MISSION, RGV – GOP stalwart Hollis Rutledge says President George H.W. Bush does not get the credit he deserves for crafting the North American Free Trade Agreement.

That is a shame, says the former chairman of the Texas Republican Party County Chairmen’s Association and Hidalgo County Republican Party. Rutledge served under Bush 41 as Fort Worth-based regional administrator for the General Services Administration.

“President George Herbert Walker Bush was, by far, the one that structured the deal that transformed the Valley economically forever. And that initiative was called NAFTA,” Rutledge told Ron Whitlock of Ron Whitlock Reports.

“At that time we, the Rio Grande Valley, were predominately very much agricultural. Had it not been for NAFTA, the Valley would not be what it is today, a far more urban area with a much larger and more diverse economy.”

Rutledge said that even though President Clinton signed off on NAFTA, the structured deal was all “conducted and done” by Bush 41. 

“He was the one responsible for NAFTA. No question about it. That changed the economics of North America, certainly that of the Rio Grande Valley. That fact is beyond reasonable doubt. We all know that. That piece of legislation, that agreement, beyond a doubt, brings it home for the Rio Grande Valley.”

Rutledge said recognition about NAFTA needs to be said by the people of the Valley because few others are saying it.

“It needs to be said because no one is saying it. I am because I was there. In fact, I was there when he (Bush) signed the original agreement in San Antonio, in 1992. We lost the presidential election but Clinton signed off on it.”

Rio Grande Guardian editor Steve Taylor sat down with Rutledge for a 30-minute podcast interview to discuss the Bush 41 legacy. He pointed out that he first interacted with Bush during the 1970 U.S. Senate race in Texas, when the Houston Republican ran for an open seat against Mission Democrat Lloyd Bentsen. Rutledge said that as a Mission native himself, he could have been tarred and feathered for going against Bentsen. 

Here is the podcast: