Bush and Trump: A glar­ing con­trast

Speak­ers salute for­mer leader, avoid men­tion of trou­bled cur­rent chief

The Commercial Appeal - - Front Page -

WASH­ING­TON – Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump didn’t speak at the me­mo­rial ser­vice for Pres­i­dent Ge­orge H.W. Bush on Wed­nes­day, and the eu­lo­gists who did speak ad­dressed the con­gre­ga­tion with the un­der­stand­ing that they wouldn’t chal­lenge the cur­rent oc­cu­pant of the Oval Of­fice, seated in the front pew.

Even so, the con­trast and the con­tra­dic­tions be­tween the two were im­pos­si­ble to miss in­side Wash­ing­ton Na­tional Cathe­dral, the in­escapable sub­text as one pres­i­dent was laid to rest and an­other headed into in­creas­ingly tur­bu­lent le­gal and po­lit­i­cal wa­ters.

In­ten­tion­ally or not, though, the words of praise for Bush res­onated through the lens of the cur­rent pres­i­dent and the na­tion’s bro­ken pol­i­tics. While Trump rev­els in provoca­tive tweets, dis­parag­ing nick­names, and a will­ing­ness to shat­ter po­lit­i­cal norms, Bush was re­mem­bered for mod­esty, cour­tesy and re­straint.

His­to­rian Jon Meacham, au­thor of the de­fin­i­tive Bush bi­og­ra­phy, “Des­tiny and Power,” praised Bush’s “life code” in his eu­logy. He “called on us to choose right over the con­ve­nient, hope over fear, not our worst im­pulses, but our best in­stincts.”

Ge­orge W. Bush, the na­tion’s 43rd pres­i­dent, said his fa­ther “showed me what it means to be a pres­i­dent that leads with in­tegrity.”

The 41st pres­i­dent and the 45th share some sim­i­lar­i­ties: both Repub­li­cans, both born on the East Coast, both sons of priv­i­lege – one to a fam­ily with old money, one to a fam­ily with new. But in al­most ev­ery other way imag­in­able, they are a study in con­trasts, from per­sonal de­meanor to global out­look.

Ge­orge Bush, who gen­er­ally held his tongue af­ter he left the White House, was alarmed by Trump’s po­lit­i­cal rise. “A blowhard,” he told his­to­rian Mark Upde­grove in May 2016. That Novem­ber, he cast his bal­lot for the first time not for the Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee but for the Demo­cratic ri­val, Hil­lary Clin­ton.

Still, it was Ge­orge H.W. Bush who de­cided Trump should be in­vited to his funeral, a sign of re­spect for the of­fice.

But the fact that Trump didn’t speak was at odds with re­cent prac­tice.

Even the body lan­guage among the ex­clu­sive club of pres­i­dents was chilly. When Trump ar­rived, he shook hands with the Oba­mas, but he didn’t ac­knowl­edge Bill or Hil­lary Clin­ton or Jimmy Carter.

Trump has done less to at­tack Ge­orge H.W. Bush with his rhetoric. But in fun­da­men­tal ways, he has dis­rupted the le­gacy that the el­der Bush built. Trump has trans­formed the Repub­li­can Party to re­flect his com­bat­ive pop­ulism – in­deed, the GOP sum­mar­ily dis­missed Jeb Bush’s bid for the pres­i­den­tial nom­i­na­tion in 2016.

Most of all, he has frayed the global al­liances and in­sti­tu­tions that Bush and other Cold War pres­i­dents la­bored to forge. Bush led the West in man­ag­ing the peace­ful end of the Cold War. He ne­go­ti­ated the North Amer­i­can Free Trade Agree­ment that Pres­i­dent Clin­ton then con­cluded. He laid the ground­work for the World Trade Or­ga­ni­za­tion.

Trump’s name was never men­tioned, nor his trou­bles. All that went un­said. “The most de­cent and hon­or­able per­son I ever met,” for­mer Wyoming Sen. Alan Simp­son said in his eu­logy. He added to laugh­ter, “Those who travel the high road of hu­mil­ity in Wash­ing­ton aren’t both­ered by heavy traf­fic.”

Susan Page

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump and first lady Me­la­nia Trump, and the other pres­i­den­tial cou­ples, stand at the end of the funeral of for­mer Pres­i­dent Ge­orge H.W. Bush at the Wash­ing­ton Na­tional Cathe­dral on Wed­nes­day. JACK GRU­BER/USA TO­DAY NET­WORK

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