Bush was ev­ery­thing that Trump is not

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - FRONT PAGE - Dana Mil­bank Columnist Dana Mil­bank is syn­di­cated by The Wash­ing­ton Post Writ­ers Group.

Columnist Dana Mil­bank says the dif­fer­ences were ob­vi­ous at this week’s fu­neral for the 41st pres­i­dent.

Ge­orge Her­bert Walker Bush, be­fore his death, said he wanted Pres­i­dent Trump to at­tend his fu­neral, a gen­er­ous ges­ture that for­gave the cav­al­cade of in­sults that Trump has rained on the Bush fam­ily.

It was a fi­nal show of the sound judg­ment Bush ex­er­cised in life.

Trump’s name was men­tioned not once by the four eu­lo­gists at Wash­ing­ton Na­tional Cathe­dral on Wed­nes­day. But their words were an im­plicit re­buke of ev­ery­thing Trump is. They spoke of what made Bush a great leader, which are the very traits that, by their ab­sence, make Trump so woe­fully in­ad­e­quate.

Dur­ing his eu­logy, Bush bi­og­ra­pher Jon Meacham iden­ti­fied Bush’s “thou­sand points of light” — a phrase Trump has ridiculed — as a “com­pan­ion verse” to Abra­ham Lin­coln’s “bet­ter an­gels of our na­ture,” be­cause “Lin­coln and Bush both called on us to choose the right over the con­ve­nient, to hope rather than to fear, and to heed not our worst im­pulses, but our best in­stincts.”

And there, in the front pew, was Trump, who leads by stok­ing fear and con­firm­ing base im­pulses.

Ge­orge W. Bush re­called of his fa­ther: “In vic­tory, he shared credit. When he lost, he shoul­dered the blame.” Bush in­voked his dad’s “un­like­li­est” friend­ship with Bill Clin­ton as they went from op­po­nents to “broth­ers from other moth­ers.”

Trump, a few seats from Clin­ton, al­ter­nated be­tween fold­ing arms im­pas­sively across his chest and lean­ing for­ward un­com­fort­ably. Could he com­pre­hend the ideas of giv­ing credit, ac­cept­ing blame or for­giv­ing?

Bush friend Alan Simp­son, a for­mer Wy­oming sen­a­tor, said the 41st pres­i­dent “never hated any­one” and loy­alty “coursed through his blood,” in­clud­ing a “loy­alty to the in­sti­tu­tions of gov­ern­ment.” This must be in­com­pre­hen­si­ble to Trump, who dis­penses ha­tred in 280-char­ac­ter in­cre­ments, de­mands loy­alty but of­fers none in re­turn, and trashes the in­sti­tu­tions of gov­ern­ment for sport.

And the cur­rent pres­i­dent, though not given to self-re­flec­tion, could not have missed the re­buke de­liv­ered by an­other eu­lo­gist, for­mer Cana­dian Prime Minister Brian Mul­roney, who praised Bush for ne­go­ti­at­ing the North Amer­i­can Free Trade Agree­ment (which Trump has called the “worst trade deal in his­tory”); for en­vi­ron­men­tal­ism (which Trump de­rides); and for in­ter­na­tional lead­er­ship (which Trump dis­misses).

“When Ge­orge Bush was pres­i­dent,” Mul­roney said, “ev­ery sin­gle head of gov­ern­ment in the world knew that they were deal­ing with a gen­tle­man, a gen­uine leader, one who was dis­tin­guished, res­o­lute and brave.”

Can any­body imag­ine, in years hence, any world leader out­side of dic­ta­tors and strong­men pay­ing any trib­ute to the cur­rent pres­i­dent, much less one about gen­tle­man­li­ness and brav­ery?

Bush’s fu­neral was so pow­er­ful a re­nun­ci­a­tion of his cur­rent suc­ces­sor be­cause it was a cel­e­bra­tion of char­ac­ter. Friend­ship was in­voked 21 times by his eu­lo­gists. Loy­alty, 10. “Honor,” “in­tegrity,” “dig­nity,” “de­cency” and in­ner peace all re­curred. Cer­tainly, Bush could be a fierce par­ti­san and a bru­tal politi­cian (re­mem­ber Wil­lie Hor­ton?), but his ser­vice in World War II — he was shot down over the Pa­cific — left him with lessons that fu­eled his gen­er­a­tion’s great­ness: The op­po­si­tion is not the en­emy. There are causes greater than self. Po­lit­i­cal de­feat is not the worst thing. And Amer­i­can lead­er­ship in the world is in­dis­pens­able.

Trump, for whom no cause is greater than self, must have strug­gled to sit through 90 min­utes of some­thing that was not all about him. Rather, it was all about what he is not.

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