Na­tion bids good­bye to Bush with high praise

Porterville Recorder - - FRONT PAGE - AP PHOTO BY CAR­OLYN KASTER By CALVIN WOOD­WARD, LAURIE KELLMAN and ASHRAF KHALIL

WASH­ING­TON — 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. As a mo­tor­cade sub­se­quently car­ried Bush's re­mains to the fam­ily church, St. Martin's Epis­co­pal, along a closed in­ter­state, hun­dreds of peo­ple in stopped cars on the other side of the road, took pic­tures and shot cell phone video. One driver of a tanker truck climbed atop the hulk­ing ve­hi­cle for a bet­ter view, and at least 15 fire­fight­ers scaled a pair of stopped firetrucks to salute.

Upon its ar­rival at the church, Bush's cas­ket was met by a mil­i­tary band and Hous­ton Demo­cratic Mayor Sylvester Turner.

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.

"He was a man of such great hu­mil­ity," said Alan Simp­son, a for­mer Repub­li­can sen­a­tor from Wyoming. Those who travel "the high road of hu­mil­ity in Wash­ing­ton, D.C.," he added point­edly, "are not both­ered by heavy traf­fic."

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.

Simp­son 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."

The flag-draped cas­ket of for­mer Pres­i­dent Ge­orge H.W. Bush is car­ried by a mil­i­tary honor guard past for­mer Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush, Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, first lady Me­la­nia Trump, for­mer Pres­i­dent Barack Obama, Michelle Obama, for­mer Pres­i­dent Bill Clin­ton, and for­mer Sec­re­tary of State Hil­lary Clin­ton, at the con­clu­sion of a State Fu­neral at the Na­tional Cathe­dral, Wed­nes­day, Dec. 5, in Wash­ing­ton.

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