A divided Washington led by the nation’s five living presidents put on a rare show of unity Wednesday at the state funeral of George Herbert Walker Bush, as America bade farewell to its 41st president.
US, foreign leaders bid goodbye to late president, remember era of civility
— A divided Washington led by the nation’s five living presidents put on a rare show of unity Wednesday at the state funeral of George Herbert Walker Bush, as America bade farewell to its 41st president.
Donald and Melania Trump shared a front row pew in the National Cathedral with past presidents Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter and their wives as an honor guard brought Bush’s flag-draped casket into the prayer hall filled with dignitaries.
George W. Bush tapped the casket twice when he walked up to deliver a rousing eulogy, fighting through tears as he sang the praises of his father and predecessor as commander-in-chief, who died Friday at age 94.
“He showed me what it means to be a president who serves with integrity, leads with courage, and acts with love in his heart for the citizens of our country,” Bush said.
“He was born with just two settings — full throttle, then sleep,” he said.
“To us, his was the brightest of a thousand points of light,” he said in a reference to his father’s signature call to volunteerism.
“When the history books are written, they will say that George H.W. Bush was a great president of the United States.”
Bush’s eulogy followed a performance by Irish tenor Ronan Tynan — a friend of H.W. who sang to him in his dying hours.
Wednesday’s funeral capped a national homage that saw Bush lie in state in the US Capitol rotunda, where thousands paid respects to a statesman who steered the nation through turbulent times including the end of the Cold War — and in a style dramatically different to the current president.
Since Bush’s death, Trump has traded his usual provocative posture for one of solemnity, tweeting before the service about “a day of celebration for a great man.”
But at the funeral, Trump and his Democratic predecessors appeared locked in an uneasy truce.
Trump arrived and shook hands with Obama and former first lady Michelle Obama.
But his greetings stopped there, and the body language turned cold as he failed to acknowledge Hillary Clinton, his defeated Democratic rival in 2016.
Clinton stared straight ahead and the two made no eye contact.
It was a dramatic contrast when George W. Bush arrived minutes later and shook hands with the current and past presidents and their wives — and handed Michelle Obama a piece of candy, as he did during the memorial service for senator John McCain in the same cathedral in September.
Bells tolled while the casket was carried down the aisle, as dignitaries including Britain’s Prince Charles, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, former Polish president Lech Walesa, and former U.S. vice presidents and cabinet officials looked on.
Precision, patriotic ritual, and ceremony ruled the day. The Bushes and congressional leaders stood outside the U.S. Capitol with hands on hearts as Bush’s casket was carried out to a 21-gun salute.
Pennsylvania Avenue was lined with well-wishers as the cortege proceeded toward the Neo-Gothic cathedral in the first presidential funeral since Gerald Ford died in 2006.
Bush was a decorated World War II aviator who nearly died when he was shot down on a bombing mission.
He served as a congressman, envoy to China, director of the Central Intelligence Agency, and vice president to Ronald Reagan before winning the White House.
Trump’s ascendancy to the head of the Republican Party saw him exchange vitriolic attacks with the Bushes, notably slamming the presidential son’s 2003 invasion of Iraq and mocking candidate Jeb Bush during the Republican primaries.
U.S. President Donald Trump with first lady Melania Trump, former President Barack Obama, former first lady Michelle Obama, former President Bill Clinton and former first lady Hillary Clinton, former President Jimmy Carter and first lady Rosalynn Carter attend the state funeral for former U.S. President George H.W. Bush at the Washington National Cathedral in Washington, Wednesday. Inset: Former U.S. President George W. Bush becomes emotional as he speaks at the funeral for his father, George H.W. Bush.