United in griev­ing

Former pres­i­dents put aside dif­fer­ences to farewell Bush

The Cairns Post - - WORLD -

AMER­ICA has bid farewell to former pres­i­dent Ge­orge H.W. Bush with high praise, can­non salutes and gen­tle hu­mour.

Yes­ter­day’s state fu­neral in Wash­ing­ton cel­e­brated the life of the Texan, the last pres­i­dent to fight for the US dur­ing a pe­riod of war.

His of­fi­cial good­bye was at­tended by three former pres­i­dents at the Wash­ing­ton Na­tional Cathe­dral as a fourth – Ge­orge W. Bush – eu­lo­gised his fa­ther as “the bright­est of a thou­sand points of light”. Fol­low­ing three days of re­mem­brance in the cap­i­tal city, the Air Force plane car­ry­ing Mr Bush’s cas­ket took off yes­ter­day for a fi­nal ser­vice and burial in Hous­ton to­mor­row.

His fi­nal rest­ing place will be along­side Bar­bara Bush, his wife of 73 years, and Robin Bush, the daugh­ter they shared who died of leukaemia aged three.

The na­tional fu­neral ser­vice held yes­ter­day was a tribute to a pres­i­dent, a pa­tri­arch and a faded po­lit­i­cal era that prized mil­i­tary ser­vice and pub­lic re­spon­si­bil­ity.

It was laced with in­di­rect com­par­isons with Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump but was not con­sumed by them, as speak­ers fo­cused on Mr Bush’s pub­lic life and char­ac­ter – with plenty of cracks about his goofy side, too.

Mr Trump sat with his wife, a trio of ex-pres­i­dents and their wives, sev­eral of the group sharp crit­ics of his pres­i­dency and one of them, Hil­lary Clin­ton, his 2016 Demo­cratic foe.

Apart from cour­te­ous nods and some hand­shakes, there was lit­tle in­ter­ac­tion be­tween Mr Trump and the oth­ers. Ge­orge W. Bush broke down briefly at the end of his eu­logy while in­vok­ing the daugh­ter his par­ents lost in 1953 and his mother, who died in April. He said he took com­fort in know­ing “Dad is hug­ging Robin and hold­ing Mom’s hand again”.

The fam­ily oc­cu­pied the White House for 12 years.

The el­der Bush was “the last great-sol­dier states­man”, his­to­rian Jon Meacham said in his eu­logy, “our shield”.

But he took a lighter tone, too, not­ing that Mr Bush, when cam­paign­ing in a crowded depart­ment store, once shook hands with a man­nequin.

Rather than flush­ing in em­bar­rass­ment, he sim­ply quipped: “Never know. Gotta ask.”

Mr Meacham had re­port­edly read his eu­logy to the ail­ing former pres­i­dent, who re­sponded with the crack: “That’s a lot about me, Jon.”

His former plane, which of­ten serves as Air Force One, ar­rived at Elling­ton Field out­side Hous­ton last night. As a mo­tor­cade sub­se­quently car­ried Mr Bush’s re­mains to the fam­ily church, St Mar­tin’s Epis­co­pal, along a closed high­way, hun­dreds of peo­ple took to the streets to see his cas­ket travel past.

One driver of a stopped tanker truck climbed atop the hulk­ing ve­hi­cle for a bet­ter view, and at least 15 fire­fight­ers scaled a pair of fire en­gines to salute.

Upon its ar­rival at the church, Bush’s cas­ket was met by a mil­i­tary band and Hous­ton Demo­cratic Mayor Sylvester Turner.

Pic­ture: AFP

MOURN­ING: Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump (from left), Me­la­nia Trump, Barack Obama, Michelle Obama, Bill Clin­ton, Hil­lary Clin­ton, Jimmy Carter and Ros­alynn Carter at the State Fu­neral for former US Pres­i­dent Ge­orge H.W. Bush, at the Na­tional Cathe­dral in Wash­ing­ton, DC.

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