Tag Archives: Barbara Bush

Tough to bid farewell to icons

Americans have had a busy year bidding farewell to iconic public figures.

We’ve just bid adieu to our nation’s 41st president, George H.W. Bush, who in just a few days will be laid to rest next to his beloved wife, Barbara, and their first-born child, who died at age 3.

We have given President Bush the kind of sendoff he deserves, but which reportedly he would have disliked intensely. His son, Neil, noted that “Dad” would be embarrassed by “all the nice things people have said about him.” Nice things?

Good, gracious. Those “nice things” do not even begin to do justice to the service Bush 41 gave to the nation he cherished. It has been well-chronicled certainly since his death this past Friday at age 94. It was well-known already.

I have declared my belief on numerous occasions that Bush 41 was arguably the most qualified man ever to hold the office of president. As I have listened to the tributes, that belief has been shored up.

As for his wife, “Bar,” she left us in the spring. She and George H.W. Bush shared a 73-year marriage that produced six children. Five of them grew to adulthood, with their first child, Robin, dying as a toddler of leukemia.

Barbara Bush didn’t aspire to pursue a career other than being a homemaker and devoted spouse to a great man. She, however, achieved greatness, too, as first lady. She promoted literacy and always, without fail, carried herself with dignity and grace.

The tributes paid to the former first lady served as well to remind us that love truly does conquer all.

As for the third icon, he ventured to the gates of hell and returned to build a political life devoted to serving his nation.

John McCain died in August of brain cancer. He served for three decades as a U.S. senator from Arizona. And, yes, he was a bona fide, true-blue war hero. He was shot down over Hanoi during the Vietnam War, taken captive and held as a POW for more than five years.

Donald J. Trump sought to disparage McCain’s war service by denigrating his hero status, how he was a “hero only because he was captured. I like people who aren’t captured.” That despicable utterance stands as a testament to the complete absence of character from the man who uttered it.

McCain would serve in the House and then the Senate with distinction. He rose to the level of icon during his years in Congress. His years as a POW elevated his profile immediately upon being elected to Congress.

He ran twice for president, losing the Republican nomination in 2000 to Texas Gov. George W. Bush and then losing the 2008 election to Sen. Barack H. Obama.

All three of these individuals sought in their ways to achieve a “more perfect Union.” They are worthy of every single ounce of tribute they have received.

RIP, George H.W. Bush; you have earned it

The tributes are pouring in from around the world over the news our nation received Friday night, that our 41st president, George H.W. Bush has died at the age of 94.

We knew it would come sooner rather than later, quite obviously. President Bush led the fullest of lives. He now joins the love of his life, Barbara, in eternal peace.

The world reacts

Of all the ways to honor this great man, I want to look briefly at two related episodes of his four-year presidency. They speak to this man’s humility and his grace. Yes, he was the most qualified man ever to serve as president: combat Navy aviator during World War II, successful West Texas  businessman, member of Congress, special envoy to China, ambassador to the United Nations, director of the CIA, Republican Party chairman, vice president of the United States.

I’ll leave it to others to comment on those accomplishments, singularly and collectively.

Two events occurred on his presidential watch that speak to this man’s astonishing grace: the Berlin Wall tumbled down in 1989 and the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991.

The collapse of the wall was a singular event that heralded what we all knew was going to happen, that communism in Europe was done for. Did President Bush high-five everyone he could find to celebrate the event? No. He stood by stoically while the world witnessed with its own eyes the unification of a great European nation and the first visible sign that the end of the Cold War was at hand.

Then came the dissolution of the Soviet Union two years later. Soviet chairman Mikhail Gorbachev resigned. The communist government collapsed under its own weight of corruption ideological bankruptcy. It was replaced by the Russian Federation. It began a new era we all hoped would signal the creation of a democratic state in the former USSR. Sadly, it hasn’t worked out the way we hoped it would.

Again, the president didn’t run a victory lap. He didn’t proclaim that the Good Guys had defeated the Bad Guys. He didn’t gloat, prance and preen. He acted with nobility and calm. The world did not need to hear the president of the United States explain what it was witnessing in real time.

Those, I submit, are the hallmarks of a man who knew his place and knew in his huge heart how to behave while the world was changing before our eyes.

We are saddened today to learn of the passing of this great man. We are grateful, though, for his lifetime of service to his beloved nation.

Well done, Mr. President.

Please get well, Mr. President

I’ll be brief.

Former President George H.W. Bush is suffering from a broken heart. He has buried the love of his life and is now living for the first time in more than seven decades without his beloved Barbara by his side.

Two former presidents and their wives (who aren’t his son) came to his side to bid farewell to Mrs. Bush. The first lady was there, too. The nation swallowed hard as the tributes have poured forth.

President Bush is now in the hospital, fending off an infection.

I just want to offer this brief blog post to wish Bush 41 a full recovery from what ails him. I also hope he knows the country’s love and prayers are with him as he mourns his deep loss.

May the nation’s love sustain him.

‘First lady of the Greatest Generation’

I cannot let this day pass without offering one more tribute to Barbara Pierce Bush, although I won’t take any credit for a profound description of her offered today during her funeral.

It came from historian, author and journalist Jon Meacham, who called Mrs. Bush “the first lady of the Greatest Generation.”

Think about that for just a moment.

She died this week at age 92. She was married for 73 years to the 41st president of the United States, George H.W. Bush, who, before he was elected vice president and then president compiled a stellar record of accomplishment.

Meachem’s tribute to his friend spoke eloquently about the generation of which she was such an integral part. She married the love of her life, U.S. Navy Lt. jg. George Bush, who came home on leave from World War II to marry the love of his life. He had been shot down while fighting Japanese warriors over the Pacific Ocean. He was among the 16 million Americans who answered the call to defeat tyranny and defend the United States of America.

His beloved “Bar” worked at the home front while her man was far away.

Yes, Mrs. Bush served in that unofficial — and until today, it was the first time I’d ever heard it said — capacity as “the first lady of the Greatest Generation.” Indeed, the direct descendants of those then-young American men and women — and that includes yours truly, as my father also fought the tyrants in Europe — understand what Meachem’s tribute was meant to convey.

She stood as strong in defense of our nation’s values as the man she married more than seven decades ago.

I want to thank Jon Meachem for telling us all today about Barbara Pierce Bush’s contributions to forging the Greatest Generation.

Funerals put politics in perspective

Funerals that honor public figures — notably those involved in some level in politics — have this way of putting politics in their proper perspective.

I just watched a touching tribute to the late first lady Barbara Bush. It made me swallow hard on several occasions, particularly as I heard commentators tell us how bitter political foes could become the best of friends.

Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford; George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton; George W. Bush and Clinton.

Indeed, today at the Houston church where the world said goodbye to George H.W. Bush’s beloved “Bar,” one could see first lady Melania Trump sitting next to Barack Obama, who sat with his wife Michelle next to Bill and Hillary Clinton; George W. Bush sat in the family section across the aisle next to his wife, dad, brothers, sister and their huge assemblage of Bushes.

It strikes me today as we digest the vitriol that emanates these days from the halls of power in Washington that it need not be that way. Much of the commentary today about Barbara Bush spoke of her friendships with Democrats as well as with Republicans. Her husband, after all, is the quintessential Republican, as are her two sons — one a former president, the other a former governor.

But we were told today about Mrs. Bush’s kind heart, her compassion, empathy, her generous spirit, good humor, grit, her tough-love approach to caring for her children and, yes, her friends.

Mrs. Bush’s husband promised to create a “kinder, gentler nation” when he was elected president in 1988. The jury still might be out on whether the 41st president of the United States achieved that noble goal. He practiced kindness and gentleness in his personal life, as did his beloved first lady.

The nation said farewell today to someone who embodied a more genteel time in what has become at times a blood sport. The craft and art of politics aren’t what they used to be. That besmirches politics’ current practitioners, not to mention their once-noble pursuit.

Whenever we say goodbye to beloved public figures, some of us — yours truly included — wish that it might signal a return to a time when political foes could actually become friends.

Is this such a moment? Oh, probably not. My hope, though, does spring eternal.

So … POTUS has this to say on this day

A brief reminder of the kind of man who occupies the presidency is in order.

It comes from Philip Rucker, a stellar reporter for the Washington Post, who posted this item on Twitter:

Just observing that this is the morning of Barbara Bush’s funeral in Houston and the official presidential messages so far are about “flunkies,” “drunk/drugged up losers” and “the horrible Witch Hunt.”

While the rest of the nation mourns the death and honors the glorious life of one of its most beloved public figures, Donald J. Trump resorts to his usual array of cyber-bullying, insults and petulance.

Disgraceful.

‘Stoicism and devotion’ on display

I’ll give credit for this observation where it belongs, to Ana Navarro, a noted Republican political “strategist” and TV commentator.

Navarro offered this via Twitter: Oh my God. 93 year-old George HW Bush, in a wheelchair, in front of Mrs. Bush’s casket, thanking every mourner who comes to pay respects to his love and life partner of 75 years – what an example of respect, stoicism and devotion. Please just pass me the Kleenex. The entire box.

They’re going to say goodbye Saturday to former first lady Barbara Pierce Bush, who died this week at the age of 92.

She is lying in repose at a Houston church and today her husband of 73 years, former President George H.W. Bush and the couple’s daughter, Dorothy, greeted mourners in the church sanctuary. They thanked them by the thousands for coming to pay their respects to the beloved matriarch of one of America’s most iconic political families.

This is how one should remember a first lady who served with class, grace … along with grit, courage and never-ending humor.

It’s been a difficult few days for yours truly as news organizations have told and retold the story of the Bushes’ extraordinary love story, which began in 1941 at a dance. George and Barbara got married in January 1945, when the young Navy officer was home on leave from World War II. Lt. George Bush became the youngest naval aviator during WWII. He came home to marry the love of his life.

This weekend, he will bid farewell to his beloved “Bar.”

First lady Melania Trump will be there, too, as will Bill and Hillary Clinton, Barack and Michelle Obama along with many others who loved and admired this most admirable woman.

Mrs. Bush’s life and service to the country should remind us all of an era when politics didn’t define people, but merely was something they did during the day.

And her husband, as Ana Navarro has stated, has provided us with a moving demonstration of “respect, stoicism and devotion” to the love of his life.

Oh … my.

Trump offers valid reason for staying away

This just in …

“First lady Melania Trump will attend the memorial service for Barbara Bush this Saturday on behalf of the First Family,” a White House spokesperson confirmed Friday. “To avoid disruptions due to added security, and out of respect for the Bush family and friends attending the service, President Trump will not attend.”

OK, there you have it. I accept that reason for the president not attending the late Barbara Bush’s memorial service Saturday.

Under normal circumstances, this would go unnoticed. No one would raise so much as an eyebrow over this declaration.

These aren’t normal times. We do not have a “normal” president in office. Donald Trump took office after a contentious, often bitter presidential campaign. He said some amazingly harsh things about former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush — who ran against Trump in the 2016 GOP presidential primary — and the 43rd president of the United States, George W. Bush. The two men’s mother, the former first lady, took serious umbrage at what Trump said about her beloved sons, as did her husband, the 41st president, George H.W. Bush.

Custom usually dictates that first ladies attend the funerals or memorial services of their predecessors. So, Melania Trump will represent her husband at Mrs. Bush’s memorial service.

As for the president’s absence, I’ll accept that he doesn’t want to disrupt the event.

After all, this event is going to be all about the former first lady, who was as unique an individual as any who have been granted the opportunity to serve in that capacity.

Barbara Bush has earned a glowing and love-filled sendoff. May this Bush family stalwart rest in the eternal peace she so richly deserves.

Stay away, Mr. President

Donald J. Trump will get criticized if he doesn’t attend former first lady Barbara Bush’s funeral.

He’ll get criticized if he shows up in Houston this weekend.

For what it’s worth — and it’s not much, I’ll concede — I want to counsel the president to stay away.

Look at it this way: Mrs. Bush made no bones about her dislike and disgust at Trump. She didn’t like the way he treated women. She damn sure didn’t like the way he treated her two sons — Jeb, who ran against Trump in the 2016 GOP presidential primary, and George W., who drew Trump’s ire over the Iraq War.

Trump has said the correct things about Mrs. Bush. I watched him read his statement and was struck yet again by the feeling in my gut that he didn’t really feel it.

First lady Melania Trump is going to attend, which is customary for first ladies; they usually attend funerals for their predecessors. Michelle Obama attended the funeral for Nancy Reagan, for example.

Donald Trump is facing a couple of difficult choices here. He need not accompany his wife to the funeral of a woman who couldn’t stand him.

He’s already spoken of Barbara Bush’s toughness. There you have it.

Stay away, Mr. President. Let the first lady represent the government.

***

Here is what I wrote about whether Barack Obama should have attended Mrs. Reagan’s funeral.

Should POTUS attend ex-FLOTUS’s funeral?

RIP, ‘The Enforcer’

What does one say only moments after learning that one of America’s most beloved public figures has left this good Earth?

Barbara Pierce Bush has died at the age of 92. It was no surprise. She was in “failing health,” surrounded by her family. She had ordered an end to preventative health care, focusing instead on “comfort care.”

The wife of the nation’s 41st president made no pretense about the fake pearls she wore around her neck. She said they were intended to cover up her wrinkles. But everything else about her was so very real. She was known to her kids and grandkids as “The Enforcer.” She set the rules and she made them stick.

And the nation fell madly in love with this woman, a proud first lady — but more importantly a proud wife, mother, grandmother and great-grandmother.

She promoted literacy. She became an advocate for research on HIV/AIDS.

She also was unafraid to disagree with her husband, President George H.W. Bush, or her son, President George W. Bush.

The nation will grieve. The president will order flags to fly at half-staff at the nation’s federal buildings. We’ll all remember Barbara Bush as the matriarch of one of the nation’s most iconic political families.

She was a great American.