GEORGE H.W. BUSH
World leaders pay tribute to the 41st president of the United States,
He urged Americans to be a “thousand points of light.” When fighting an election, he promised, “read my lips — no new taxes.” And once in office, he put his foot down: there would be no more broccoli for President George H.W. Bush.
The former U.S. president, vice-president, ambassador, congressman, director of the Central Intelligence Agency and patriarch of one of America’s most successful political families died Friday. He was 94.
“Jeb, Neil, Marvin, Doro and I are saddened to announce that after 94 remarkable years, our dear Dad has died,” his son, former president George W. Bush, said in a statement released early Saturday. “George H.W. Bush was a man of the highest character and the best dad a son or daughter could ask for. The entire Bush family is deeply grateful for 41’s life and love, for the compassion of those who have cared and prayed for Dad, and for the condolences of our friends and fellow citizens.”
Bush will be honoured with a funeral at Washington’s National Cathedral, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said Saturday. U.S. President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump will attend, she said.
Trump cancelled a planned news conference at the Group of 20 summit in Argentina Saturday, “out of respect for the Bush Family.”
“President George H.W. Bush led a long, successful and beautiful life,” Trump wrote on Twitter on Saturday morning. “Whenever I was with him, I saw his absolute joy for life and true pride in his family. His accomplishments were great from beginning to end. He was a truly wonderful man and will be missed by all!”
Trump’s words of admiration belied his history of animosity with the Bush family. Trump eviscerated Bush’s son Jeb Bush during the 2016 Republican primaries and regularly disparaged George W. Bush for the way he ran the country. The elder Bush refused to support Trump in 2016, voting instead for Hillary Clinton.
Other living presidents also offered their condolences to the Bush family.
“He never stopped serving,” said former president Bill Clinton, who served after Bush and before his son, George W. Bush, in a statement on Twitter. “I saw it up close, working with him on tsunami relief in Asia and here at home after Hurricane Katrina. His remarkable leadership and great heart were always on full display.”
Comedian and talk show host Ellen DeGeneres also commented on Bush’s involvement in Hurricane Katrina relief efforts.
She said she would “never forget” when Bush joined Clinton in New Orleans, DeGeneres’s hometown, to help raise money.
In a statement released on Twitter, former president Barack Obama called Bush a “patriot.”
“America has lost a patriot and humble servant in George Herbert Walker Bush,” Obama said. “While our hearts are heavy today, they are also filled with gratitude. Our thoughts are with the entire Bush family tonight — and all who were inspired by George and Barbara’s example.”
Former prime minister Brian Mulroney says he and his wife share the Bush family’s grief. Mulroney, whose time as prime minister overlapped with Bush’s presidential term, says he feels privileged to have worked with him on files including German re-unification and NAFTA.
“Mila and I extend our deepest condolence to the Bush family. We share their grief in having lost both Barbara and her beloved partner, George H W Bush, within months,” Mulroney said in a statement.
British prime minister and conservative leader Theresa May described Bush as a “trusted counterpart and confidant” in her statement on Twitter.
Bush’s death comes eight months after the death of his wife Barbara Bush in April. The Bushes, who were married Jan. 6, 1945, had the longest marriage of any presidential couple in American history.
Mrs. Bush was one of only two first ladies who had a child who was elected president. The other was Abigail Adams, wife of John Adams and mother of John Quincy Adams.
Bush suffered from a variety of health problems in his final years. In 2012, in an interview with Parade magazine, Bush revealed that he had Vascular Parkinson’s, which forced him into a motorized scooter.
“It just affects the legs. It’s not painful. You tell your legs to move, and they don’t move,” he said. “It’s strange, but if you have some bad-sounding disease, this is a good one to get.”
He was hospitalized over a bout of pneumonia in January 2017, ending up in the intensive care unit of Houston’s Methodist Hospital. That episode caused Bush to miss the inauguration of Donald Trump — “My doctor says if I sit outside in January, it will likely put me six feet under,” Bush wrote in a letter explaining his absence.
Bush — often referred to as Bush Sr., or Bush 41, to differentiate him from his son, another former president named George Bush — was elected the 41st president of the United States of America in 1988. His four years in the Oval Office, from 1989 to 1993, saw the Cold War end, the Berlin Wall fall, and much of the North American Free Trade Agreement hammered out. But Bush may be most widely remembered for Operation Desert Storm and his decision to send U.S. soldiers into Kuwait to remove Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi forces in the winter of 1991.
“His big success was the Gulf War,” said Paul Quirk, a professor of political science at the University of British Columbia. “At the point this was happening, and shortly after, Bush had the approval of 90 per cent of the American public.”
Bush couldn’t maintain that momentum, however. He had to renege on his promise not to raise taxes in a deal with the Democrats to reduce the deficit, and it was largely the faltering U.S. economy that led to Bush’s defeat to Bill Clinton in the 1992 presidential election.
After his inauguration in January 1989, Bush’s first visit to a foreign country was to Canada, to see then-prime minister Brian Mulroney. At the top of the agenda was discussion of an accord on acid rain. Bush declared that Ottawa was “colder than hell” — according to a Star reporter who was there, it was about -5 C — but called the visit “outstanding.”
Bush is also remembered for his distinctive speaking style — comic Dana Carvey, who imitated him on Saturday Night Live, described him as a cross between Mr. Rogers and John Wayne — and, amusingly, his decision to ban broccoli from Air Force One.
“I do not like broccoli,” Bush said. “I’m president of the United States, and I’m not going to eat any more broccoli!”