Trump sets aside political differences to honor Bush
BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — Donald Trump, the disruptive, anti-establishment president who spent years deriding much of what George H.W. Bush stood for, set aside differences in politics and temperament Saturday to honor the iconic American and former president a day after his death.
Trump declared a day of national mourning and ordered American flags to be flown at half-staff for 30 days to honor a man of “sound judgment, common sense and unflappable leadership.” The president and first lady Melania Trump added that Bush had “inspired generations of his fellow Americans to public service.”
Bush, who was president from 1989 to 1993, was 94.
The quarter-century since Bush left office featured his Republican Party’s steady march away from his steely pragmatism and international partnership, culminating in the dramatic break from long held GOP principles ushered by Trump’s election. The end of Bush’s presidency coincided with the whole nation swinging toward more tribal politics.
While Trump spoke graciously, he has not always been so kind to Bush or his family. He ran against one of Bush’s sons, Jeb Bush, in the 2016 GOP presidential primaries and was sharply critical of the two-term presidency of another, George W. Bush. Trump shattered the unwritten norms of the Oval Office occupants’ small fraternity by keeping up criticism of the Bushes from the Capitol’s west wing.
The White House announced Saturday that the Trumps would attend a state funeral for the former president at the Washington National Cathedral.
The announcement marked a reversal from earlier this year, when the president was pointedly not invited to the funeral of former first lady Barbara Bush, the family matriarch and the late president’s wife of 73 years. Melania Trump attended instead.
The Trumps were informed of Bush’s death late Friday while in Buenos Aires, Argentina, for the Group of 20 summit of rich and developing nations.
Trump said he spoke with former President George W. Bush and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush to express his sympathies. He praised the elder Bush, who died Friday, as “a high-quality man who truly loved his family.”
He refused to answer whether he had any regrets over his past criticism of the Bushes. He did say that Bush’s death “really puts a damper” on his participation at the summit.
Trump also announced that he has authorized the use of the iconic Boeing 747 presidential aircraft, known as Air Force One whenever a president is on board, to transport Bush’s remains to Washington — a customary honor for former presidents. Bush is to lie in state in the Capitol rotunda from Monday evening through Wednesday morning.
Trump also closed government offices Wednesday and designated it as a national day of mourning, which traditionally occurs on the same day as the Washington component of a late president’s state funeral. He encouraged Americans to gather in places of worship “to pay homage” to Bush’s memory, adding, “I invite the people of the world who share our grief to join us in this solemn observance.”