They each attributed their success to Bush’s leadership and national security experience. And they had a ball! Many of them actually said it was the most fun they ever had working in the White House. Their stories give us a better understanding of how their relationships with each other influenced the outcomes of the historic events they faced."

White House Correspondent Ann Compton on George H.W. Bush

Ann Compton, former White House Correspondent for ABC News, covered President George H.W. Bush during his administration. She describes his kindness and graciousness and shares a personal note that he wrote her. She also talks about his willingness to engage with the media and their families, and how he would sometimes invite reporters to his home in Kennebunkport, Maine, for social occasions.


As producers of history content, VPM aims to present stories from the past that offer meaningful lessons about the world we live in now. With compelling interviews and rich assets from the Bush 41 administration, we hope this film inspires people to take a new look at this presidency and reflect on how our nation’s approach to diplomacy has evolved,” said Steve Humble, Executive Producer and Chief Content Officer at VPM.

“The foreign policy crises President George H. W. Bush and his team confronted ranked among the most challenging in U.S. history,” said William Antholis, Miller Center director and CEO. “This film vividly expands on many key moments recounted by Bush’s most senior advisers in their oral history interviews with Miller Center scholars.”

Photo credit: Courtesy of George H. W. Presidential Library & Museum

Secretary of State James Baker meets with President Bush in Kennebunkport, Maine, Aug. 11, 1992

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Directed by Lori Shinseki of Fire Horse Pictures and co-produced by VPM and the Miller Center of Public Affairs at the University of Virginia,. Executive Producer: Steve Humble. Consulting Producer: Mason Mills. Producer: Ellie Hannibal. Co-Producer: Sheila Blackford. Editor: Ross McDermott. Chief Historical Consultant: Jeffrey A. Engel.


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