His Decency Overcame Partisan Politics (George H.W. Bush 1924-2018)

His Decency Overcame Partisan Politics (George H.W. Bush 1924-2018) December 2, 2018

As  you’ve all heard by now, one of the last living presidents has passed away.

George Herbert Walker Bush, our 41st president passed away on Friday evening, surrounded by friends and family.

President Bush was 94 years old. He was preceded in death by his wife, Barbara Bush. Before that, the couple mourned a daughter, Robin, who had died at the young age of 3 years old, from leukemia.

In life, he and his family were the target of many harsh barbs, but I’m a firm believer in letting partisan hangups drop, once someone has passed on. We don’t do anything or say anything to pain grieving families. We let our kinder nature show.

With that in mind, I have to give kudos to the cast of Saturday Night Live today.

They took a moment from their Weekend Update segment to honor the former president.

Hosts Michael Che and Colin Jost extended their condolences to the Bush family, before showing a clip of a past cameo appearance by Bush on the show.

“President Bush was famously a warm and gracious man who always understood the power of being able to laugh at yourself,” Jost said.

The clip featured Saturday Night Live alumnus, Dana Carvey, who did a hilarious impression of the first President Bush, back in the 90s.

“I’m watching you do your impression of me, and I’ve gotta say it’s nothing like me,” Bush said in the clip. “It’s bad, it’s bad.”

Carvey, who performed at the White House Christmas Party in 1992 at Bush’s invitation, said earlier this year that he enjoyed “so many warm moments” with Bush and former first lady Barbara Bush, who died in April.

“It was a different time,” Carvey said. “It wasn’t scorched-earth, angry politics.”

Imagine that. There were no angry attacks. There was no nastiness or hard feelings. A comedian did an impression, perhaps went a little overboard in portraying the man as a bit goofy, but that’s the nature of the business. He did this, and the president was the kind of guy who could see it, and actually enjoy it enough that he would invite the person getting laughs at his expense to important events.

We don’t have that kind of comfort with each other, anymore, and certainly not in the hyper-hateful world of American politics. That’s an absolute shame.

George H.W. Bush lived his life a patriot, and in service to his country.

He was a decorated Navy pilot in World War II. He was a Texas congressman. He was the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, the director of the CIA, an envoy to China, and before taking the reins of the presidency in 1989, he was Vice President George H. W. Bush, serving beside President Ronald Reagan.

Former Secretary of State James Baker remained a close, dear friend with Bush, long after they left their posts in Washington. He was with his old friend at the end, and shared those final moments in an interview with The New York Times on Saturday.

He called the end for his old friend, “sweet.”

Several things about the piece from The Times struck me.

His longtime friend and former secretary of state, James A. Baker III, arrived at his Houston home on Friday morning to check on him.

Mr. Bush suddenly grew alert, his eyes wide open.

“Where are we going, Bake?” he asked.

“We’re going to heaven,” Mr. Baker answered.

“That’s where I want to go,” Mr. Bush said.

Bush’s pastor, Rev. Dr. Russell J. Levenson Jr., rector of St. Martin’s Episcopal Church in Houston, was with him in the end, as well, and said that Mr. Bush was ready to go. He didn’t want to go to the hospital when it became clear his health was fading. He was ready to go be with his Barbara and his Robin.

Of note, former President Barack Obama was in Houston for an event on Tuesday of last week. He paid a visit to Bush’s home to see how he was, at that time.

We are not enemies, people. This is a great example of how politics can be put aside for common decency.

And in the last hours, things were good.

Mr. Baker held Mr. Bush’s hand and rubbed his feet for nearly a half-hour. The other children, who live around the country, were called so they could tell their father goodbye.

Dr. Levenson, who arrived at 9:15 p.m., led those in the room in prayer. “We all knelt around him and placed our hands on him and prayed for him and it was a very graceful, gentle death,” he said. “It was very evident that that man was so deeply loved.”

There was no struggle, no prolonged period of labored breathing. At 10:10 p.m., the former president slipped away.

“If those things could be sweet,” Mr. Baker said, “it was sweet.”

The last words spoken by President Bush were to his oldest son, our 43rd president, George W. Bush.

Bush 43 was on speaker phone. He told his dad that he’d been a “wonderful father.”

His dad’s last words were to him at that time: “I love you, too.”

Civility, kindness, service for the good of others.

This was how President George Herbert Walker Bush lived his life, whether you agreed with his politics or the decisions he made in office, or not.

And I don’t know if we can ever get back to that time.

 

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  • captcrisis

    “There were no angry attacks. There was no nastiness or hard feelings.”

    You don’t remember the 1988 Bush campaign, the nastiest in my lifetime, until Trump in 2016.

    He said, “Read my lips: no new taxes”, knowing that Dukakis was too honest and responsible to make a similar pledge.

    Barbara Bush made fun of Dukakis’s name, one of many attempts to portray Dukakis as not a “real” American. Dukakis’s remarkably inclusive convention speech (given partly in Spanish) was the subject of endless ridicule from the Bush campaign.

    He advocated a constitutional amendment banning flag-burning, knowing that Dukakis was too decent a man to advocate such a cynical ploy.

    And then there was Willie Horton.

    As someone put it after the election, “George Bush wanted a kinder, gentler nation. Well, now we have one — because the Bush campaign is over.”

    As President, he had no interest in doing anything. His reactions to the end of the Cold War were careful and prudent — Dukakis has since praised him on that — but after the Gulf War he had a 90 percent approval rating and enormous clout. He could have acted to solve a number of national problems. What did he do with that clout? Nothing.

    If he looks good now, it’s only by comparison to his two Republican successors. And if a politician is mean and divisive, then whether he was personally nice is not important.

  • GotMyLoveGlassesOn

    Thank you for stepping up and proving my point.
    Politics will always be contentious, but 41 was a gracious man, even in the trenches.
    I remember plenty from his presidency, and I didnt agree with all of it, but I always believed his heart was set to do the right thing.

  • chemical

    “What did he do with that clout? Nothing.”
    Wrong! Bush 41 tackled environmental issues, enacting a CFC ban and taking other steps to prevent the destruction of the ozone layer. I had to work around environmental regulations he put in place while I was working in the oil and gas industry. He also did a lot of work, stabilizing eastern Europe after the collapse is the USSR. He was a man who would put partisan bickering aside to accomplish things (he had a democratic congress for his presidency, IIRC).

    Don’t judge Bush 41 based off his son — 41 was 100 times the the man his kid is.

  • chemical

    I actually met Bush 41 once — he was at some Rally the Troops event back when the second Iraq war as just getting started (I was in the army from 2001-2005).

    He was a different breed of republican, and I’d say the last of his kind. He was more focused on getting stuff done than promoting a partisan agenda, which is partly why he was a 1 term president.

    RIP, GHW Bush.

  • Polarbearpapa

    Nice write up….

    Real classy…

    The only thing you missed was mocking him for saying he wanted to go to heaven…

    You make everything we think about the left and their lack of real character … appear to be true…

    And you mock Trump for being callous …

  • captcrisis

    It is not nasty or hateful to point out, dispassionately, true things about what a man said and did.

  • Ellen Elmore

    We will never get back to a kinder, gentler time. President Trump has destroyed all decency and kindness in politics with his nasty tweets and obnoxious name calling. It doesn’t get any worse than this. I expect the 2020 campaign to be even worse.

  • Let us remember that the man was not only a warmonger, but also said that if you didn’t believe in a god or gods, you should no longer be a citizen of the United States of America. ATHEISTS and the non-superstitious people born in America are CITIZENS (~20% of the population; one-fifth) … and we aren’t going anywhere.

  • SocraticGadfly

    Exacerbated AIDS epidemic, war on drugs, and more, to boot, while attacking the First Amendment. Preach it, Steve. https://socraticgadfly.blogspot.com/2018/12/poppy-bush-opportunist-president-is-dead.html

  • Andre Stricker

    Pft. .. A kinder gentler time. I don’t know when you grew up. But I’m a young white male, long before Trump came along, I’ve been getting told, by everyone, But MOST viciously by older white women like you, who have the luxury of living in gated communities, that I’m a racist, to sit down and be abolished, that everything is my fault, that I’m a stupid redneck, and on and on and on. I live in what, until 10 years ago was one of the last white neighborhoods of Detroit, working class and peaceful, and everybody came down and said we’re evil for trying to stop blacks moving here. Lol look it up, the past weak, we’ve had three shootings, in a 3 square mile radius, two of them fatal. 12 years ago, we’d go two, three years without a single murder. I can’t let my children walk to school ! Don’t believe me, google Wayne hype center shooting, or drive by shooting grand traverse street wetland Michigan, each, within 10 city blocks of me. But this is the reality of multicultural America…. It hasn’t been kind of gentle for a long time, and how dare you think Trump is to blame for it. The kinder gentler America you mentioned? Trump is the reaction to its death! Our last gasp to protect it and hope for it to come back, that’s what Trump was. Go ahead call me a racist whatever, I’m 29, 15 years ago I was in highschool, there was no shootings, no gangs, and I could walk to school, “coincidentally” we were 90% white, today we’re 60% black, and there is multiple shootings and murders every week, you POS never asked me, if I wanted to live in this sewer of multiculturalism. But you have the luxury to nostalgically miss kind and gentle… When gang banging drug dealers are killing each other AT the community center where your kids play and swim, or your kids get mugged for lunch money because they are white and you still act kind and gentle, then you have the right to lament Trump, until then shut up