Americans Pay Respects to Late President Bush at US Capitol

December 4, 2018 Updated: December 5, 2018
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Current and former generals, lawmakers, and Cabinet members joined ordinary Americans on Dec. 4 at the U.S. Capitol Rotunda to pay their respects to the late President George H.W. Bush, who died Nov. 30 at the age of 94, after a life of service as a World War II hero, head of the CIA, and wartime president.

Tourists and office workers walked in silence past a flag-draped casket that held Bush’s body under the soaring Capitol dome.

Secretary of State Colin Powell was among the former Cabinet members who came to pay their respects. Powell led the U.S. military under Bush during the 1991 Gulf War. Several U.S. generals from that campaign against Iraq also attended.

Bush, the 41st U.S. president, was remembered as a patrician figure who represents a bygone era of bipartisan civility in American politics.

On Washington’s Embassy Row, national flags flew at half-staff on many foreign diplomatic buildings. Bush’s casket will be transported past them on Dec. 5 on its way to a memorial service at the Washington National Cathedral.

Former U.S. Sen Bob Dole, 95, arrived at the rotunda in a wheelchair. An aide helped Dole to stand and salute Bush, who defeated him in the fight for the 1988 Republican presidential nomination. Dole, who went on to support Bush as a senator, then sat in his wheelchair for a few moments, appearing to hold back tears.

President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump came to pay their respects on Dec. 3. Trump, a fellow Republican, planned to visit with the mourning family at Blair House, near the White House on Dec. 4.

“With a sound judgment, common sense, and unflappable leadership, President Bush guided our Nation, and the world, to a peaceful and victorious conclusion of the Cold War,” Trump said in a statement on Bush’s passing. “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.”

Sully, Bush’s service dog, also walked past the casket and lay nearby briefly.

Bush, the father of the 43rd president, George W. Bush, and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, will be buried in Texas on Dec. 6.

During a memorial ceremony, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell heralded “the Navy’s youngest aviator,” who, as president, scored a decisive victory in the Gulf War against the forces of Iraq’s President Saddam Hussein.

George W. Bush and Powell appeared to hold back tears as McConnell spoke.

“He was only 20 on that September day in 1944 when his plane was hit on a bombing run. But through the fire and smoke, George Bush stayed steady at the controls. A steady hand staying the course, that’s what George Bush gave us for decades.”

Bush served as the vice president under President Ronald Reagan for two terms before being elected president in 1988.

During his four years as president, Bush ended the Iraqi occupation of Kuwait, steered the United States through the end of the Cold War, and condemned China’s 1989 crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square.

But domestic problems, including a sluggish economy, imperiled his re-election. When he ran for president in 1992, he was criticized by Democrats and many Republicans for violating a 1988 campaign promise to not raise taxes.

Bill Clinton, a Democrat, won the election, ending Bush’s presidency.

Bush was born in Connecticut to a wealthy family. He moved to Texas to become an oilman and eventually shifted to politics. He served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1967 to 1971 and lost bids for a U.S. Senate seat in 1964 and 1970.

Only 12 presidents have lain in state at the U.S. Capitol; Abraham Lincoln was the first after his assassination in 1865.

Bush’s wife, Barbara Bush, died in April at the age of 92. The pair were married for 72 years.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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