Na­tion bids good­bye to Bush with high praise, can­nons, hu­mor

El Dorado News-Times - - Viewpoint -

WASH­ING­TON (AP) — The na­tion bid good­bye to Ge­orge H.W. Bush with high praise, can­non salutes and gen­tle hu­mor Wed­nes­day, cel­e­brat­ing the life of the Texan who em­braced a life­time of ser­vice in Wash­ing­ton and was the last pres­i­dent to fight for the U.S. in wartime. Three for­mer pres­i­dents looked on at Wash­ing­ton Na­tional Cathe­dral as a fourth — Ge­orge W. Bush — eu­lo­gized his dad as "the bright­est of a thou­sand points of light."

Af­ter three days of re­mem­brance in the cap­i­tal city, the Air Force plane with Bush's cas­ket left for a fi­nal ser­vice in Hous­ton and burial Thurs­day at his fam­ily plot on the pres­i­den­tial li­brary grounds at Texas A&M Univer­sity in Col­lege Sta­tion. His fi­nal rest­ing place is along­side Bar­bara Bush, his wife of 73 years, and Robin Bush, the daugh­ter who died of leukemia at age 3.

His plane, which of­ten serves as Air Force One, ar­rived at Elling­ton Field out­side Hous­ton in late af­ter­noon.

The na­tional funeral ser­vice at the cathe­dral was a tribute to a pres­i­dent, a pa­tri­arch and a faded po­lit­i­cal era that prized mil­i­tary ser­vice and pub­lic re­spon­si­bil­ity. It was laced with in­di­rect com­par­isons to Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump but was not con­sumed by them, as speak­ers fo­cused on Bush's pub­lic life and char­ac­ter — with plenty of cracks about his goofy side, too.

Trump sat with his wife, a trio of ex-pres­i­dents and their wives, sev­eral of the group sharp crit­ics of his pres­i­dency and one of them, Hil­lary Clin­ton, his 2016 Demo­cratic foe. Apart from cour­te­ous nods and some hand­shakes, there was lit­tle in­ter­ac­tion be­tween Trump and the oth­ers.

Ge­orge W. Bush broke down briefly at the end of his eu­logy while in­vok­ing the daugh­ter his par­ents lost in 1953 and his mother, who died in April. He said he took com­fort in know­ing "Dad is hug­ging Robin and hold­ing Mom's hand again."

The fam­ily oc­cu­pied the White House for a dozen years — the 41st pres­i­dent de­feated af­ter one term, the 43rd serv­ing two. Jeb Bush stepped up to try to ex­tend that run but fell short when Trump won the 2016 Re­pub­li­can pri­maries.

The el­der Bush was "the last great-sol­dier states­man," his­to­rian Jon Meacham said in his eu­logy, "our shield" in dan­ger­ous times.

But he took a lighter tone, too, not­ing that Bush, cam­paign­ing in a crowd in a de­part­ment store, once shook hands with a man­nequin. Rather than flush­ing in em­bar­rass­ment, he sim­ply quipped, "Never know. Gotta ask."

Meacham re­counted how co­me­dian Dana Car­vey once said the key to do­ing an im­per­son­ation of Bush was "Mr. Rogers try­ing to be John Wayne."

None of that would be a sur­prise to Bush. Meacham had read his eu­logy to him, said Bush spokesman Jim Mc­Grath, and Bush re­sponded to it with the crack: "That's a lot about me, Jon."

The con­gre­ga­tion at the cathe­dral, filled with for­eign lead­ers and diplo­mats, Amer­i­cans of high of­fice and oth­ers touched by Bush's life, rose for the ar­rival of the cas­ket, ac­com­pa­nied by clergy of faiths from around the world. In their row to­gether, Trump and for­mer Pres­i­dents Barack Obama, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clin­ton stood with their spouses and all placed their hands over their hearts.

Alan Simp­son, for­mer Re­pub­li­can sen­a­tor from Wyoming, re­galed the con­gre­ga­tion with sto­ries from his years as Bush's friend in Wash­ing­ton. More se­ri­ously, he re­called that when he went through a rough patch in the po­lit­i­cal game, Bush con­spic­u­ously stood by him against the ad­vice of aides. "You would have wanted him on your side," he said.

Simp­son said Bush "loved a good joke — the richer the bet­ter. And he threw his head back and gave that great laugh, but he never, ever could re­mem­ber a punch­line. And I mean never."

Ge­orge W. Bush turned the hu­mor back on the acer­bic ex-sen­a­tor, say­ing of the late pres­i­dent: "He placed great value on a good joke, so he chose Simp­son to speak."

Meacham praised Bush's call to vol­un­teerism, plac­ing his "1,000 points of light" along­side Abra­ham Lincoln's call to honor "the bet­ter an­gels of our na­ture" in the Amer­i­can rhetor­i­cal canon. Meacham called those lines "com­pan­ion verses in Amer­ica's na­tional hymn."

Trump had mocked "1,000 points of light" last sum­mer at a rally, say­ing "What the hell is that? Has any­one ever fig­ured that one out? And it was put out by a Re­pub­li­can, wasn't it?"

For­mer Cana­dian Prime Min­is­ter Brian Mul­roney praised Bush as a strong world leader who helped over­see the end of the Cold War and the col­lapse of the Soviet Union and helped bring about the North Amer­i­can Free Trade Agree­ment with Canada and Mex­ico, signed into law by his suc­ces­sor, Clin­ton.

With Trump, a bit­ter NAFTA critic, seated in the front row, Mul­roney hailed the "largest and rich­est free trade area in the his­tory of the world." The three coun­tries have agreed on a re­vised trade agree­ment pushed by Trump.

Ear­lier, a mil­i­tary band played "Hail to the Chief" as Bush's cas­ket was car­ried down the steps of the U.S. Capi­tol, where he had lain in state. Fam­ily mem­bers looked on as ser­vice­men fired off a can­non salute.

His hearse was then driven in a mo­tor­cade to the cathe­dral cer­e­mony, slow­ing in front of the White House, the route lined with peo­ple much of the way, bun­dled in win­ter hats and tak­ing pho­tos.

Wait­ing for his ar­rival in­side, Trump shook hands with Obama and for­mer first lady Michelle Obama, who greeted him by say­ing "Good morn­ing." Trump did not shake hands with Bill and Hil­lary Clin­ton, who looked straight ahead.

Bill Clin­ton and Mrs. Obama smiled and chat­ted as mu­sic played. Carter was seated si­lently next to Hil­lary Clin­ton in the cav­ernous cathe­dral. Obama cracked up laugh­ing at some­one's quip. Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence shook Carter's hand.

Trump tweeted Wed­nes­day that the day marked "a cel­e­bra­tion for a great man who has led a long and dis­tin­guished life."

Bush's death makes Carter, also 94 but more than 100 days younger, the old­est liv­ing ex-pres­i­dent.

Fol­low­ing the cathe­dral ser­vice, the hearse and its long mo­tor­cade drove to the Na­tional Mall to pass by the World War II Me­mo­rial, a nod to the late pres­i­dent's ser­vice as a World War II Navy pi­lot, then trans­ferred his re­mains at Joint Base An­drews for the flight home to Texas with mem­bers of his fam­ily.

Bush will lie in re­pose at St. Mar­tin's Epis­co­pal Church be­fore his burial Thurs­day.

On Tues­day, sol­diers, ci­ti­zens in wheel­chairs and long lines of oth­ers on foot wound through the Capi­tol Ro­tunda to view Bush's cas­ket and honor a pres­i­dent whose legacy in­cluded a land­mark law af­firm­ing the rights of the dis­abled. For­mer Sen. Bob Dole, a com­pa­triot in war, peace and po­lit­i­cal strug­gle, stead­ied him­self out of his wheel­chair and saluted his old friend and one-time ri­val.

Trump or­dered the fed­eral gov­ern­ment closed Wed­nes­day for a na­tional day of mourn­ing. Flags on pub­lic build­ings are fly­ing at half-staff for 30 days.

AP Photo/Car­olyn Kaster

Re­mem­ber­ance: The flag-draped cas­ket of for­mer Pres­i­dent Ge­orge H.W. Bush is car­ried by a mil­i­tary honor guard past for­mer Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush and wife Laura Bush, Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, first lady Me­la­nia Trump, for­mer Pres­i­dent Barack Obama, Michelle Obama, for­mer Pres­i­dent Bill Clin­ton, for­mer Sec­re­tary of State Hil­lary Clin­ton, for­mer Pres­i­dent Jimmy Carter, and Ros­alynn Carter dur­ing a State Funeral at the Na­tional Cathe­dral on Wed­nes­day.

AP Photo/Su­san Walsh

Farewell: For­mer Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush and for­mer first lady Laura Bush, top left, watch as the cas­ket of for­mer Pres­i­dent Ge­orge H.W. Bush is car­ried out af­ter a State Funeral at the Na­tional Cathe­dral in Wash­ing­ton on Wed­nes­day.

AP Photo/Alex Bran­don, Pool

Praise: For­mer Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush be­comes emo­tional as he speaks at the State Funeral for his fa­ther, for­mer Pres­i­dent Ge­orge H.W. Bush, at the Na­tional Cathe­dral on Wed­nes­day in Wash­ing­ton.

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