Bush family to steer clear of anti-Trump sentiment at funeral

United States President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump paying their respects to former US leader George H. W. Bush. Mr Trump has been effusive in his praise of Mr Bush since his death last Friday.
United States President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump paying their respects to former US leader George H. W. Bush. Mr Trump has been effusive in his praise of Mr Bush since his death last Friday.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
From far left: US Vice-President Mike Pence, former president George W. Bush, former first lady Laura Bush and former Florida governor Jeb Bush watching as the casket of former president George H. W. Bush arrives at the US Capitol Rotunda, where the
From left: US Vice-President Mike Pence, former president George W. Bush, former first lady Laura Bush and former Florida governor Jeb Bush watching as the casket of former president George H. W. Bush arrives at the US Capitol Rotunda, where the body will lie in state.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Incumbent President told he's welcome and assured focus would be on life of Bush Senior

WASHINGTON • The family of former president George H. W. Bush has planned a state funeral that will steer clear of the kind of anti-Trump sentiment evident at the recent funeral of Senator John McCain, according to people familiar with the funeral planning.

The Bush family contacted the White House this past summer to say President Donald Trump would be welcome at the funeral, scheduled today at Washington National Cathedral, and to assure him that the focus would be on Mr Bush's life rather than their disagreements, according to a former administration official.

The truce with Mr Trump allows the Bush family, and the nation, to honour the legacy of a president who guided the United States through the 1991 Gulf War and the break-up of the Soviet Union, without becoming mired in today's toxic politics.

Mr Trump has in turn been effusive in his praise of Mr Bush since his death last Friday and paid respects on Monday night at the US Capitol, where the 41st president is lying in state.

But the detente also comes after Mr Trump's long history of insulting and taunting the Bush family - calling his 2016 primary opponent "low-energy" Jeb Bush and saying the Sept 11, 2001, terrorist attacks were partly due to then President George W. Bush's failure to keep the nation safe. Both men are sons of the late president.

The taunting comes as Mr Trump has fully taken control of the Republican Party, leading a bare-knuckle rejection of the traditional GOP establishment that the Bush family represented and helped build.

One person close to the funeral planning said the Bush family's overtures to Mr Trump were at least partly pragmatic.

 
 
 
 

Mr Trump has the final say over important funeral details, this person said, including providing Air Force One to carry the former president's remains from Texas to Washington on Monday for the funeral and back to Texas tomorrow for another service and burial.

While Mr Trump will not deliver a eulogy, he will be seated in the front row alongside former presidents Barack Obama, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter.

Mr George W. Bush, will deliver a eulogy. Neither he nor the other eulogists - former Canadian prime minister Brian Mulroney and former senator Alan Simpson - are expected to focus on the stark differences between the genteel and patrician Bush and the bombastic Trump.

"If you have a sensitivity for human feelings, you just don't get into that," Mr Simpson said in an interview on Monday. "It's not what a funeral is for."

Another Bush confidant said "the comparisons are presenting themselves; we are not heightening them", according to a person familiar with the funeral preparations.

A third person, who like others close to the preparations spoke on condition of anonymity, said the tone of today's funeral will reflect the sense of propriety of Mr Bush, who "wouldn't want anyone there to feel uncomfortable, including the incumbent president".

"It's interesting, though, that praising the Bushes or McCain risks sounding critical of Mr Trump, even when he is in no way part of the thinking," the third person said.

Unlike Mr McCain, who made clear Mr Trump would not be welcome at his own funeral in September, Mr Bush Senior opted not to break tradition by keeping away the incumbent president. But he did not invite Mr Trump to speak.

WASHINGTON POST, NYTIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 05, 2018, with the headline 'Bush family to steer clear of anti-Trump sentiment at funeral'. Print Edition | Subscribe