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Decorum at the death of a former president

 

http://bloviatingzeppelin.net/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/George-HW-Bush-1.jpgThe passing of a president is inherently a political event, overlaid on the private grief of family and friends. How ought we respond, in an age and a society completely suffused with politics? Mark Davis, broadcasting out of the Dallas Fort Worth area, put it this way:

Politics is only the fourth most important thing in life. The three most important things are:

Service to God,

Service to family,

Service to country.

It is beyond dispute that George H.W. Bush was praiseworthy on the three most important things in life.

Service to God:

Lifelong Episcopalians, George H.W. Bush and Barbara were steadfast members of a congregation that grew to be the largest in the denomination. His sons seem to lead lives of Christian faith. President Bush called the nation to prayer in his inaugural address. On his last birthday, when he could not handwrite a note, he had his spokesman tweet this note:

Service to family:

George and Barbara had a lifetime love affair, reflected in his love letters. He wrote letters all his life, many of them love letters.

On graduating from college, he and his bride went west to Texas, where he prospered in the oil business, providing for a growing family. His abiding love for his daughter Robin, lost to cancer at 3 years of age, is deeply touching. You cannot miss the affection between 41 and 43. His last words were to George W. Bush: “I love you.” A political cartoonist summarized it best:

Service to country:

In the wake of Pearl Harbor, George H.W. Bush left Yale, at 18 years old, to become the youngest naval aviator. He flew 58 combat missions. On graduating from college, he made his fortune in the oil business, then turned to politics in Texas. Texas was a Democratic Party stronghold, so G.H.W. Bush lost Senate races twice. However, he was building a competitive Republican party in the state, and he was called repeatedly to take positions advancing the national interest, in diplomacy and in intelligence.

Even in his winter years, he acted to build civic virtue. See Peter Robinson’s account of an ailing elder statesman showing up at Dartmouth. How many prominent Republicans do you think get recognized at our elite universities? He did not need the honorary degree, but the students needed to see a Republican positively portrayed.

So what of politics?

Even if you disagree with parts of his presidency and the general direction of the Bush family political beliefs, there is still much to be praised and thankful for, starting with Texas. George H.W. Bush was instrumental in growing the Republican Party in Texas, eventually leading to the Lone Star State counterbalancing the leftward shift on the coasts.

“Bush was a pioneer in building the Republican Party in Texas,” said SMU professor Carolyn Barta, who covered Bush’s campaigns and presidency as a reporter. “Back in the ‘50s when he was in Midland, he was a precinct chairman and the Republicans used to joke back then there were so few of them back then they could meet in a phone booth!”

[…]

By building relationships and uniting a disparate Republican Party, Bush showed how to create lasting coalitions – and helped turn Texas ruby red.

His beliefs were in the traditional Republican mainstream, which set him at odds with Reaganism. Yet, he loyally served the nation through President Reagan’s two terms, not seeking to subvert the President. In 1988, he had the good political sense to run on the Reagan record, and against the Democrats’ record.

In the end, he was defeated by acting on his political beliefs, and falling for the same Democrat trap on deficits that President Reagan had fallen for on immigration. As a deficit hawk, 41 believed that he could get an honest deal of tax increases in return for real spending cuts. As with Reagan’s illegal alien amnesty, the Democrats pocketed the benefit, and had no intention of upholding the end of the bargain that was not in their interest. What made the mistake politically fatal was his emphatic promise in the Reaganesque convention speech he had given.

Yet, he was gracious in defeat and did not meddle in subsequent administrations. When President Trump won, 41 sent a gracious letter of apology for not being able to attend the inauguration. His doctors had advised he would not likely survive the outdoor ceremony. And now we see that George H.W. Bush sustained a sense of service to family and country, together with a reasonable view of politics, such that the Bush family will not engage in self-centered snubbing of a political opponent in the process of public mourning.

So, it is fit and proper to honor the memory of George Herbert Walker Bush, a man of faith, a family man, a selfless patriot, and a skillful politician who did much good in this land.

Published in Politics
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There are 14 comments.

  1. Contributor

    A beautifully written tribute, Clifford. Thanks.

    • #1
    • December 3, 2018 at 10:19 pm
    • 11 likes
  2. Contributor
    Clifford A. Brown Post author

    Mike "Lash" LaRoche (View Comment):

    A beautifully written tribute, Clifford. Thanks.

    I’ve been listening to Mark Davis, either Internet radio or podcast for a year or so. Credit to him for the framework.

    • #2
    • December 3, 2018 at 10:27 pm
    • 8 likes
  3. Member

    Very good!

    • #3
    • December 3, 2018 at 10:51 pm
    • 9 likes
  4. Contributor
    Clifford A. Brown Post author

    RightAngles (View Comment):

    Very good!

    The last photo is from the Stars & Stripes story.

    • #4
    • December 3, 2018 at 11:04 pm
    • 9 likes
  5. Member

    Thank you, Mr. Brown, for a wonderful tribute to the president.

    • #5
    • December 3, 2018 at 11:30 pm
    • 8 likes
  6. Contributor
    Clifford A. Brown Post author

    I invite further examples, in this comment section, of George H.W. Bush’s:

    1. Service to God

    2. Service to family

    3. Service to country

    C-SPAN has the complete memorial schedule, with links to videos of completed events.

    • #6
    • December 4, 2018 at 1:16 am
    • 5 likes
  7. Moderator
    She

    Clifford A. Brown:

    Mark Davis, broadcasting out of the Dallas Fort Worth area, put it this way:

    Politics is only the fourth most important thing in life. The three most important things are:

    Service to God,

    Service to family,

    Service to country.

    Nice post, thanks. I think Mark Davis is right. But I cannot help thinking that if we took his advice more to heart, and did our best to act on those thoughts at all times, and not merely as an exercise when someone has died, we’d be a lot better off.

    This isn’t to say that vigorous political and philosophical debate is undesirable, or that we can’t call our political adversaries out, because it is extremely desirable, and I’m as fond of a good knock-down drag-out as the next person, and we certainly can. Nevertheless, there are things in our lives that trump (small “t”) politics, no contest, every single day.

    • #7
    • December 4, 2018 at 4:31 am
    • 5 likes
  8. Member

    One of the problems with the way the American system of government is structured is that the Head of State and the Head of Government are centered in one man. George H. W. Bush made a great Head of State, but not so much Head of Government. The qualities needed for a great Head of State are antithetical to those needed for a great Head of Government. Reagan could pull it off. No other President in my lifetime has and is unlikely to.

    • #8
    • December 4, 2018 at 4:53 am
    • 2 likes
  9. Member

    Hang On (View Comment):

    One of the problems with the way the American system of government is structured is that the Head of State and the Head of Government are centered in one man. George H. W. Bush made a great Head of State, but not so much Head of Government. The qualities needed for a great Head of State are antithetical to those needed for a great Head of Government. Reagan could pull it off. No other President in my lifetime has and is unlikely to.

    One must remember that Article II was written with George Washington in mind. As such, it’s a feature, not a bug.

    @cliffordbrown, what a great post! I think better of GHWB that I did in the early 1990s. Much of that was by thinking about his service.

    • #9
    • December 4, 2018 at 5:38 am
    • 4 likes
  10. Coolidge

    Two things:

    The cartoon brings a tear to the eye. I can only imagine what President Bush must feel at seeing his child again, not to mention his wife.

    Second, I’m glad to see a proper salute on President Trump. So often folks at that level, even generals and admirals, don’t know how to render a proper hand salute.

    Good post.

    • #10
    • December 4, 2018 at 6:24 am
    • 6 likes
  11. Member

    danok1 (View Comment):

    Hang On (View Comment):

    One of the problems with the way the American system of government is structured is that the Head of State and the Head of Government are centered in one man. George H. W. Bush made a great Head of State, but not so much Head of Government. The qualities needed for a great Head of State are antithetical to those needed for a great Head of Government. Reagan could pull it off. No other President in my lifetime has and is unlikely to.

    One must remember that Article II was written with George Washington in mind. As such, it’s a feature, not a bug.

    @cliffordbrown, what a great post! I think better of GHWB that I did in the early 1990s. Much of that was by thinking about his service.

    And writing a constitution with one person – a mortal – in mind is not a good idea.

    • #11
    • December 4, 2018 at 6:26 am
    • 1 like
  12. Member

    Hang On (View Comment):

    danok1 (View Comment):

    Hang On (View Comment):

    One of the problems with the way the American system of government is structured is that the Head of State and the Head of Government are centered in one man. George H. W. Bush made a great Head of State, but not so much Head of Government. The qualities needed for a great Head of State are antithetical to those needed for a great Head of Government. Reagan could pull it off. No other President in my lifetime has and is unlikely to.

    One must remember that Article II was written with George Washington in mind. As such, it’s a feature, not a bug.

    @cliffordbrown, what a great post! I think better of GHWB that I did in the early 1990s. Much of that was by thinking about his service.

    And writing a constitution with one person – a mortal – in mind is not a good idea.

    And at least one of the delegates to the Constitutional Convention later agreed. My Google-fu is failing me so I can’t find the quote, but IIRC a delegate from SC later said that Article II was written with GW in mind, and that was a mistake, since men like GW are so rare.

    • #12
    • December 4, 2018 at 7:11 am
    • 1 like
  13. Coolidge

    Spin (View Comment):
    I’m glad to see a proper salute on President Trump. So often folks at that level, even generals and admirals, don’t know how to render a proper hand salute.

    Concur. I’ve seen such terrible form from most officers, I just assumed it was intentional.

    • #13
    • December 4, 2018 at 12:09 pm
    • 2 likes
  14. Inactive

    Clifford A. Brown: So, it is fit and proper to honor the memory of George Herbert Walker Bush, a man of faith, a family man, a selfless patriot, and a skillful politician who did much good in this land.

    What is the appropriately honoring his memory? Charles C. W. Cooke at NR:

    …Tomorrow, the press reports, is to be a “day of mourning” — a day on which the stock market will be closed, on which the federal government will shut down, on which the House of Representatives will begin a week-long break, on which various universities will cancel classes, on which the Postal Service will halt deliveries, on which the Supreme Court will adjourn, and on which major American newspapers will postpone events that they had previously planned to hold. Across the U.S., flags will be flown at half-staff for a month.

     

    Why? Irrespective of whether he was a great man or a poor one, George H. W. Bush was a public employee. He was not a king. He was not a pope. He did not found or save or design the republic. To shut down our civil society for a day in order to mark his peaceful passing is to invert the appropriate relationship between the citizen and the state, and to take yet another step toward the fetishization of an executive branch whose role is supposed to be more bureaucratic than spiritual, but that has come of late to resemble Caesar more than to resemble Coolidge.

    • #14
    • December 4, 2018 at 9:39 pm
    • 1 like