Bush’s Funeral Makes Trump’s Shortcomings Obvious
By Arturo Castañares / Publisher and CEO
Our nation mourned the passing of our 41st president this week at a state funeral complete with all the trappings of a hero’s farewell.
George Herbert Walker Bush passes away last Friday at the age of 94, having been the oldest living former president since Gerald Ford died in 2006.
The state funeral held at Washington, D.C.’s National Cathedral on Wednesday was a befitting tribute to a man that served as President, Vice-President, Director of the CIA, Congressman, Ambassador to the United Nations, and as a Navy pilot in World War II.
Bush’s flag-draped coffin was flown from Houston to the Capital aboard Air Force One and met by a full military honor guard and band. After lying in state in the Capitol Rotunda for two days, the coffin was taken my motorcade to the National Cathedral.
Born in Connecticut but later having established his career in Texas, Bush seemed like a figure from another era. He was the son of a US Senator that grew up in a privileged world. He studied at Yale and belonged to the Skull & Bones secret society. He led the CIA and knew all our government’s secrets. He traveled the world as a diplomat and politician.
But, to hear the eulogies delivered at the funeral and the many stories being told by long-time political friends, Bush was a humble man that valued the opportunity to serve the country.
His family and friends have described him as honest, dedicated, respectful, and honorable. He was religious but not preachy. He was confident but not braggadocious.
At the state funeral, the first pew was reserved for the former presidents. Before the service, Barack and Michelle Obama, Bill and Hillary Clinton, and Jimmy and Roslyn Carter sat side by side. Two empty spaces remained on the pew at the aisle, next to the Obamas.
When Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump arrived, they sat at the end of pew, briefly greeting the Obamas, but not the rest of the members of the world’s most exclusive club.
When George W. Bush arrived after the casket was led in, he greeted the Trumps and the rest of the row of Presidents and First Ladies. Like a gentleman.
Then the real show began.
During the service, Bush was eulogized by four speakers: Jon Meacham, author and presidential historian; former Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney; former US Senator Alan Simpson; and George W. Bush.
Each talked about Bush’s selflessness and his honesty. They talked about his commitment to our institutions of government and doing what’s right. And they talked about his deep faith and innate care for others.
Meachum said it best in his closing, saying “His life code was: Tell the truth, don’t blame people, be strong, do your best, try hard, forgive, stay the course. And that was and is the most American of creeds.”
And, through it all, sat Donald Trump in the first row, most of the time with his arms crossed over his chest, mouth pursed, visibly uncomfortable.
The obvious contrasts between Bush and Trump didn’t have to spoken, they were clear with each compliment paid to Bush that can hardly be said of Trump.
Honesty. Few could argue Trump has a good grasp on that one. Not blaming others. Nope. Forgiving. Not in his DNA. Staying the course. What course?
Trump sitting within a few feet of Obama, Clinton, Carter, and the younger Bush was a painful reminder of how far our politics have gone away from the very characteristic of Bush 41’s tenure.
Most everyone will remember why George Bush lost his re-election to Bill Clinton. Just one year earlier Bush enjoyed a 92% approval rating after the end of the Gulf War that defeated Saddam Hussein in just 100 hours. He was riding high.
Then the economy hit the wall. Congress needed to reduce the national deficit and they passed a budget that included raising taxes. Bush had famously declared during his 1988 Republican convention speech, “Read my lips, no new taxes.” Now, he knew had to sign a budget with higher taxes because it was the right thing to do, even if it cost him politically. And it did.
Clinton went on to defeat Bush in 1992 with a slogan, “it’s the economy, stupid!” And Bush became only the fifth president in history to lose his re-election campaign.
Bush’s example of putting country before oneself was a major theme of his funeral and commentaries this week. Current and former world leaders, American politicians, friends, and media reporters that worked with Bush praised him for his many virtues and few major faults.
But for the most part, the compliments of Bush were well earned through years of public service. His actions and manner spoke for themselves.
Bush deserved Wednesday’s National Day of Mourning proclaimed by President Trump. In fact, Trump’s proclamation cited Bush’s “humility” and “unselfish spirit”.
The irony is that Trump’s own proclamation used words to describe Bush that few could use to describe Trump himself.
Most of our presidents were flawed (some very flawed) people that led our country through times of peace and war, prosperity and crisis, and still managed to leave the institutions of government pretty much intact when they left office.
Even Richard Nixon resigned when the writing was on the way and before he could really wreck long-term havoc.
But the current occupant of the Oval Office seemed awkwardly out of place this week as he sat next to four of his predecessors.
He seems to be at war with the very institutions he leads. He questions our intelligence community. He openly claims the FBI is biased. He defies and dismisses judges and courts.
Watching Bush’s funeral and memorials raised the question of what people would say at Donald Trump’s funeral.
Will history honor a president that battled the government he led? Will people honor his dedication to the country? Will his predecessors and successors speak highly of him?