Streams of mourners filed past the flag-draped casket of former U.S. President George H.W. Bush in the U.S. Capitol on Tuesday, a day ahead of the state funeral for the country’s 41st president.
President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump were set to privately offer their condolences to Bush’s son, former President George W. Bush, the country’s 43rd president, former first lady Laura Bush and other Bush family members at Blair House, the presidential guest house across the street from the White House.
Trump commented on the occasion on Twitter.
Trump and his wife joined mourners at the Capitol Rotunda Monday night. They paused steps from Bush’s casket for a minute, with Trump saluting and Melania Trump placing her hand over her heart, before they quietly walked away.
Trump has often aimed political taunts at the Bush family, long a symbol of the traditional, more moderate wing of the U.S. Republican party that often is at odds with Trump’s populist supporters. The elder Bush never warmed to Trump and voted for Trump’s 2016 challenger, Democrat Hillary Clinton.
But Trump wrote members of Congress to hail Bush as a man who ”led a life that exemplified what is truly great about America. President Bush worked selflessly throughout his long life to bring about a world of justice and lasting peace.”
Before the public started walking past Bush’s casket, U.S. political dignitaries praised him as an American hero in World War II, a statesman, a world leader and, perhaps most of all, as a decent man full of grace. Bush died last week at the age of 94 at his home in Texas after years of failing health.
Vice President Mike Pence said ”President Bush was a great leader who made a great difference in the life of this nation. But he was also just a good man, who was devoted to his wife, his family and his friends.” Pence said there was a kindness about Bush ”that was evident to everyone who ever met him.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said America stands with the Bush family ”in mourning but also in gratitude. Gratitude for lives well-lived and duties thoroughly fulfilled.”
House Speaker Paul Ryan said ”here lies a great man, a gentle soul. … His legacy is grace perfected.”
The public viewing of Bush’s casket extends until early Wednesday when the casket will be transported to Washington National Cathedral for the state funeral.
The Episcopal service will include four eulogies, from Bush’s son, the former president, former Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, former Senator Alan Simpson and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Evan Meacham, who wrote a biography of Bush. The Trumps are attending the funeral but are not expected to speak.
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