Leaders, opponents, dog pay tribute to Bush
They came together Tuesday from worlds that can often seem so far apart, current and former elected officials, intelligence chiefs and foreign dignitaries standing alongside suit-clad federal workers, college students and other everyday Americans. They came together to bid farewell to George H.W. Bush, the patrician former president who dedicated years to public service.
Throngs of people streamed into the Capitol Rotunda for a quiet moment seeing Bush’s flag-draped coffin as he lies in state. Those who gathered included Bush’s relatives, people who served under him while he was commander in chief and onetime political rivals, including Bob Dole, the former Senate majority leader and Republican nominee for president.
Dole, who had twice competed with Bush for the Republican nomination, approached the casket in a wheelchair. An aide helped him stand briefly before Bush’s body. With his left hand, Dole gave a salute to Bush, who like him had been veteran of the Second World War.
Jeb Bush, the late president’s son, posted on Twitter of the moment: “Just incredible. Thank you Senator Dole.”
Bush died last week in Texas and will lie in state at the Capitol Rotunda until Wednesday morning. His body was brought to the Capitol on Monday to begin days of tributes in Washington and Texas, which will include a national day of mourning and a state funeral Wednesday.
A parade of prominent names also came Tuesday to bid farewell to the 41st president, their appearances reflecting chapters from his remarkable resume. Colin Powell, who Bush named as his chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, came along with generals who served during the 1991 Persian Gulf War under Bush. Gina Haspel, the CIA director, approached with John Brennan and others who had similarly followed in Bush’s footsteps in leading the agency.
Members of Congress, where Bush served four years, trickled in and out, as did staffers for the Republican National Committee, which Bush once chaired. Former Secret Service directors came through, as did South Korea’s foreign minister and Kuwait’s former prime minister.
More recent additions to Bush’s life appeared. Sully, the steadfast service dog who accompanied Bush in the final months of his life and was the subject of a viral photograph tweeted by the former president’s spokesman, briefly took a spot in the Rotunda.
When a former president dies, the public mourning process offered by having them lie in state gives the American public a chance to say farewell. Bush is the 12th president to lie in state at the Capitol, a tradition that dates back to Abraham Lincoln ABOVE: Sully, former U.S. President George H.W. Bush’s service dog, pays his respect to Bush as he lies in state at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, on Tuesday. RIGHT: Former Sen. Bob Dole rises to his feet from his wheelchair with the help of an aide to salute Bush’s flag-draped casket.
in April 1865, although not every president has been honoured that way.
The first person memorialized this way was Henry Clay, a former senator and speaker of the House, in 1852, according to the House of Representatives. In recent years, the honor has also been given to senators Daniel Inouye and John McCain.
The tradition offers a brief period of stillness in an unsettled time, a ritual that crystallizes the moment when the country formally mourns and says goodbye. There have not been many presidents in the nation’s relatively young history, and Bush’s death leaves just four living former presidents as well as President Donald Trump.
Before Bush, the last presidents to lie in state were Ronald Reagan – for whom Bush served as vice president – in 2004 and, a little more than two years later, Gerald Ford, who also was a Second World War veteran, congressman and vice president before serving as president. Statues of both men adorn the Rotunda that now holds Bush’s body.
As they did when those men were remembered, crowds of Americans came to the Capitol on Tuesday with clasped hands, sombre expressions and some tears. Mourners began heading inside well before the sun rose, climbing two flights of stairs to gather around a coffin cloaked with an American flag and ringed by three floral wreaths and an honour guard. To some, he was a president while they worked for the government; others knew him only as a figure from their textbooks or as the father of the 43rd president.