George H.W. Bush in hospital as precaution. Most popular living ex-president?

Former President Bush is seen favorably by 63 percent of Americans and unfavorably by only 31 percent, edging out President Clinton. In June, Bush celebrated his 90th birthday with a tandem parachute jump. 

Kevin Lamarque/Reuters/File
Former President George H.W. Bush applauds during an event to honor the winner of the 5,000th Daily Point of Light Award at the White House on July 15, 2013. Bush was taken by ambulance to the Houston Methodist Hospital as a precaution on Dec. 23, 2014, according to a statement from his office.

Former President George H.W. Bush is in a Texas hospital, according to a statement from his office. He was taken to Houston Methodist Hospital Tuesday night by ambulance as a “precaution” after experiencing shortness of breath.

Bush 41 "will be held for observation," said spokesman Jim McGrath. It is a facility he is familiar with: The ex-president spent two months there for a persistent cough and other issues, leaving in January 2013.

The White House has been notified of the situation, according to the Associated Press. President Obama, who is vacationing in Hawaii, sent “good wishes” to Bush, according to administration spokesman Eric Schultz.

The elder Bush president has remained active despite being largely consigned to a wheelchair. In June, he celebrated his 90th birthday with a tandem parachute jump at his family summer compound in Kennebunkport, Maine.

He leaped from a helicopter hovering at about 6,000 feet while tethered to a member of the Army’s Golden Knights parachute demonstration team. This continued a tradition – Bush celebrated his 75th, 80th and 85th birthdays by skydiving as well.

The ex-president’s first parachute jump was under duress, in World War II. As a Navy dive bomber pilot, he was shot down by the Japanese in the Pacific during a raid on the island of Chichi-jima. He was rescued by a US submarine on patrol duty for downed US fliers.

Bush, father of ex-President George W. Bush, is one of the most popular former US chief executives.

According to a Gallup poll from June, he’s seen favorably by 63 percent of respondents. Thirty-one percent see him unfavorably. That makes his net approval rating a positive 32 percent.

Only Bill Clinton, with 64 percent favorability, rates higher in terms of total approval. But Clinton also has slightly higher unfavorable ratings than Bush, 34 percent. His net approval rating is 30.

Thus, depending how you crunch the numbers, George H. W. Bush has a claim to be the most well-liked of living former US presidents.

He wasn’t always that popular while in office. As president, Bush at one point saw his popularity slip below 40 percent. (Right now, President Obama’s is about 45 percent, according to Gallup.)

“The elder Bush recovered and left office with majority job approval,” notes Gallup’s Jeffrey Jones.

That was in the context of an electoral defeat, however. When he ran for reelection in 1992, he lost to Clinton.

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