WASHINGTON — President Trump praised former President George H.W. Bush as a man whose “accomplishments were great from beginning to end,” even though he has had at times a chilly relationship with Bush’s sons, former President George W. Bush and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.
“President George H.W. Bush led a long, successful and beautiful life,” Trump said on Twitter on Saturday. “Whenever I was with him I saw his absolute joy for life and true pride in his family. His accomplishments were great from beginning to end. He was a truly wonderful man and will be missed by all!”
The White House announced that Trump will designate next Wednesday as a National Day of Mourning, and that he and First Lady Melania Trump would attend a funeral for Bush at the National Cathedral in Washington.
Bush, who served as president from 1989 to 1993, died on Friday at the age of 94, after a long illness. George W. Bush announced his passing in a statement issued just before midnight eastern time.
The Trumps also issued a statement overnight, in which they said that “through his essential authenticity, disarming wit, and unwavering commitment to faith, family and country, President Bush inspired generations of his fellow Americans to public service — to be, in his words, ‘a thousand points of light,’ illuminating the greatness, hope, and opportunity of America to the world.”
They added, “As President, he set the stage for decades of prosperity that have followed. And through all that he accomplished, he remained humble, following the quiet call of service that gave him a clear sense of direction.”
During the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump regularly attacked Bush’s son Jeb Bush, a rival, as “low energy,” and blasted the White House record of his brother. During a primary debate in February 2016, Trump even appeared to blame George W. Bush for not taking adequate steps to prevent 9/11.
“While Donald Trump was building a reality TV show, my brother was building a security apparatus to keep us safe,” Jeb Bush responded.
George H.W. Bush did not vote for Trump, but cast his ballot for his rival, Hillary Clinton, according to press accounts and the book, “The Last Republicans.” George W. Bush voted for no one.
Trump has not been publicly biting toward George H.W. Bush, whose presidency, through time, has come to be viewed as another era of pragmatic politics, greater bipartisanship and common decency. A 1990 budget deal with Democrats that included tax increases cost him conservative support and invited a challenge from Pat Buchanan in 1992. Over time, though, Bush has been revered across the political spectrum.
Trump’s predecessor, President Barack Obama, at times referred to Bush’s tenure as a model for his own presidency. He awarded the elder Bush the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2011, and said that his “life is a testament that public service is a noble calling.” Obama visited the elder Bush just this week before a speaking engagement at Rice University, and Bush’s spokesman said that they “had a very pleasant and private visit at the Bush residence, where they rekindled what was already a very warm friendship.”
The family said that it was working with the Department of Defense to carry out Bush’s wishes when it comes to a state funeral, but full details have not yet been announced. The last state funeral for a former president was for Gerald R. Ford, who died on Dec. 26, 2006.
Bush’s wife, Barbara, died on April 17, and her husband sat near her casket and greeted mourners as they paid their respects.
His public appearances were more infrequent in recent years, but he did appear in October 2017, at an event to raise money for hurricane relief. He was joined by the four other living ex-presidents as well as Lady Gaga.