Mem­o­ries of 41st pres­i­dent’s hu­mor­ous side

Baltimore Sun - - GEORGE H.W. BUSH - By Deb Riechmann

WASH­ING­TON — Mem­o­ries of Ge­orge H.W. Bush’s un­der­ap­pre­ci­ated sense of hu­mor drew laugh­ter and brought smiles to the sor­row­ful mourn­ing of the death of Amer­ica’s 41st pres­i­dent.

Pres­i­den­tial his­to­rian Jon Meacham re­counted how co­me­dian Dana Car­vey once said that the key to do­ing his iconic im­per­son­ation of Bush was to mimic “Mr. Rogers try­ing to be John Wayne.”

That prompted chuck­les that rang from the vaulted arches in­side the Wash­ing­ton Na­tional Cathe­dral.

Meacham said that while cam­paign­ing and ask­ing for votes in New Hamp­shire, Bush mis­tak­enly grabbed the hand of a de­part­ment store man­nequin. “When he re­al­ized his mis­take, he said ‘Never know. Gotta ask.’ ”

The for­mer pres­i­dent, who died Fri­day, of­ten found his tongue twisted and rou­tinely ut­tered funny one-lin­ers.

Look­ing ahead to the 1988 elec­tion, Bush once said: “It’s no ex­ag­ger­a­tion to say that the un­de­cid­eds could go one way or the other.” And Meacham said that late in his pres­i­dency, Bush’s tongue ran amok when he said: “We are en­joy­ing slug­gish times, but we’re not en­joy­ing them very much.”

The for­mer pres­i­dent’s el­dest son, for­mer Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush, got in on the act, telling the packed cathe­dral that his fa­ther got the last laugh be­cause he chose for­mer Sen. Alan Simp­son to be one of the peo­ple to speak at Wed­nes­day’s cer­e­mony.

Simp­son said his friend never lost his sense of hu­mor.

“He had a very se­ri­ous flaw known by all close to him: He loved a good joke — the richer the bet­ter,” Simp­son said. “And he threw his head back and gave that great laugh, but he never, ever could re­mem­ber a punch­line. And I mean never.”

DEN­NIS COOK/AP

Comic Dana Car­vey, left, shows Pres­i­dent Ge­orge H.W. Bush how to im­i­tate him­self at the White House in 1992.

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