George HW Bush funeral: Trump gets invite as former president’s repose brings call for unity

'My hope is that his passing will remind all of us of the values he lived by' says late president's former speech writer

Chris Riotta
New York
Monday 03 December 2018 16:25 GMT
Former US President George Bush Sr diesaged 94

Donald Trump has been invited to George HW Bush’s funeral amid calls for unity after the 41st president passed away on Friday.

Those who knew the former commander-in-chief said Mr Trump’s invitation was a deliberate choice he made before his death.

Presidential historian Douglas Brinkley told People Magazine over the weekend Mr Bush didn’t want to “stiff a sitting president”.

In recent days, Mr Bush has been remembered as an American unifier during his tenure in the White House, with his funeral appearing to offer that same distinction.

During his inaugural address in 1989, the former president said: “I take as my guide the hope of a saint: in crucial things, unity; in important things, diversity; in all things, generosity.”

Melania Trump is also expected to attend the funeral, after the White House designated Wednesday as a national day of mourning.

The first lady previously attended Republican senator John McCain’s funeral earlier this year, along with former heads of state and high-profile politicians on either side of the political aisle — except for her husband, who did not receive an invitation to the event. Mr Trump has attacked Mr McCain over the years, even criticising him for being captured during the Vietnam War.

Mary Kate Cary, a former speechwriter for Mr Bush and a senior fellow for presidential studies at the University of Virginia’s Miller centre, described the former president’s push for unification across the globe in a recent op-ed for USA Today.

“Under his leadership, the German people are now a ‘we’ instead of ‘us and them’ — and more important, a part of the great ‘we’ of free nations and free people in the world,” she wrote.

“The international coalition of free nations he built to stand up for the people of Kuwait was another example. Unity, diversity and generosity were the hallmarks of his most important achievements.

She added: “My hope is that his passing will remind all of us of the values he lived by, and how desperately important they are to the future of our democracy.”

Her sentiment was echoed by countless Americans across social media, who spent the weekend posting old photos and quotes from the former president while reminiscing of a seemingly more unified era in US politics.

Mr Trump appeared to slow down the tense rhetoric online and in public statements following the former president’s death, cancelling an expected press conference after the G20 Summit in Argentina.

He wrote on Twitter, “I was very much looking forward to having a press conference just prior to leaving Argentina because we have had such great success in our dealing with various countries and their leaders at the G20, however, out of respect for the Bush Family and former President George H.W. Bush we will wait until after the funeral to have a press conference.”

Before departing Buenos Aires, the president said: “We’ll be spending three days of mourning and three days of celebrating a really great man’s life”.

However, it remains to be seen whether those calls for unity will actually take shape under Mr Trump.

A meeting Democratic leaders Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi were set to have with the president on Tuesday was reportedly postponed until further notice, with sources citing Mr Bush’s funeral as the reason for the delay.

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Mr Bush will be laid to rest at the George Bush Presidential Library & Museum in Texas, where he will join his late wife, Barbara, and their child, Robin, who died at an early age of leukaemia.

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