As the nation bids its final farewell to the late President George H.W. Bush, the current president says it’s more of a party than a requiem.
Donald Trump said Wednesday on Twitter that a planned service of prayer and praise at the National Cathedral ‘is not a funeral, this is a day of celebration for a great man who has led a long and distinguished life.’
Trump tweeted that he was ‘[l]ooking forward to being with the Bush family.’ The president will be in the front row but will not speak.
The last three state funerals for former presidents have included eulogies from then-current Oval Office occupants, but former Florida governor Jeb Bush, one of the deceased statesman’s sons, said Tuesday that his older brother George W. Bush had ‘dibs’ on the centerpiece eulogy.
The ceremony will draw together world envoys, Americans of high office and a guy from Maine who used to fix things in Bush’s house on the water. All four living ex-presidents will be in attendance, led by former President George W. Bush.
Washington National Cathedral will host the somber proceedings following three days of remembrance by dignitaries and ordinary citizens.
The other eulogists will be Alan Simpson, the former senator from Wyoming; Brian Mulroney, the former Canadian prime minister who also spoke at Ronald Reagan’s funeral; and presidential historian Jon Meacham, who wrote a Bush biography.
George H.W. Bush, 41st President of the United States, will be given a public funeral in the Washington National Cathedral in the nation’s capital on Wednesday
President Donald Trump declared the event ;is not a funeral,’ but ‘a day of celebration’ instead
President Trump, who visited Bush’s casket on Tuesday and met with George W. Bush later the same day, has been invited along with wife Melania but will not deliver a speech
Leading the proceedings will be his eldest son and former President George W. Bush, who will give a eulogy (pictured alongside Laura Bush)
Jeb Bush, who ran for president in 2016 but lost the Republican nomination to Donald Trump, will also be in attendance
The funeral follows days of mourning which have seen prominent American figures and ordinary people alike line up to pay their respects
George H.W. Bush will be remembered as the man who oversaw the post-Cold War transition and led a successful Gulf War, before losing re-election in a generational shift to Democrat Bill Clinton in 1992.
Among the guests will be King Abdullah II and Queen Rania of Jordan, Britain’s Prince Charles, Prince Abdulla bin Hamad Al Khalifa of Bahrain, Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany and Polish President Andrzej Duda.
Rubbing shoulders with the dignitaries will be Mike Lovejoy, a Kennebunkport electrician and fix-it man who has worked at Bush’s Maine summer estate since 1990 and says he was shocked and heartened to be asked to come.
On Tuesday, soldiers, citizens in wheelchairs and long lines of others on foot wound through the hushed Capitol Rotunda to view Bush’s casket and honor a president whose legacy included World War II military service and a landmark law affirming the rights of the disabled.
Former Senator Bob Dole, a compatriot in war, peace and political struggle, steadied himself out of his wheelchair and saluted his old friend and onetime rival.
After the national funeral service at the cathedral, Bush’s remains will be returned to Houston to lie in repose at St. Martin’s Episcopal Church before burial Thursday at his family plot on the presidential library grounds at Texas A&M University in College Station.
His final resting place will be alongside Barbara Bush, his wife of 73 years who died in April, and Robin Bush, the daughter they lost to leukemia in 1953 at age three.
Trump ordered the federal government closed Wednesday for a national day of mourning. Flags on public buildings are flying at half-staff for 30 days.
As at notable moments in his life, Bush brought together Republicans and Democrats in his death.
Members of the public who never voted for the man waited in long lines on Tuesday to pay their respects, attesting that Bush possessed the dignity and grace that deserved to be remembered by all.
Bill Clinton, who defeated George H.W. Bush in the 1991 election and limited his presidency to a single term, will be in the invite-only audience alongside former presidents George W Bush, Jimmy Carter and Barack Obama
Jenna Bush Hager, second from left, her husband Henry Hager, left, her twin sister Barbara Bush, right, and Barbara’s husband Craig Coyne, second from right, stand by Bush Sr.’s coffin in the Capitol Rotunda
Barbara Bush kisses the casket of her grandfather, the late former President George H.W. Bush as he lies in state
Jenna Bush Hager greets members of the public at the Capitol. After the public funeral, Bush Snr will be taken to Houston before burial Thursday at his family plot on the presidential library grounds at Texas A&M University
‘I’m just here to pay my respects,’ said Jane Hernandez, a retired physician in the heavily Democratic city and suburbs.
‘I wasn’t the biggest fan of his presidency, but all in all he was a good, sincere guy doing a really hard job as best he could.’
Bush’s service dog, Sully, was brought to the viewing, too — his main service these last months since Barbara Bush’s death in April being to rest his head on her husband’s lap. Service dogs are trained to do that.
The CIA also honored Bush, the only spy chief to become president, as three agency directors past and present joined the public in the viewing.
In the midst of the period of mourning, first lady Melania Trump gave Laura Bush, one of her predecessors, a tour of holiday decorations at the White House, a ‘sweet visit during this somber week,’ as Mrs. Bush’s Instagram account put it.
Marvin Bush, H.W. Bush’s youngest son, pays his respects alongside wife Margaret Conway Molster
A girl and her mother stand by H.W. Bush’s coffin during three days of mourning which proceeded Wednesday’s funeral
Donald Woody, fifth from left, of the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community in Minnesota, joins members of the public in paying their respects to H.W. Bush
The Trumps also visited members of the Bush family at the Blair House presidential guesthouse, where they are staying. W. Bush and his wife greeted the Trumps outside before a private, 20-minute visit.
People lined up before dawn to pay respects to the 41st president, a son and father of privilege now celebrated by everyday citizens for his common courtesies and depth of experience.
‘He was so qualified, and I think he was just a decent man,’ said Sharon Terry, touring Washington with friends from an Indianapolis garden club.
Her friend Sue Miller added: ‘I actually think I underestimated him when he was in office. My opinion of him went up seeing how he conducted himself as a statesman afterward.’
Fred Curry, an African-American, is a registered Democrat from Hyattsville, Maryland, who voted for Bush in 1988, the election won by the one-term president.
‘Honestly I just liked him,’ he said. ‘He seemed like a sincere and decent man and you couldn’t argue with his qualifications.’
Eulogists include Alan Simpson, former senator and wit from Wyoming; Brian Mulroney, the former Canadian prime minister who also gave a eulogy for Ronald Reagan; and presidential historian Jon Meacham
Bob Dole, now aged 95, who was a wartime compatriot of Bush’s and joined him in the US senate, was lifted from his wheelchair to salute his one-time rival turned friend
Former CIA Director John Brennan and current Director Gina Haspel were among intelligence service figures paying tribute to Bush, who is the only spy chief to become president
Inside the Capitol, Sully, the two-year-old Labrador retriever assigned to Bush, sat by the casket in the company of people who came to commemorate Bush’s signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the 1990 law that, among its many provisions, required businesses that prohibit pets to give access to service dogs.
‘After Mrs. Bush’s death, general companionship was a big part of Sully’s job,’ John Miller, president and CEO of America’s VetDogs, said in a phone interview.
‘One of the things that I think was important to the president was the rest command, where Sully would rest his head on the president’s lap.’
The law was just one point of intersection for Bush and Dole, now 95, who was one of its leading advocates in the Senate.
They were fellow World War II veterans, Republican Party leaders, fierce rivals for the 1988 Republican presidential nomination won by Bush (‘Stop lying about my record,’ Dole snapped at Bush) and skilled negotiators.
Bush’s admirers didn’t just come from the world of politics, as former NFL quarterback Peyton Manning showed as he arrived to pay his respects on Tuesday
Lines wound around Capitol Hill this week as people waited to make their way into the rotunda and wish Bush farewell
The rotunda will be closed to public viewing at 7am EST before Bush’s family arrive at 11am ahead of the ceremony, which will start shortly afterwards
Dole, an Army veteran hit by German machine gunfire in Italy, has gone through life with a disabled right arm. Bush, a Navy pilot, survived a bail-out from his stricken aircraft over the Pacific and an earlier crash landing.
On Tuesday Dole was helped out of his wheelchair by an aide, slowly steadied himself and saluted Bush with his left hand, his chin quivering.
Dignitaries had come forward on Monday, too, to honor the Texan whose service to his country extended three quarters of a century, from World War II through his final years as an advocate for volunteerism and relief for people displaced by natural disaster. Bush, 94, died Friday.
Trump’s relationship with the Bush family has been tense. The current president has mocked the elder Bush for his ‘thousand points of light’ call to volunteerism, challenged his son’s legacy as president and trounced ‘low-energy’ Jeb Bush in the Republican presidential primaries en route to office. The late President Bush called Trump a ‘blowhard.’
Those insults have been set aside, but the list of funeral service speakers marked the first time since Lyndon Johnson’s death in 1973 that a sitting president was not tapped to eulogize a late president. (Clinton did so for Richard Nixon, and George W. Bush eulogized Ronald Reagan and Gerald Ford.)
Bush’s death reduces membership in the ex-presidents’ club to four: Jimmy Carter, Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama.
A guide to George H.W. Bush’s funeral
President George H.W. Bush is getting a national farewell at Washington National Cathedral before family, friends, presidents and foreign dignitaries.
The nation’s 41st president died Friday at age 94. His wife of 73 years, Barbara, passed away in April.
Things to know about the event Wednesday:
Bush’s casket has been lying in state in the U.S. Capitol rotunda since Monday, with a river of mourners passing through around the clock. The viewing comes to a close at 7 a.m. EST Wednesday. The casket and the family will arrive at the cathedral just before 11 a.m., when the service is expected to begin.
HOW TO WATCH
The service is closed to the public, but will be aired live on C-SPAN and covered by major television networks.
WHO WILL SPEAK
Four men are expected to deliver eulogies. The late president’s son George W. Bush, also a former president; former Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, who held the post while the elder Bush was president; former Sen. Alan Simpson, , who has known the Bush family since the 1960s; and historian Jon Meacham, who wrote a Bush biography.
Public viewing of the casket will close at 7am EST before the family arrives ready for the service to begin at 11am
WHO WILL BE THERE
All eyes will be on the row directly in front of the pulpit. That’s where President Donald Trump and his wife, Melania, are expected to sit, along with the remaining former presidents and their families: George W. Bush, Jimmy Carter, Barack Obama, Bill Clinton and his wife — Trump’s 2016 Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton.
Trump has had strained relations (at best) with all of them. But since Bush’s death, Trump has extended traditional courtesies to the Bush family, including allowing them to stay at the presidential guest house and visiting with them there.
Also attending: Britain’s Prince Charles, the king and queen of Jordan, Polish President Andrzej Duda and other dignitaries from around the world. Look, too, for some of the graybeards from the late president’s administration.
Look for much discussion of Bush’s legacy of decency, humor and a determination to avoid referring to himself with the pronoun ‘I.’ That last habit alone, instilled in Bush by his mother, sets up a contrast with Trump that no one has to mention out loud.
Likely, no one will, in keeping with the Bush family’s reported wish that the nation mourn their patriarch without the drama of such distractions.
But Meacham wrote an op-ed for The New York Times this week about Bush that ended with a hard-to-mistake reference.
‘The nation mourns him not least because we no longer have a president who knows that the story of the nation is not all about him,’ Meacham wrote.
BUSH AND THE CATHEDRAL
The late president played an important role in the history of the cathedral chartered by Congress in 1893.
On Sept. 29, 1907, President Theodore Roosevelt laid the foundation stone. Exactly 83 years later, Bush was there when the final stone was laid in place.
Bush said at the time: ‘We have constructed here this symbol of our nation’s spiritual life, overlooking the center of our nation’s secular life, a symbol which combines the permanence of stone and God — both of which will outlast men and memories.’
Bush is the fourth president to have his state funeral at the site, according to the cathedral. The others were Dwight D. Eisenhower, Ronald Reagan and Gerald Ford. Seven other presidents had memorial services there.
George W. Bush (left, with wife Laura) will join three other former presidents in the service and will give a eulogy, and will also be joined by current President Donald Trump (right) and his wife Melania
A BIT ABOUT STATE FUNERALS
For U.S. presidents, there’s a whole list of customs, protocols and military honors that influence a national farewell, but much of the affair is subject to the family’s wishes.
The president’s survivors are entitled to a military escort for the immediate family, for example, until the remains are buried. A nine-person team that carries the casket is another option. And a flag-draped casket is an honor afforded military veterans and the president as commander in chief.
Bush was a veteran of World War II.
THE LAST TIME
Sen. John McCain’s funeral was held at Washington National Cathedral after he died in August of brain cancer.
Trump, who derided McCain’s heroism in Vietnam and prodded the senator even during his illness, was asked by the family to stay away.
But it seemed like the rest of Washington attended and the event became widely regarded as a repudiation of the current president. The assembled crowd burst into applause when McCain’s daughter, Meghan, loudly rejected Trumpism from the pulpit without naming the president. Trump spent the day playing golf.
WHERE TO NEXT
Bush’s casket will return to Texas late Wednesday for the last time.
He’s expected to lie in repose at St. Martin’s Episcopal Church in Houston until 7 a.m. EST Thursday. The church will also hold its own memorial service for the former president later that morning.
A motorcade will take Bush’s body to Union Pacific Railroad Westfield Auto Facility, where a funeral train will transport the late president’s remains to Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas.
He’ll be laid to rest on the grounds of the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum, near his wife, Barbara, and their daughter Robin, who died of leukemia in 1953 at age 3.