Washington said farewell to George H. W. Bush today in a service that both remembered his spirit and his heroism, and stands as a sharp rebuke to what politics
Friends, family, and much of official Washington representing both the era in which he served and the new and far more complicated era we find ourselves in today gathered this morning in Washington National Cathedral to pay tribute to the memory of the 41st President of the United States:
WASHINGTON — The nation bade farewell on Wednesday to George Herbert Walker Bush, the patriarch of one of the most consequential political dynasties of modern times and the president who presided over the end of the Cold War and the beginning of a new era of American dominance in the world.
As bells tolled and choirs sang and an honor guard accompanied the coffin, the nation’s 41st president was remembered as a “kinder and gentler” leader at a tumultuous moment whose fortitude steered the country through storms at home and abroad and whose essential decency set a standard for others to meet.
“When the history books are written,” his son, former President George W. Bush, said in a eulogy at Washington National Cathedral, “they will say that George H. W. Bush was a great president of the United States, a diplomat of unmatched skill, a commander in chief of formidable accomplishments and a gentleman who executed the duties of his office with dignity and honor.”
Mr. Bush, like his father an emotional man given to tearing up over family, struggled to make it through his eulogy, his eyes watery, his face etched with emotion. He held on until the very end, when he choked up as he called the former president “the best father a son or daughter could ever have.”
President Trump joined all the living former presidents as well as foreign leaders, lawmakers, Supreme Court justices and diplomats at the service but in a nod to tensions with the Bush family he had no speaking role. There was less of an overt sense of rebuke to Mr. Trump than there was at the funeral for Senator John McCain in September, but the unspoken contrasts between the former and current presidents were hard to miss.
While speakers talked about Mr. Bush’s civility, his commitment to the institutions of government and his faith in alliances, Mr. Trump was sitting just feet away, his arms sometimes crossed, almost as if in defiance. Without directly saying so, the speakers pushed back against Mr. Trump’s mockery of the former president’s volunteerism slogan “a thousand points of light” during campaign rallies this year.
“To us,” the younger Mr. Bush said, “his was the brightest of the thousand points of light.”
The elder Mr. Bush died on Friday at age 94 after years of struggling with a form of Parkinson’s disease. His coffin, draped in a flag, was headed after the service to Joint Base Andrews outside Washington, where it will be loaded aboard one of the blue-and-white presidential jets for a final flight home to Texas.
The state funeral served as a milestone in the life of a country that has moved beyond the type of politics Mr. Bush preached and, with notable exceptions, practiced. The moments of bipartisan compromise that marked his presidency feel alien as the politics of anger and division dominate Washington and the country.

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