May 11, 2013

George H W Bush

PBS American Experience

George H W Bush:
Where is it written that we must act as if we do not care?
As if we are not moved.
Well I am moved.
I want a kinder, gentler nation. …
(Republican National Convention, New Orleans, 1988)

Margaret MacMillan (1943):
In 1991, the American televangelist Pat Robertson warned that Bush Sr’s victory over Iraq was not what it appeared.
It was paving the way not for peace but for the triumph of evil.
It was all so clear to Robertson.
Ever since the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, a secret conspiracy had been pushing the world toward socialism and the triumph of the Antichrist.
The European Union was clearly part of the plot and so was the United Nations.
The Gulf War and the missiles that Saddam Hussein had fired on Israel were yet more steps toward the final reckoning.
(The Uses and Abuses of History, Profile, 2009, pp 64-65)

On The Distinction Between True And False Visions


[Ronald Reagan (1911–2004),] who spent World War II in Hollywood, vividly described his own role in liberating Nazi concentration camp victims. …
On many occasions in his Presidential campaigns, [Reagan recounted his] epic story of World War II courage and sacrifice, an inspiration [to] all of us.
Only it never happened …
[It] was the plot of the movie A Wing and a Prayer
{Living in the film world, he apparently confused a movie he had [experienced] with a reality he had not.}

Many other instances of this sort can be found in Reagan's public statements.
It is not hard to imagine serious public dangers emerging out of instances in which political, military, scientific or religious leaders are unable to distinguish fact from … fiction.

(Carl Sagan, The Demon Haunted World, 1997, p 132)


Ceiling and Visibility Unlimited


In many ways George Bush was what Ronald Reagan pretended to be.
As an actor, Ronald Reagan played the war hero.
George Bush was a war hero — a decorated naval aviator.
Ronald Reagan played the athlete.
George Bush was the captain of his Yale baseball team and played twice in the college championship game.
He was also a first rate tennis player.
Both preached family values, but only Bush could point to a happy family.










After four decades of public life, George Bush feels his most important accomplishment in life is that his children still come home. …
When Ronald Reagan learned he had Alzheimer's disease, he wrote a letter for history.
He addressed it to the American people.
[Nine] years after his defeat, George Bush [also] wrote a letter.
He addressed it to his children. …
George H W Bush:
I had a little plaque made.
It says CAVU [—] the kind of weather we Navy pilots wanted when we were to fly off our carrier in the Pacific — "Ceiling and Visibility Unlimited."
I will not pass by it without realizing how lucky I am …
[For] the plaque describes my own life — as it has been over the years, as it is right now.
After leaving office, Bush saw his son George W get elected Governor of Texas, and his son Jeb Governor of Florida. …
[And when] George W was elected president in 2000, it was the first time a father and son had occupied the White House since John and John Quincy Adams almost 200 years earlier.




Contents


Ceiling and Visibility Unlimited

Echoes of the Wise Men


GEORGE H W BUSH (1924)


41st President of the United States (1989–1993)

  • George H W Bush, PBS American Experience, WGBH, 2008.
    Austin Hoyt: Writer and Director.

    Ceiling And Visibility Unlimited


    September 2, 1944, was what Navy pilots called CAVU …
    The target September 2nd was a Japanese radio tower on the tiny island of Chichi Jima.
    Bush dove into black puffs of anti-aircraft fire.
    George H W Bush:
    Suddenly, I felt the plane jolt … and the smoke started pouring in.
    He finished his bombing run, banked out to sea so the crew could get out, and then bailed out himself.
    The submarine USS Finback, on patrol for downed pilots, rescued him. …
    Aboard he agonized about the fate of his gunner Ted White and radioman John Delaney.
    One went down with the plane.
    The other's chute never opened.
    [Almost 60 years later …]
    George H W Bush:
    It still plagues me if I gave those guys enough time to get out …
    I think about those guys all the time. …
    {George Bush … was commissioned in 1943 at age 19, the youngest pilot in the US Navy.
    [He] flew 58 combat missions, logged 1,208 hours of flying time and made 126 carrier landings.}


    [His father,] Prescott Bush was a partner in Brown Brothers Harriman, the most prestigious investment bank on Wall Street …
    Averell Harriman, Prescott's colleague and the firm's founding partner, was an aide to President Franklin Roosevelt in World War II. …
    His partner Robert Lovett was Assistant Secretary of War. After the war they were among a group known as the "Wise Men" who helped President Truman fashion the policy of containing the Soviet Union.
    Richard Norton Smith [Historian]:
    Noblesse oblige has become a pejorative, but it wasn't always a pejorative.
    The notion of an American meritocracy, which is what the wise men represent, that's the old Eastern establishment.
    It isn't simply the nexus of power.
    It's the obligation to use that power in a responsible way, not for one's own benefit, but for what you sincerely believe to be the benefit of your fellow countrymen. …
    During his ten years in the Senate, Prescott Bush was a moderate, or Eisenhower Republican.
    He was pragmatic and non-ideological, believed in balanced budgets and was pro-business.
    He was also pro-civil rights and a social liberal. …

    {[Barbara and Georges's] second child, Robin [born in 1949] was diagnosed with leukemia when she was three. …




    [She] died on October 12, 1953, two months before her fourth birthday.}

    The Republican Party in Texas hardly existed.
    Houston's few Republicans, {George] Bush among them, were members of the establishment — country club Republicans. …
    The radical anti-communist John Birch Society tried to take it over.
    Birchers thought President Eisenhower was a communist — he had appointed a Chief Justice who turned out to be a liberal.
    Richard Viguerie [Conservative Activist]:
    The country club Republicans … big-government Republicans [were] uncomfortable with true believers.
    People who … had deeply held philosophical, ideological beliefs [made] establishment Republicans uncomfortable …

    Herbert Parmet [Biographer]:
    Bush thought they were crazy.
    But he thought that politically he had to accommodate himself to them. …

    Timothy Naftali [Biographer]:
    Throughout his political career, George Bush often seemed to lack a sense of principle.
    As a candidate, he often sacrificed principle for political gain.
    The people Bush accommodated in 1963 would support Senator Barry Goldwater for President in 1964 and thereafter Ronald Reagan. …
    The party that George Bush created in Houston in 1963 grew into the party which he would lead — and struggle with — as president.

    [In 1964,] Senator Barry Goldwater of Arizona … ran against big government, the New Deal, labor unions, and liberal or "Rockefeller" Republicans.
    Everything Prescott Bush represented, Goldwater saw as a threat to individual freedom. …
    Prescott Bush tried to keep Goldwater off the ticket.
    Where the father saw danger, the son saw opportunity.
    George Bush ran for US Senate, embraced Goldwater …
    Bush was trounced.
    He was also haunted by some of the far right positions he had taken, especially his pledge to vote against the Civil Rights Act of 1964. …
    Two years later, George Bush ran for Congress from a Houston district more moderate than Texas as a whole [and] was elected handily …

    [After] two unsuccessful Senate campaigns, Bush's political [career had stalled. …]
    [Instead, for the next 18 years, he] would try to advance his career in the tradition of the wise men, by serving others in administrative posts, to which he was well suited, but which, to many, seemed a dead end. …
    [He became the US ambassador to the United Nations under Nixon.]
    Bush plunged with relish into the organization that he had denounced in his '64 campaign.
    He knew little about foreign policy, a lot about dealing with people. …
    Timothy Naftali [Biographer]:
    From the time Bush became the US permanent representative to the United Nations, he began to collect foreign friends.
    Leaders, soon to be leaders, deputies, ambassadors, foreign ministers.
    He was very good at empathizing with them.
    [He] developed friendships with people who didn't like US policy.

    Brent Scowcroft [National Security Advisor, 1989-93]:
    He started a practice of walking down the halls and dropping in on his fellow ambassadors, just to say,
    How are you?
    How are things in your country?
    What do you think of the United States?
    What do you think of the UN?
    What are the problems of the world as you see them?
    [He] developed that into a fine art.

    John Robert Greene [Historian]:
    Nixon knew instinctively that as Watergate unfolded, as the disaster began to build, Bush could be counted on to stick by Nixon right through until the bitter end. …
    When he goes out in front of a television camera for Richard Nixon, George Bush has the perfect public face.

    George H W Bush [Chairman, Republican National Committee]:
    The President has said that he is not involved in Watergate.
    That he didn't know about it, that he is not involved in the cover up.
    And I accept that …
    I don't think it helps the stability … of the country to speculate hypothetically …
    [After Nixon's fall] Ford offered Bush another ambassadorship.
    [He] chose China. …
    After little more than a year [he was then asked to head the CIA. …]

    When Jimmy Carter was elected President in 1976, Bush offered to remain at the CIA to burnish the agency's reputation as bipartisan. …
    [He] became the first CIA director to be dismissed by an incoming president. …

    On May 1 1979 George H W Bush returned to Washington [and declared his candidacy for President.]
    [He] distanced himself from the Republican front-runner, Ronald Reagan … by invoking language used by President Eisenhower.
    George H W Bush:
    There is in our affairs at home a middle way between the untrammeled freedom of the individual and the demands for the welfare of the whole nation. …
    [He ridiculed Reagan's] so-called "supply side" tax policy — the notion that taxes could be cut without reducing spending.
    George H W Bush:
    This theory that Governor Reagan is talking about is what I call a 'voodoo economic' policy.
    Reagan appealed to staunch anti-communists and social conservatives, two of the groups Bush welcomed into the Republican Party … almost 20 years before. …

    [After winning the nomination, Reagan needed Bush] to unify the conservative and moderate wings on the party …
    Herbert Parmet [Biographer]:
    Reagan disliked him for using the term "voodoo economics" …
    [He] disliked him …
    Reagan thought he was a wimp …
    Nancy detested him bitterly.
    [When] I said to Bush was there anything Reagan asked of you in order to nominate you as Vice President, he simply said he wanted me to accept his position on abortion, which I did.
    Despite their political differences, Bush pledged his loyalty. …

    [As Vice President] Bush's deep interest in foreign policy served him well — until a report broke that the Reagan administration was secretly selling arms to Iran to get its help in releasing hostages held in Beirut, a violation of its own policies. …
    [And, more seriously, that] used profits from the arms sales to fund the anti-communist Contras who were trying to topple the Marxist government in Nicaragua [in order to circumvent Congress.]
    It became known as the Iran Contra affair. …
    George H W Bush:
    … I was not aware of and I oppose any diversion of funds, any ransom payments, or any circumvention of the will of the Congress or the law of the United States of America. …

    Richard Norton Smith [Historian]:
    [In the lead-up to the 1988 election,] Prescott Bush's son is not comfortable with the culture of handlers and spin doctors and pollsters and focus groups, and determining what your convictions are by asking a group of strangers in a supermarket in Secaucus, New Jersey.
    On the other hand, he'll do it if that's what it takes to win the presidency. …

    George H W Bush:
    The Congress will push me to raise taxes, and … I'll say to them,
    Read my lips.
    No new taxes. …
    Richard Darman [Campaign Aide]:
    I thought it was ill advised, and I argued against keeping it in.
    The "no new taxes" part was going to be very difficult to live with. …

    Herbert Parmet [Biographer]:
    [It] was one of the dirtiest campaigns in American history. …
    George is pragmatic.
    You have to win in order to put your principles into effect.
    Without winning, you can't achieve anything. …
    In November 1988 George Herbert Walker Bush soundly defeated Michael Dukakis to become the first sitting vice president since Martin Van Buren in 1836 to be elected president.
    Ronald Reagan, who had doubts about Bush eight years earlier, came to feel he was the most qualified president-elect in American history.
    They became good friends. …

    [On his desk in the Oval Office,] he placed a picture of Robin. ..
    John Robert Greene [Historian]:
    [Bush's] transition team, which was run in part by his son, George W [booted out] all of the Reagan appointees …
    It was an ideological housecleaning [that made] it look like a Democrat is coming in. …
    [He] decided to clean up a messy banking problem that Reagan and Congress had all but ignored.
    In 1986, when the real estate market collapsed, hundreds of savings and loan banks had gone bust.
    The cost of bailing out depositors was pushing $50 billion and was projected to triple.
    Bush knew it would be expensive and politically thankless.
    John Robert Greene [Historian]:
    You do it, not to advance your interests.
    You do it because it's in the interest of millions of people who will never vote for you and will certainly never give you any credit for doing it.
    That's responsibility. …
    That's the old establishment way of discharging the privileges of leadership. …
    In Nicaragua, he agreed to withdraw support from the counter-revolutionary Contras if the Marxist Sandinista government agreed to free elections. …

    Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev had pledged at the United Nations to renounce the use of force and withdraw one-half million troops from Eastern Europe. …
    Condoleezza Rice [Soviet Expert, National Security Council]:
    He was determined that no one was going to feel that they had been defeated.
    He was very aware … of the Versailles syndrome … [That] Germany had felt … humiliated after World War I, and that [that] had brought to power Adolf Hitler.

    Timothy Naftali [Biographer]:
    He saw what was going on in Eastern Europe as a very delicate process that involved holding the hands of both the reformers and the old style communists.

    John Sununu [Chief of Staff]:
    It was an art form that George Bush was very good at.
    He understood … that most people generally have good intentions.
    You just have to find a way to get them to work together in order to bring them forward.
    Bush encouraged the reforms Gorbachev had allowed. …
    [But as] protests for reform grew in East Germany, the British and the French grew more worried about a reunified Germany. …
    George H W Bush:
    I think there is in some quarters a feeling a reunified Germany would be detrimental to the peace … Western Europe in some way [— but] I don't accept that at all …

    Timothy Naftali [Biographer]:
    The Soviets felt that their share of Germany was a prize that they had won for beating Hitler.
    They also saw their slice of Germany as their front line, as a defense against future attacks.
    Bush saw that with care, he could get the Soviets to give up what had been their great prize.
    This is where Bush actually got ahead of most of the foreign policy analysts and most of the leaders in the free world. …
    In early November 1989 Gorbachev prodded East Germany's leader to open its borders to "avoid an explosion."
    Within days, the Berlin Wall, the very symbol of the Cold War, was breached. …
    Richard Norton Smith [Historian]:
    He famously said that his mother told him as a boy not to indulge in braggadocio.
    And if there was ever a time when any other American president would have been tempted to indulge in braggadocio, it was 1898-1990 [—] the great victory of the West over … the "evil empire." …
    Any other president would have gotten in a plane and flown to Berlin, and beat his breast, and engaged in "I told you so" triumphalism. …
    [But Bush] remembered when Hungarians revolted against their Soviet backed regime in 1956 and the CIA had led Hungarians to believe the US would rush to their support.
    He did not want East Germans to expect the US Army to rescue them if the Soviets ordered a crackdown.
    [More importantly, he] wanted to work with Gorbachev to end the Cold War.
    He worried that grandstanding in Berlin could provoke a coup in Moscow.
    Timothy Naftali [Biographer]:
    It is impossible to exaggerate the importance of that cool-headedness and delicate approach at a time of … revolutionary change in international politics.
    At home Bush's restraint was met with criticism and ridicule. …

    Pavel Palazchenko [Soviet Foreign Ministry]:
    Bush said to Gorbachev,
    I do understand why you have doubts about Germany. …
    I do know the history between the Soviet Union and Germany.
    But I believe that Germany has paid its dues, that Germany has paid its debts, and that it is now a responsible nation that will behave responsibly on the international scene.
    … I think that that argument did have some force with Gorbachev.
    {Bush considered a united Germany in NATO [as] one of the crowning achievements of his presidency.}
    Condoleezza Rice [Soviet Expert, National Security Council]:
    … George H W Bush was the only person that I think could have pulled it off [—] just because of his personal qualities and the way that he thought about diplomacy. …
    One historian called it
    [One] of the greatest moments in the history of American statecraft …

    Echoes of the Wise Men

    Evan Thomas [Co-author, The Wise Men]:
    … George Bush was the last … of the "wise men".
    He's right out of that tradition … Andover and Yale …
    [A] deep sense of duty to serve, serving in peace and war, making some money but then going in for a long period of public service. …
    On August 1, 1990 [Saddam Hussein] invaded neighboring Kuwait in a dispute over oil. …
    Margaret Thatcher:
    An aggressor cannot gain from his aggression.
    He must be thrown out. …
    For the first time since 1945, the US and the Soviet Union lined up on the same side of an international crisis. …

    Bush dispatched Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney to Saudi Arabia to convince the Saudis to accept American forces.
    Despite warnings [from Osama bin Ladin that] US forces would sully the Muslim holy land, the king accepted the US offer. …
    The force to protect Saudi Arabia was called Desert Shield. …
    George H W Bush:
    We're dealing with Hitler revisited.
    A totalitarianism and a brutality that is naked and unprecedented in modern times. …

    Robert McNamara [Former Secretary of Defense]:
    [War with Iraq is] going to be bloody.
    There are going to be thousands and thousands and thousands of casualties.
    Who can doubt that a year of blockade will be cheaper than a week of war? …

    George H W Bush:
    An Iraq permitted to swallow Kuwait would have the economic and military power … to intimidate and coerce its neighbors.
    Neighbors who control the lion's share of the world's remaining oil reserves.
    We cannot permit a resource so vital to be dominated by one so ruthless …

    [On the domestic front Bush] signed legislation to help Americans with disabilities and initiated plans to clean up America's polluted air.
    Senator George Mitchell [Senate Majority Leader]:
    During President Reagan's term, we did try to revise and improve on the Clean Air Act, but President Reagan was adamantly opposed to it …
    When President Bush took office, he said he wanted clean air legislation.
    Bush was already committed to solve the savings and loan banking crisis he had inherited from Reagan at a cost of $125 billion.
    Richard Darman [Budget Director]:
    At that time, revenues were around 19% of gross domestic product and spending was around 23% so there was a gap of 4 or 5%.
    And it was projected to stay that way for a long time and then start rising as the baby boom generation would retire. …
    At a meeting on June 26, 1990, of top Senate and House leaders from both parties, the Democrats agreed to spending cuts and Republicans agreed to raise taxes. …
    Richard Viguerie [Conservative Activist]:
    I think he betrayed the Reagan revolution in many ways, by new government programs, greatly increased government spending. …
    Everyone, including the Republican whip Newt Gingrich, a movement conservative, seemed to be on board. …
    George H W Bush:
    The bipartisan leaders and I have reached agreement on the Federal Budget.
    Over five years, it would reduce the projected deficit by $500 billion; that is half a trillion dollars. …
    {[Then] Newt Gingrich … bolted. …
    [The] House voted the budget agreement down.
    Sixty percent of House Republicans followed Gingrich in what one reporter called a "collective nervous breakdown" in the GOP.
    Gingrich's revolt launched him on a path to become Speaker of the House.
    [But it] also gave the majority Democrats their way on the budget bill.
    Bush was forced to sign a bill that raised not the gasoline tax he and Republicans had favored but an income tax on the rich.}

    Newt Gingrich may … have advanced Reagan's cause.
    [But it was] George Bush [who may] have saved [his] reputation.
    Timothy Naftali [Biographer]:
    Had Bush not cleaned up the savings and loan mess, had he not cleaned up the budget problem by breaking his "no new taxes" pledge and raising taxes, Ronald Reagan would be associated with an economic collapse in the United States.
    Instead, because George Bush was willing to give Americans strong medicine [at great political cost, Reagan's legacy was preserved. …]

    On November 29, [1990, Secretary of State] Baker made his case [to the UN] for the use of "all necessary means" to evict Iraq from Kuwait if it did not withdraw by January 15, 1991.
    James A Baker, III:
    That UN vote was very important.
    But if you ask me whether we would have done it without the vote, we probably would have, because we felt we had the constitutional authority and power to do so. …
    [On] January 12, 1991 … Congress narrowly approve[d] the use of force to evict Saddam Hussein from Kuwait. …

    At 9pm on January 16, 1991, President Bush announced the start of the Gulf War. …
    For 38 days the US Air Force led the battle, now called Desert Storm.
    Then the coalition launched a ground assault [which quickly] crushed 46 Iraqi divisions. …




    Bush chose to stop the slaughter … after four days.
    The ground offensive became known as the 100-hour war.
    [The] death toll among Americans [numbered] 303, with fewer than 500 wounded. …

    Non-American Death Toll

    CombatantNon-Combantant
    Iraqi20,000-35,0003,664
    Kuwaiti
    1,000+
    Israeli
    2
    Saudi
    1

    (Wikipedia, 17 May 2013)

    This was the high point of the Bush presidency.
    His approval ratings [peaked] at 89% [—] at the time, the highest in the history of presidential polling. …

    Intelligence reports [had] predicted the Iraqi military would overthrow Saddam. …
    [But, within] days after the cease-fire, Saddam Hussein's Republican Guard brutally suppressed an uprising by Iraqi Shia in the South.
    Then they suppressed an uprising by the Kurds in the north. …
    News reporter:
    If we were prepared to use force to drive Saddam from power, it would be over probably in four days, no more than four weeks.

    James A Baker, III:
    Some people said,
    Why didn't you guys take care of Saddam when you had the chance?
    Why didn't you go to Baghdad? …
    I got that question a lot …
    Nobody asks me that question anymore. …
    After the Gulf War, Osama bin Laden left Saudi Arabia determined to get revenge against the United States for defiling Saudi soil. …


    The rest of Bush's presidency would be a steady decline. …
    The onset of globalization helped push the unemployment rate to 7.4%.
    Bush was not willing to extend unemployment benefits for fear of increasing the budget deficit.
    When he tried to encourage consumer spending to spur the economy, [he appeared] unsympathetic to those who might not have spare cash to spend. …

    Bush could take some comfort on Christmas day 1991 when the Soviet Union dissolved.
    President Mikhail Gorbachev's last phone call was to him. …
    Condoleezza Rice [National Security Council]:
    That last phone call from Gorbachev to President Bush is … one of the most remarkable things in history, that the General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, the President of the great Soviet Union, in its dying moments, would choose to call the President of the United States. …
    The Republican party continued to fracture. …
    [So] Bush could not campaign on the things in which he took pride — the Clean Air Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act.
    To movement conservatives they simply expanded government at the taxpayer's expense. …
    John Robert Greene [Historian]:
    The Republican Party [lurches to the right] during Bush's administration. …
    [And] George Bush was a moderate [establishment] Republican.
    He was not a Reagan Republican. …
    [But if] Bush had problems [so did] Bill Clinton …
    Marlin Fitzwater [Press Secretary]:
    [We had never] had a [Presidential] candidate who was a philanderer [who'd still won] an election.
    [And we'd] certainly never had [one] who'd been accused of draft dodging and [then] elected president. …
    … I don't think anybody believed Clinton could win.

    George H W Bush:
    There is a clear pattern to Governor Clinton's past.
    A pattern of deception.
    Character [matters …]
    By the spring of 1992 the recession was technically over.
    Bush's budget agreement was paying off, but so slowly people didn't feel it. …
    Richard Norton Smith [Historian]:
    [What he achieved,] significant as it [was,] was irrelevant to what the American people increasingly wanted …
    [They wanted the domestic economic] security to match the foreign security to which he had dedicated his presidency. …

    John Robert Greene [Historian]:
    Bush [was] a candidate who didn't want to campaign.
    He [believed] that his accomplishments [should] speak for themselves. …
    A week before the election, Bush finally had good news on the economy.
    [It] was the beginning of the economic boom of the 1990s — of the Clinton years.
    [But, it] came too late to save [his] presidency. …
    Richard Darman [Budget Director]:
    The Congressional Budget Office, the Senate Budget Committee [and] some people at the Brookings Institution [have estimated that] roughly 60% [of the Clinton budget surplus] came in the 1990 budget agreement [— courtesy of] President Bush. …
    Just five days before the election, a special prosecutor issued his report of the Iran contra scandal six years before.
    Bush, it seemed, was more in the loop than he had claimed. …
    In the final days of the campaign, Clinton was able to turn the character issue against Bush. …

    Bill Clinton defeated Bush with 43% of the vote.
    {Bush got 37.}
    Ross Perot took 19%. …
    It was the most decisive rejection of a sitting president [in eighty years].
    John Robert Greene [Historian:
    Bill Clinton did not beat George Bush in 1992. …
    [George Bush] let the right be hijacked by Pat Buchanan [and] Newt Gingrich. ..
    [It was his failure to understand] the power of the political right … that cost George Bush the election. …

    Timothy Naftali [Biographer]:
    People make the argument that Ronald Reagan created Bush [— that's] baloney.
    The notion of economic prosperity, of constant economic growth, of peace abroad, all of these ideas that are associated with Reagan's legacy, would have been impossible without George Bush. …

    Colin Powell [Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff]:
    His most important contribution was bringing the Cold War to an end …
    George Bush … produced a Europe that is whole, free, and at peace. …

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