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The death of former President George H.W. Bush is inspiring comparisons between his presidency and that of the current occupant of the White House. That was inevitable, because the traits that defined Bush's one term in office are scandalously absent from how Donald Trump has approached the highest office in the land.

Bush assumed the presidency after serving as a member of Congress, ambassador to the United Nations, CIA director and vice president; Trump was a political amateur when he was elected (and proud of it). Bush was respectful of the expertise of his advisers and career government officials; Trump disdains them as a sinister "Deep State." Bush was willing to abandon his "Read my lips: No new taxes" campaign pledge to cement a compromise agreement on the budget; Trump is loath to repudiate positions he took on the campaign trail, such as his reckless promise to withdraw from the Iran nuclear agreement.

Bush was an ambitious politician, but he also was self-effacing and reluctant to personalize the achievements of his administration. For Trump, everything is about Trump. And Bush cherished civility, despite some low shots on the campaign trail — especially his campaign's questionable use of a prison furlough program against his opponent, Michael Dukakis. (Willie Horton, a black man who raped a woman after escaping while on furlough, figured in a racially inflammatory TV aid aired by Bush supporters.)

A handwritten note Bush left for Bill Clinton, the Democrat who defeated him in 1992, is being widely circulated now, and for good reason. In it, Bush advised Clinton not to allow critics to "discourage you or push you off course." Bush closed the letter by telling his successor: "Your success now is our country's success. I am rooting hard for you." Contrast that encouragement with Trump's obsessive attacks on former President Barack Obama. Contrast it with the crowds at Trump's campaign rallies, egged on as they shout enthusiastically for the incarceration of Hillary Clinton.

But instructive as these comparisons are, it diminishes the contributions of Bush to regard him simply as an anti-Trump. His presidency lasted only four years but registered significant accomplishments in both foreign and domestic affairs.

Bush and his secretary of state, James A. Baker III, engaged in deft diplomacy after the fall of the Berlin Wall to help bring about the reunification of Germany (though some scholars fault the administration for encouraging Russian leaders to believe that NATO wouldn't extend eastward, as it ultimately did).

Bush rallied an international coalition after Iraq invaded and occupied Kuwait in 1990, but he deliberately stopped short of overthrowing Saddam Hussein. Later, he explained that occupying Iraq "would shatter our coalition, turning the whole Arab world against us, and make a broken tyrant into a latter-day Arab hero." The bloody aftermath of the second Gulf War prosecuted by Bush's son, President George W. Bush, vindicated his father's caution.

Domestically, Bush will be remembered for signing the Americans With Disabilities Act, which expanded civil rights law to require accommodations in the workplace for people with disabilities, and the Clean Air Act of 1990, which sought to protect the ozone layer. Bush also established a Global Change Research Program, which was followed by congressional legislation to mandate reporting on climate change. (Trump said of his own administration's report on the threat posed by climate change: "I don't see it.")

Bush appointed two justices to the Supreme Court: David Souter, who disappointed many conservatives with his generally liberal rulings, and Clarence Thomas, who has helped anchor the extreme right of the court since his appointment in 1991. The nomination of an ideologue such as Thomas was a departure from Bush's usual moderate conservatism.

Consequential as many of his administration's policies were, Bush is being remembered more for his restrained demeanor, his self-effacement and his view that serving in government could be an act of patriotism. That's not surprising given the bitterly divided state of American politics today, when concepts like bipartisanship and cooperation and shared values and civility seem almost quaint and anachronistic.

On Saturday, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. said of Bush that he was "an extraordinary American patriot and fundamentally decent man."

That would have been an apt encomium regardless of who the current president happened to be; but Trump's contempt for the values Bush held dear lends it a special poignancy.

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Michael McGough is the Los Angeles Times' senior editorial writer.

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