US President Donald Trump on Saturday paid tribute to late former leader George HW Bush, praising his lifetime of service to the nation and “unflappable leadership” during the waning days of the Cold War.
“Melania and I join with a grieving Nation to mourn the loss of former President George H.W. Bush, who passed away last night,” Trump said in a statement released by the White House.
“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,” Trump continued.
Trump, who has at times criticized his recent predecessors over their policies – and mocked Bush’s son, former 2016 Republican presidential rival Jeb Bush, during the campaign, claiming he “didn’t want help from his family in his failed campaign and didn’t even want to use his last name” – expressed condolences to the Bush family on Saturday following the death of their patriarch at the age of 94.
The president said the elder Bush “always found a way to set the bar higher,” pointing to his days captaining the Yale baseball team before going on to become the Navy’s youngest aviator during World War II and then serving in Congress, as ambassador to China, CIA director, vice president and eventually president.
“With sound judgement, common sense, and unflappable leadership, President Bush guided our Nation, and the world, to a peaceful and victorious conclusion of the Cold War. As President, he set the stage for the decades of prosperity that have followed. And through all that he accomplished, he remained humble, following the quiet call to service that gave him a clear sense of direction,” Trump said.
“Along with his full life of service to country, we will remember President Bush for his devotion to family—especially the love of his life, Barbara. His example lives on, and will continue to stir future Americans to pursue a greater cause. Our hearts ache with his loss, and we, with the American people, send our prayers to the entire Bush family, as we honor the life and legacy of 41.”
Bush’s family announced late Friday that the former president had died, describing him “as a man of the highest character and the best dad a son or daughter could ask for.” No cause of death was not given, but the statement said that “the entire Bush family is deeply grateful for 41’s life and love, for the compassion of those who have cared and prayed for Dad, and for the condolences of our friends and fellow citizens.”
Members of the Bush family have at times criticized Trump since he took office, with George H.W. Bush confirming to author Mark K. Updegrove in his book “The Last Republicans” that he voted for Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton over Trump in the 2016 election, saying he considered Trump to be a “blowhard.”
Former President Obama and his wife Michelle also honored Bush in a statement late Friday, calling him “a patriot and humble servant” with “a legacy of service that may never be matched, even though he’d want all of us to try.”
“George H.W. Bush’s life is a testament to the notion that public service is a noble, joyous calling. And he did tremendous good along the journey,” they said.