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President George H.W. Bush dies at Age 94; Trumps Invited to George H.W. Bush's Funeral; CNN Special report: Remembering 41. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired December 1, 2018 - 08:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN REPORTER: We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and indeed around the world. This is CNN special live coverage of the passing of President George H. W. Bush. I'm Wolf Blitzer reporting from Buenos Aires.

BASH: And I'm Dana Bash in Houston.

BLITZER: Right now, we're learning that President Trump and the First Lady Melania Trump have been invited to the service for President George H. W. Bush at the National Cathedral in Washington, that's what a source is now telling CNN and this morning, we are remembering the long life and we're reflecting on the incredible legacy of the 41stPresident of the United States.

George Herbert Walker Bush passed away overnight in Houston at the age of 94.His death comes a little more than seven months after his wife Barbara's passing. President Bush's remembered as a very, very dedicated public servant anda great statesman, a World War II veteran and a devoted family man.

His lifetime of service included time is a combat pilot in the navy, a congressman, a diplomat and a head of the CIA. Friends and family remember him as a humble servant and a beloved and admired husband, father and grandfather.Former President George W. Bush called his father and I'm quoting him now, "A man of the highest character and the best dad, a son or daughter could ask for."

And grandson, Jeb BushJunior saying this and I'm quoting, "Nothing gave grandpa more joy than service to others, his leadership taught us to be kinder and gentler."

Earlier President Trump released a statement saying this, "President George H. W. Bush led a long successful and beautiful life. Whenever I was with him, I saw his absolute joy for life and true pride in his family.His accomplishments were great from beginning to end.He was a truly wonderful man and will be missed by all."That statement from President Trump.

Our special correspondent, Jamie Gangel is joining us right now and more on President George H. W. Bush, howhe changed Washington. Jamie, good morning talk a little bit about how kind this this President really was not only a public but in private.

GANGEL: Absolutely and in this era I think it's also important to know that he had a lot of friends who were Democrats.He truly believe this was another era in bipartisanship and reaching across the aisle.

[08:35:00] It probably was one of the things that in the end meant that he didn't serve a second term because of his promise that he had made, no new taxes.

And then he made a deal with the Democrats in order to address the deficit problem because he thought it was the right thing to do. On a personal note walls you know, ask anybody who knows George Bush and you hear the same words, loyal, decent, a gentleman, true class.

People will tell you George Bush was my dear friend, my best friend.There are thousands of people who will tell you that and you know what, they all were.He really developed close relationships with hundreds, thousands of people throughout his career because he liked to do it.

It was not a chore, it was simply the way he was and I think there's a word that I never heard it except with Bush family and that's the word braggadocio. Yes, he was his father's son in that he went into public service and politics but he was very much his mother's son and she always said to him, he loved to tell the story, George don't be a braggadocio.

And that also I think it had a huge positive affect on his career in that he reached out to other people and he was always including others.On the other hand, he would tell you that, it may have hurt him too because to campaign successfully you have to brag about yourself sometimes and he did not like to do that Wolf.

BLITZER: He didn't like to do it.Yeah, I know you spend a lot of time interviewing him, reporting about him, I did as well. I always discovered that what I saw in private with him is what all of the world's saw in public.It was really the same person. I assume you saw the same thing.

GANGEL: Absolutely and I will say, I do think there was this difference when he was in office, I'm not sure that the public really saw the person that he let the world see after he left office you know,Presidents usually write autobiographies.

He did not, that would have been braggadocio but what he did publish was a book of his letters over the years and when I went to interview him about it, he said that he published the letters because he didn't think people had seen his heart and he wanted to reveal that now.

BLITZER: Truly, truly remarkable man. Jamie, you're going to be with us for our special coverage, thank you very much. Dana, over to you.

BASH: Well, of this morning, we've seen reactions to the passing of President George H. W. Bush pouring in.President Obama who visited here in Houston within just a few days ago, released a statement early this morning saying in part quote, "America has lost a patriot and a humble servant in George Herbert Walker Bush.All our hearts are heavy today, they're also filled with gratitude.Our thoughts are with the entire Bush family tonight and all who were inspired by George and Barbara's sample." And in a joint statement President Bill Clinton and former secretary of state, Hillary Clinton said this, "Hillary and I mourn the passing of President George H. W. Bush and give thanks for his great, long life of service, love and friendship. I will be forever grateful for the friendship weformed.

From the moment I met him as a young governor, invited to his home in Kennebunkport, I was struck by the kindness you showed to Chelsea by his innate and genuine decency and by his devotion to Barbara, his children and their growing brood."

Up next, we're going to take a look at one of Bush 41's key diplomatic achievements and there are many, this is the biggest, helping to end the Cold War.

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BLITZER: President George H. W. Bush will be remembered for many, many things but one of his key it she events was helping to end the Cold War.Today world leaders are mourning his passing and remembering his diplomatic successes.This weekend many of these leaders including President Trump, they're trying to the G20 summit here in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

That's where CNN's Jeff Zeleny is, that's where I am right now. Jeff.What are world leaders saying about this great American President?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, it certainly is a moment here at the G20 summit where so many world leaders are gathered in. The President George H. W. Bush had such a profound effect on the world and indeed liked gatherings such as this.But world leaders as well as the U. S. President are weighing in.

Let's take a look at the tweet that President Trump sent just a short time ago.He said this,"President George H. W. Bush led a long, successful and beautiful life.Whenever I was within, I saw his absolute joy for life and true pride in his family.His accomplishments were great from beginning to end, he was truly a wonderful man and will be missed by all."

[08:45:00] Now other accolades and attributes are pouring in.Let's look at one from a French President Emmanuel Macron. He said this and he is here in Argentina, he said,"On behalf of the French people, I convey all of my condolences to the American nation for the loss of former President George Bush.He was a world leader who strongly supported the alliance with Europe.Our sympathy to his family and beloved ones."And finally a statement from British Prime Minister Theresa May also here in Argentina.

She says this,"President George H. W. Bush is ethos of public service was the guiding thread of his life and an example to us all.It took him from service in World War II to a stewardship of the CIA and his direction of the Gulf War as commander in chief and in navigating a peaceful end to the Cold War, he made the world a safer place for generations to come." So Wolf, a theme through all of these certainly are via belief that America needs coalitions and alliances of course in the first Gulf War that was the perhaps, the biggest example of his time asPresident's you know, building that a coalition, certainly in this era of America first of the Trump administration's policy, it is very different.

But on this day here at least as these meetings get under way, the memory and legacy of George H. W. Bush is hanging heavy in the air here and also the fact that he is the final American President from that era of the Cold War era from the World War II era, certainly a passing of time.

BLITZER: Yes, he was there right at the end of the Cold War, the collapse of the Soviet Union. I'm sure many of the world leaders here will be remembering all of that and I suspect during the course of today, they'll be paying special tribute to him publicly as well as certainly privately, we'll watch that closely.

All right, Jeff, thank you very much. Jeff's going to with us throughout our coverage coming up, we're going to take a closer look at the life and legacy of President George H. W. Bush in his own words.

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H.W. BUSH: My legacy is let the historians figure out what I screwed up and figure out what I got right.

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BLITZER: We continue to follow our breaking news, the death of President George H. W. Bush, the public servant, the great grandfather and the war hero, he died Friday night at the age of 94. President Bush served two terms in Congress, he eventually served as Vice President of United States under Ronald Reagan for 8 years.

BASH: And he only served one term as President but continued to win the hearts and minds of the public well after he left office in 1993 and many people have said that Bush 41 was the voice of reason needed today because in his own words politics doesn't have to be ugly.

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LARRY KING, ANCHOR, LARRY KING LIVE: Are you happy out of office, do you still miss it?

H.W. BUSH: I don't. I miss some aspectsbut it's been so long since we were there but I don't, I don't miss it. I don't miss going to work every day in the White House. I miss the presidency, of course. And I love being President. I love working at trying to help people and to help solve problems but it was great but that's gone, that's history.

I did my job as President. I just didn't expose my inner feelings. And I think people like me. I think people were disappointed. I think people wanted change. I got a whole rationale of reasons why I did not get re-elected. But maybe if I'd have been a little more emotional or more revealing of a person maybe it would have helped. But it never occurred to me then.

My view on legacy is let the historians figure out what I screwed up and figure out what I got right. And I'm confident that you know, we had a good administration and good people. And I think the same thing is true with our son. And you know, he had tough times and all but he's doing it right.

I hope that we both have set examples for how you ought to conduct yourself when you've been President and then go out of office, let the other guy do it and support him when you can and be silent, they'll be out there criticizing all the time.

President Clinton beat me like a drum back in 1992 and then we became friends. And some of his friends look at him and they say, have you lost it with this crazy guy and some of mine, look at it and they say just the same thing, what are you doing with Clinton and just because you're running against someone does not mean you have to be enemies.Politics does not have to be mean and ugly.

I've never like really talking too much about my own service.It was just like everybody else in the country that was doing what he thought was right. But in a personal basis the fact that I was flying in combat off a carrier makes the excitement of the naming of this new ship for me even greater than it would have been.

I always thought they did - did that kind of thing for dead guys. And here I am and I want to be around, the hell, I'd even eat broccoli if I could make it for another five years.

And this one was December of 43'.My Darling Bar, this should be very easy letter to write, word should come easily and in short it should be simple for me to tell you how desperately happy I was to open the paper and see the announcement of our engagement but somehow I can't possibly say all in a letter I should like to.

I love you precious with all my heart and to know that you love me means my life.How often I've thought about the immeasurable joy that will be ours someday.How lucky our children will be to have a mother like you.

LARRY KING: Do you think about dying?

[08:55:00] H.W. BUSH: No, a bit but not a lot,it doesn't scare me. Used to when I was a little kid, I think about dying, I was scared, terrible but when you get older Larry, you know, you don't think about it a lot. I got too much to do, too much to live for, too much happiness.

Just because you're old, that doesn't mean you can't do fun stuff and don't want to sit around drooling in the corner.

It's scary, when you look out, even though you're hooked on, get ready, get ready,you get up, get ready to go out, you get out to the door, you look down and no feeling of support and that is you know,what the heck am I doing, then off you go and it's just heaven.

LARRY KING: No regrets then?

H.W. BUSH:No regrets about anything. No regrets about one single thing in my life that I can think of. I mean I may have made mistakes but they don't they don't measure up to regrets now.

BLITZER: Truly wonderful man indeed.In just a few minutes, I'll be speaking with former Secretary of State Colin Powell, he was President George H. W. Bush's Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.Our special live coverage will continue right after this quick break.

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