Monday 16 September 2019

Americans to begin saying goodbyes to George HW Bush

The public viewing will kick off four days of events in memory of the 41st US president.

A makeshift memorial across from Walker’s Point, the Bush’s summer home (Robert Bukaty/AP)
A makeshift memorial across from Walker’s Point, the Bush’s summer home (Robert Bukaty/AP)

By Associated Press Reporters

Americans will begin saying goodbye to former President George HW Bush on Monday when his body arrives in Washington for public viewing in the Capitol Rotunda.

The public viewing will kick off four days of events that will include a state funeral at Washington’s National Cathedral on Wednesday and a private service at Mr Bush’s longtime church in Houston on Thursday.

But tributes from leaders around the world have been pouring in since his death Friday night.

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell called him “a perfect American” for how “he served the country in so many capacities”.

“He never forgot who he was,” Mr Powell, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during Bush’s presidency, told ABC’s This Week on Sunday.

“He never let it all go to his head. He was a man of great humility.”

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A portrait of George HW Bush – painted by his son, in the George W Bush Presidential Library and Museum in University Park, Texas (Tom Fox/The Dallas Morning News via AP)

Mr Bush, who died at his Houston home at age 94, will be buried on Thursday on the grounds of his presidential library at Texas A&M University.

In Washington DC, he will lie in state in the Capitol Rotunda from Monday to Wednesday.

President Donald Trump, who ordered federal offices closed for a national day of mourning on Wednesday, is to attend with first lady Melania Trump and other high-ranking officials.

On Sunday, Mr Bush’s spokesman posted a photo of the late president’s service dog lying in front of a flag-draped casket.

Jim McGrath posted the picture of the yellow Labrador retriever named Sully on Twitter with the caption, “Mission complete. #Remembering41.”

Mr Bush received Sully in June from America’s VetDogs non-profit organisation. The president had a form of Parkinson’s disease, and Sully could open doors, pick up items and summon help.

KTRK-TV in Houston reported that Sully will return to America’s VetDogs in New York before joining the Water Reed National Military Medical Centre’s Facility Dog Programme.

James Baker, Bush’s former chief of staff and secretary of state, called his boss’ tenure in office “a consequential presidency” because of his foreign policy achievements.

“Yes, he’s a one-term president but he is going to be and was a very consequential one-term president. And I would argue far and away the best one-term president we’ve ever had,” Mr Baker told ABC’s This Week.

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Wreaths outside the gated community entrance to the home of George HW Bush in Houston (David J Phillip/AP)

Mr Bush’s crowning achievement as president was assembling the international military coalition that liberated the tiny, oil-rich nation of Kuwait from invading Iraq in 1991 in a war that lasted just 100 hours.

He also presided over the end of the Cold War between the United States and the former Soviet Union.

At the G20 summit in Argentina, German chancellor Angela Merkel, who was raised in East Germany, told reporters she likely would never have become her country’s leader had Mr Bush not pressed for the nation’s reunification in 1990.

A humble hero of the Second World War, Mr Bush was just 20 when he survived being shot down during a bombing run over Japan. He enlisted in the Navy on his 18th birthday.

Shortly before leaving the service, he married his 19-year-old sweetheart, Barbara Pierce, in a union that lasted until her death earlier this year.

“He knew what combat was all about,” Mr Powell said on This Week.

“He knew that combat meant the death of people, people on your side and people on the other side. And so he wanted to avoid a war.”

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Guests write condolences to the Bush family at the George W Bush Presidential Library and Museum (Tom Fox/The Dallas Morning News via AP)

Mr Bush turned his attention to politics in the 1960s, being elected to his first of two terms in Congress in 1967. He would go on to serve as ambassador to the United Nations and China, head of the CIA and chairman of the Republican National Committee before being elected to two terms as Ronald Reagan’s vice president.

Soon after he reached the zenith of his political popularity following the liberation of Kuwait, the US economy began to sour and voters began to believe that Mr Bush, never a great orator, was out of touch with ordinary people. He lost his bid for re-election to then-Arkansas governor Bill Clinton, who would later become a close friend.

It was not only former political rivals Bush found easy to befriend.

cMolina, whose family owns Molina’s Cantina, one of Bush’s favourite Tex-Mex restaurants in Houston, said he remembers Mr Bush’s kindness to his staff whenever he would stop by to eat.

“No matter which party you’re affiliated with, everybody seemed to say the same things about President Bush,” Mr Molina said. “He was a down-to-earth person, approachable, and just a good man.”

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