During the panel discussion on ABC’s This Week with George Stephanopoulos’ Sunday morning, Chris Christie described George H.W. Bush as “a great protector of the institutions of our time.” To my ears, that was a perfect way to describe the former president. The office of the president is highest on the list. It is no shock to hear that President Trump and Melania will attend his funeral. It would be shocking if they were not.
Something that also caught my attention this morning as I watched the Sunday morning political shows, the Stephanopoulos show was the only one that included some gentle criticism of Bush. All the other shows continued to sing his praises, as happens when someone passes, but some on the ABC panel took a turn to the left. ABC’s political analyst Matthew Dowd, who worked on the campaign of GHW’s opponent in his Senate race and went on to work for George W. Bush led the charge that the elder Bush shouldn’t be lionized but remembered as a flawed human, as we all are. Typical Dowd, a bitter-sounding partisan these days, and that freed up others to chime in. Dowd recalled the use of the Willie Horton ad in Bush’s campaign but failed to mention that the ad came from a third party group.
President Trump stepped up and declared December 5 as a national day of mourning. Federal offices will be closed. Bush’s funeral arrangements are to be updated on his website. This is a standard show of respect for former presidents. There will be a funeral service in Washington’s National Cathedral.
In contrast to the five days long national goodbye to Senator McCain, who chose not to invite either of the Trumps to a decidedly political memorial service at the National Cathedral, President Bush made his final wishes clear to the White House last summer. He wanted the current president to be included. This is what respect for the office of the president looks like. The elder Bush was more than a politician and expected those around him to behave like decent human beings. Agree with his politics or not, that is a worthwhile message.
When Barbara Bush died, I know many in Houston who were disappointed that President Trump was not present with Melania at her service in Houston. Not just Trump supporters but long-time Bush volunteers and supporters noticed the deliberate slight. Clearly Barbara Bush wasn’t able to forgive the jabs Trump took at Jeb! in the 2016 GOP primary and I chalk that up to a mother’s prerogative. The former president knew he had to rise above that. This may soothe some loyal Bushies who are still smarting from the betrayal they felt when George H.W. publicly declared that he would vote for Hillary Clinton rather than the Republican candidate in 2016. It was a bitter pill to swallow for many of us that the family who expected unquestioning loyalty from Republicans in Texas during elections all these years to decide to vote for a Democrat over a Republican – especially a Clinton.
George H.W. Bush is remembered as a great patriot, a man of personal character who loved America. His resume is one that is unmatched. It was surprising (I found it stomach-turning) that the Bushes embraced Bill and Hillary Clinton after Bill Clinton’s presidency, adopting Bill as a member of their family when clearly he is not of good personal character, but that is how Bush chose to live his life. Am I the only person who remembers when Hillary tried to introduce the garbage rumor that George H.W. was unfaithful to Barbara during their marriage? That happened during the 1992 campaign and Barbara nipped that in the bud rather quickly. The Clintons, after all, were the ones to introduce the politics of personal destruction on a level previously not seen in presidential campaigns. Bush was of the Greatest Generation and their time is waning.
We are a bitterly divided nation now, including dividedness in both political parties. Liberals, their cohorts in the media and Never Trumpers were quick to begin comparing President Bush and President Trump as Bush’s death was announced late Friday night. The person who would be most disappointed with these conversations would be George H.W. Bush. Times have changed.
President Bush will be remembered with a service in Houston after his time in Washington, D.C. His coffin will travel by train from Houston to his final resting place, a spot at his presidential library in College Station where his daughter Robin and Barbara are buried.