President George H.W. Bush's funeral expected to set aside political bickering, focus on his life

  • People with knowledge of the funeral plans for former President George H.W. Bush reportedly say the proceeding will focus on his life, rather than becoming a politically-charged event.
  • President Donald Trump is expected to attend the funeral on Wednesday at the Washington National Cathedral.
  • People familiar with the funeral plans played down the possibility of a divide between Trump and the Bush family.

Following the death of former President George H.W. Bush on Friday, people with knowledge of the funeral plans say the proceeding will focus on the late president’s life, rather than becoming a politically-charged event, according to a Washington Post report published Monday.

Bush’s funeral on Wednesday at the Washington National Cathedral, which President Donald Trump is expected to attend, will reportedly contrast with Republican Sen. John McCain’s, who died three months ago. The late senator’s funeral was extensively planned by McCain prior to his death and was widely viewed as a ceremony with political undertones.

Although Trump and his name were absent during eulogies for McCain in September, the president’s presence appeared to resonate through the emotionally charged speeches from many of the late senator’s mourners, including McCain’s daughter.

“We gather here to mourn the passing of American greatness,” Meghan McCain said. “The real thing, not cheap rhetoric from men who will never come near the sacrifice he gave so willingly, nor the opportunistic appropriation of those who lived lives of comfort and privilege while he suffered and served.”

Read more: Former President George H.W. Bush dies at age 94

Meghan also appeared to rebuke Trump’s campaign slogan “Make America Great Again” in her eulogy: “The America of John McCain has no need to be great again because America was always great,” Meghan said.

Trump was intensely concerned about the political rhetoric during McCain’s funeral, three current and former White House officials said to The Post, with one senior official saying Trump’s reaction was “almost paralyzing for a week.”

People familiar with Bush’s funeral plans played down the possibility of a divide between Trump and Bush, according to The Post. Bush, who reportedly invited Trump to his funeral last summer, would not have wanted “anyone there to feel uncomfortable, including the incumbent president,” one person said.

“It’s interesting, though, that praising the Bushes or McCain risks sounding critical of Trump even when Trump’s in no way part of the thinking,” the person added to The Post.

One former senior White House official added that “there is no particular animosity at all toward the elder Bush.”

Despite the glowing remarks he made in his statements and tweets after Bush’s death, Trump has publicly derided the Bush’s and their leadership.

“The World Trade Center came down during your brother’s reign,” Trump said to then-candidate Jeb Bush, Bush’s son, during the 2016 presidential campaign.

Read more: Watch George H.W. Bush being rescued by the US Navy after his plane was shot down by Japanese forces in WWII

Trump also appeared to take a direct swipe at Bush by alluding to a phrase Bush coined during his acceptance speech in 1988 at the Republican National Convention.

“I want a kinder, gentler nation,” Bush said at the time. “We are a nation of communities, of thousands, and tens of thousands, of ethnic, religious, social, business, labour union, neighbourhood, regional, and other organisations, all of them varied, voluntary and unique … a brilliant diversity spread like stars, like a thousand points of light in a broad and peaceful sky.”

During a campaign rally in Montana in July, Trump referenced his Republican predecessor’s speech:

“The thousand points of light, what the hell was that by the way,” Trump said. “Thousand points of light, what did that mean, does anyone know? I know one thing, Make America Great Again we understand. Putting America first, we understand. Thousand points of light, I never quite got that one. What the hell is that? Has anyone ever figured that one out? And it was put out by a Republican, wasn’t it?”

In a statement on Saturday, Trump again referenced the Bush’s “thousand points of light” speech and said the former president “inspired generations of his fellow Americans to public service.”

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