George Bush’s Funeral: 5 Presidents and Dignitaries Gather in Washington

Mr. Trump has not been not shy about criticizing the 41st president and his family, ridiculing Mr. Bush’s “thousand points of light” and deriding his son Jeb, a rival for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, as “low energy.” But upon Mr. Bush’s death, Mr. Trump included the “points of light” phrase in a statement praising and mourning him, signaling a burying of the hatchet.

Mr. Trump quietly paid his respects to Mr. Bush on Monday at the Capitol, and hosted the younger Mr. Bush and his wife, Laura, at Blair House, the presidential guesthouse across from the White House.

It was a striking contrast from Mr. Trump’s behavior after the death this year of Senator John McCain of Arizona, who let it be known that he did not want the sitting president to attend his funeral observances.

Mr. Trump spent most of that week stewing and avoiding praising Mr. McCain personally, then spent the hours during his National Cathedral funeral service playing golf and writing Twitter posts about his enemies while the younger Mr. Bush and former President Barack Obama made bipartisan tributes to the former senator and war hero.

Mr. Trump appeared to be taking an opposite tack from that episode, in which he was heard but not seen by a public mourning Mr. McCain. On Wednesday, the plan is for him to be seen, but not heard.


George H.W. Bush: A Life of Public Service

Mr. Bush, part of a new generation of Republicans, was often referred to as the most successful one-term president.

By PETER BAKER, ROBIN STEIN and DAVID BOTTI on Publish Date November 30, 2018.

Photo by George Tames/The New York Times.

Watch in Times Video »

Plenty of pomp, but make it fast, Bush said.

There will be three 21-gun salutes, more than a dozen ruffles and flourishes, and several special honor guards. But Mr. Bush drew the line at the more time-consuming, attention-grabbing elements of a presidential funeral, choosing to forgo the horse-drawn caisson that has sometimes been included in state funerals of the past.

Mr. Bush, known for what came to be called his “aerobic golf” — an impatient, sped-up version of the leisurely game — was never one for wasting time. So unlike former President Ronald Reagan, whose coffin was delivered to the Capitol in 2004 by a horse-drawn caisson trailed by a riderless horse with the boots turned backward, Mr. Bush arranged for his coffin to be carried by hearse.

“George Bush did everything fast in life — golf, boating, skydiving and, now, his funeral,” his longtime spokesman, Jim McGrath, told The New York Times’s Sheryl Gay Stolberg. “No pauses, no slow caissons.”

There will, of course, be pauses to honor Mr. Bush and remember him with the pageantry befitting a former president. A 21-gun salute is scheduled to take place at the Capitol before he is carried away for the final time, another at Joint Base Andrews before his coffin is loaded into Air Force One to make the journey to Houston, and still another upon his arrival at Ellington Field in Houston.

By early afternoon in Washington, Mr. Bush will be headed back to Texas, where another funeral is scheduled and his coffin will ultimately travel by train to his presidential library in College Station, to be buried near his wife of 73 years, Barbara Bush, and daughter Robin, who died at 3.

Onlookers see a “jolt of civility” in Washington.

A sheet of gray hovered over Washington on Wednesday morning, the temperature a chilly 32 degrees as the capital prepared to bid a final farewell to a president.

Police cars lined the blocks surrounding the National Cathedral. Yellow tape marked the periphery of the grounds as passers-by pointed through the fencing, identifying political figures on the driveway. Children perched on their parents’ shoulders for a better view.

“It feels like something you just have to be a part of,” said Doug Thomas, 36, of Arlington, Va., who brought his two daughters to Northwest Washington, home to the cathedral, before sunrise. “We did this for McCain’s funeral, and we’ll do this for the next one. My wife and I just want the girls to come to understand that politicians haven’t always been how they appear right now.”

Melinda Crouse, 53, of Washington, was clutching a thermos of hot chocolate as she walked her dog along their typical morning route. She waved at a young boy riding by in a car, his face pressed against the window to see the police lights.

“This is a jolt of civility in our volatile city,” she said. “I’m a Democrat and probably always will be, but this kind of moment lets you stop and see clearly which leaders have been willing to bridge the party gap.”

—Emily Baumgaertner

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