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In January 1971, President Nixon appointed Bush ambassador to the United Nations. After two years in that post, Nixon, victorious in his 1972 bid for re-election, asked Bush to take the helm as chairman of the Republican National Committee. While Bush had a grand vision for building up the Republican Party as the RNC chief, his ambitions were quickly tempered by the fallout from the widening Watergate scandal. Just 20 months into this new post, on August 7, 1974, Bush dictated a letter to Nixon that began, “It is my considered judgment that you should now resign.” Shortly thereafter, Nixon announced he would resign, and on August 9, 1974, Vice President Gerald R. Ford became president.

Ford offered Bush his choice of diplomatic assignements, and Mr. Bush chose the relatively new post as chief liaison to the People’s Republic of China. Although the United States did not have official diplomatic relations with Beijing — and therefore technically did not have an embassy there — Bush functionally was an ambassador. In 1976, the White House recalled Bush to Washington so President Ford could appoint him Director of Central Intelligence, the top post at the Central Intelligence Agency.

After President Ford lost his 1976 bid for election, Bush resigned as DCI and returned home to Houston, where he became chairman of the First International Bank. He still had his eye on politics, though, and by the end of the decade he was a contender for the GOP nomination for president of the United States.

The Reagan Years >


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