Return to Transcripts main page


Former President George H. W. Bush Passes Away; Life of George H. W. Bush Profiled; Interview with Senator Patrick Leahy; President Trump Cancels Planned Meeting with President Putin at G20 Summit; President Trump to Meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping; Reporter Recounts Skydiving with Former President George H. W. Bush. Aired 2-3p ET

Aired December 1, 2018 - 14:00   ET



[14:00:50] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, we want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world to our special live coverage. I'm Wolf blitzer. We're live here in Buenos Aires, where the G20 Summit of world leaders continues. We'll have more on that coming up.

But let's begin by honoring and remembering the life of the 41st president of the United States, George Herbert Walker Bush. He died late last night at the age of 94. Right now, flags are at half-staff, a national day of mourning will be held on Wednesday, and the stock market will be closed that day to honor George H. W. Bush. He is being remembered as a man who put service above himself. He was a war hero turned oilman, an accomplished politician on many levels, from U.S. congressman to vice president, and to president. Even in his last years of life, the former president said he was fulfilled and never scared of death.


GEORGE H. W. BUSH, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: It doesn't scare me. It used to. When I was a little kid, think about dying, I would be scared. It was terrible. But when you get older, Larry, you don't think about it a lot. I have got too much to do, too much to live for, too much happiness.

No regrets about anything. No regrets about one single thing in my life that I can think of. I mean, I've made mistakes, but they don't measure up to regrets.


BLITZER: President George H. W. Bush was a Navy pilot, later a diplomat. He was commander in chief, and quite the thrill seeker, as well, but nothing took precedence over his biggest commitment, being a loving father to six and a devoted husband for more than seven decades. Here is a closer look at George H. W. Bush, the family man.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) BLITZER: He trusted others and inspired their loyalty. And above

all, he found joy in his family, and his faith. Those are the words of an admiring son, George W. Bush, writing about his father. George H. W. Bush grew up in Connecticut. His father was a backer and eventually a U.S. senator. In 1945, he married Barbara Pierce, daughter of the publisher of "McCall's" magazine. More than anyone, she was his companion and sustaining light in peace and in war.

GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: He would complete 58 combat missions. These were tough days. But he had something that kept him going, and if you look closely at the photographs of the planes he flew, you will find what kept him going and the name he had painted under his cockpit -- Barbara.

BLITZER: A daughter, Robin, died of leukemia at age three. Four sons, George W., Jeb, Neil, and Marvin, and one daughter, Doro, were adults by the time he became president. Over time, gatherings at the family compound in Maine became larger and more raucous.

LARRY KING: What is it like, Doro, and since we can't agree on everything, when inside the family, you disagree with a president or a governor?

DOROTHY BUSH KOCH, DAUGHTER OF PRESIDENT BUSH: There isn't a lot of that. Actually, when I spend the weekend with my brother or my father, we sort of talk about fishing, or laughing, and it is not like that. But I think people voice their opinions.

BLITZER: Although they lived public lives, the Bushs guarded their family's privacy and resented outsiders attempts to pry in or to play up stories of rivalry between the father and son presidents.

GEORGE H. W. BUSH, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: We know who we are. We know how we get along. And there is no rivalry, there is no kind of trying to live up to something, or bring the boy up, or -- I mean, it is crazy. We're a close, loving family, Larry. And these speculative stories just drove me crazy.

KING: How about you?

BARBARA BUSH, FORMER FIRST LADY: Well, they are nutty. There was people saying we wanted Jeb to be president, not George. Who writes things? Two books were written about me by someone who never spoke to me ever. So I think, you just overlook those. They are just not true.

KING: But you got angrier than your husband, didn't you?


[14:05:00] BLITZER: Shortly before the start of the 1991 Gulf War, President Bush summed up his feelings about his family in a letter to his children.

GEORGE H. W. BUSH: I said I had a little plaque made, it says CAVU, C-A-V-U. CAVU was the kind of weather we Navy pilots wanted when we were to fly off our carrier in the Pacific. We had little navigational instrumentation, so we wanted CAVU, ceiling and visibility unlimited. Because of the five of you whose hugs I can still feel, whose own lives have made me so proud, I can confidently tell my guardian angel that my life is CAVU and it will be that way until I die, all because of you.


BLITZER: Many would say George H. W. Bush made the entire state of Texas feel like family. That is why today is proving to be very difficult for so many across the state. A wreath now outside the Houston home where America's 41st president lived.

Joining us now our correspondent Kaylee Hartung. She's in Houston. Kaylee, describe the mood there.

KAYLEE HARTUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, George H. W. Bush served this country with valor and integrity, but to Houstonians, he was one of their most relatable and esteemed neighbors. Those are the words of Houston's mayor, Sylvester Turner. The Bushes could have moved anywhere when he left public office, but they chose to make Houston their home in 1993, and in the time sense, Barbara and George became interwoven in the fabric of this town.

We have seen this outpouring of condolences and emotion from other world leaders and dignitaries, even his political adversary. But here in Houston, you didn't need a title front of your name to feel a connection to the former president. It seems as if everyone we come across here has a story of an encounter with him. Whether it was at an Astros baseball game, at a Texans football game, maybe at his favorite tex-mex restaurant, or his favorite pizza joint.

But you feel the sense of loss and mourning here in the city of Houston today, and we know that will continue for some time. We're outside the Bush residence, the home that George and Barbara shared together for many years, the same home that she took her final breaths in. And you can see the wreaths that have been put on the gate leading into the neighborhood, a large American flag. When this memorial began, in the early morning hours, there was one single small American flag. A gentleman came here, brought the larger one, saying I saw that small one on television and I knew we could do better. That is the representation that the people here of Houston want for their former president.

BLITZER: Kaylee Hartung in Houston for us, Kaylee, thank you, very, very much.

Joining us now, CNN special correspondent Jamie Gangel. Jamie, you spent a lot of time over the years with the Bush family. What are some of your favorite stories that jump out at you right now?

JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: Just to go back to the tape you just ran about CAVU, ceiling and visibility unlimited, the plaque that he kept, and you saw former President Bush tear up when he talked about it, that actually was the code word that was used to tell friends and family that he had passed, it became so associated with him.

I think there are, as far as stories about them, I like the stories that people really didn't know about. And there are two. One is that he would do things without making a big fuss, but would have a big impact. One of his Secret Service agent's children, I think was two or three years old, got leukemia and lost all his hair. And his Secret Service agents in solidarity shaved their heads. Without saying a word, and I think we may have a picture of it, former President Bush, shaved his head as well. And there is a picture with the little child on his knee at the time. And then years later, recovered, and doing so well. The two of them, together, a simple act that did so much for that child.

Another story is that while the Republican party was sort of ripping itself apart over the question of same-sex marriage, gay marriage, former President Bush had two old friends who were getting married, and he just very quietly went to their wedding, and not only did he go to their wedding, he was a witness. So again, his actions spoke in everything he did.

Finally, I just want to talk about his relationship with Bill Clinton, because we're going to have a documentary tonight at 8:00 that, where former President Clinton talks about how they got along.

[14:10:04] And I think the moment you have to point to is there is a tradition where one president leaves a note behind for the next president. And I would like to play the tape where President Clinton talks about the letter that President Bush left for him.


BILL CLINTON, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: Dear Bill, when I walked into this office just now, I felt the same sense of wonder and respect that I felt four years ago. There will be very tough times made even more difficult by criticism you may not think is fair. I'm not a very good one to give advice, but just don't let the critics discourage you or push you off course. I'm rooting hard for you. Good luck. George.


GANGEL: Civility. Civility, a gentleman, a class act, you saw it all right there, Wolf.

BLITZER: Certainly was. All right, Jamie Gangel, we will get back to you. I know you have got a lot more stories to share with our viewers. We look forward to your documentary later tonight, 8:00 p.m. eastern here on CNN.

Joining us now on the phone, Democratic senator from Vermont, Patrick Leahy. Senator, thanks so much for joining us. I know you served in the Senate when George H. W. Bush was vice president during the Reagan administration, and during his own presidency, you worked with him on a number of issues, including passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act 28 years ago. What are you remembering about this president today? SEN. PATRICK LEAHY, (D) VERMONT: I remember him as one of the most

down-to-earth people you will ever meet. We became very good friends during the time he was vice president. My wife Marcelle was active with the Senate spouses, and Barbara Bush, as the wife of the president of the Senate, the vice president, came to those meetings. They became very, very friendly.

We worked on things. He had one time, I was home on break. We had a foreign policy issue where he had to have my commitment as head of the foreign ops committee. I thought it was going to be a controversial, possibly very unpopular decision. I flew down to see him. We sat around the Oval Office. I was convinced he was right. I said -- we shook hands on it. He said he would do certain things, I said I would do certain things, and that was it. He gave his word. He stuck to it.

BLITZER: Let me read some of your words of this late president, and we will put them up on the screen. "While we had our share of differences, over policy, his decency, his civility, and his humility have never been a more important example to the nation than they are today." Senator, how does his leadership compare to what we're currently seeing in Congress today, and the relationship with the executive branch of the government?

LEAHY: I lost track of the number of times President Bush, both as vice president, and then as president, would invite a group of senators, both parties, down, and just sit around and talk and work things out and get commitments. And then everybody stick with it. That's not being done now. And it hurts the country because it is not.

Look what he did, enacted Americans with Disabilities Act. That was remarkable. I was almost in tears being there the day he signed it. And then he wanted to do something with Vietnam. He asked me if we could use the Leahy War Victims Fund there. This was at a time we did not have real relations with Vietnam. He wanted to do something as an opening to them. We did, we made it work. And everything we accomplished with Vietnam since then has been built on that. But it is built on it, because everybody could take his word to follow through.

BLITZER: You called him the last, and I'm quoting you now, the last president of the greatest generation. What did you mean by that?

LEAHY: The war started, he enlisted, he went in, became a pilot, fought hard, and was shot down, could have died. I think that shaped him in many ways. I know he and Senator Robert Stafford, who was my predecessor as senior senator from Vermont, we're good friends, they both served in the Navy, during World War II.

[14:15:00] But I think those who have actually served, who were willing to serve, wanted to serve, they have a different view of America, and you can see it with him when you go to Normandy, or do things with him, he came across. It wasn't words on a paper. It was thoughts from the heart. BLITZER: Indeed, there will be an opportunity all week, to remember

and to pay our respects to this late president. He will lie in state, we're now told, at the U.S. capitol, and I'm sure so many people will want to go pay their respects. Senator Leahy, thanks so much for joining us.

LEAHY: I want you to know both Marcelle and I will be there. We cherished our friendship with both George and Barbara Bush. And even though this was expected, we both mourn him.

BLITZER: Everybody who remembers him mourns him as well. Senator Leahy, appreciate it very much.

And one more note, the late president, George H. W. Bush, will lie in state in the U.S. Capitol rotunda. The times will be Monday evening, starting at 7:00 p.m. eastern, and then Tuesday, starting at 7:00 a.m. And please join CNN later tonight, as we honor the life and legacy of George H. W. Bush. We begin at 8:00 p.m. eastern with a CNN Special Report entitled, "Remembering 41."

And just ahead, a closer look at President Bush 41's love of adventure. Our own Robin Meade joins us to discuss her experience sky diving, yes, skydiving, with the late president.


[14:20:57] BLITZER: Hello, I'm Wolf Blitzer. We want to welcome you to our special live coverage from Buenos Aires of the G20 summit where president Donald Trump is holding some high-profile meetings, even as we meet right now. The White House reports today that President Trump and the Russian president Vladimir Putin, had, and I'm quoting now, an informal conversation at dinner last night. This despite President Trump's cancelling a much more formal two-hour meeting with Putin that had been scheduled, citing the recent conflict between Russia and Ukraine. And next hour, President Trump will be sitting down to dinner with the Chinese president, Xi Jinping, for critical discussions on trade.

Joining us now to discuss all of this and more, our chief White House correspondent Jim Acosta, and our CNN international correspondent Matt Rivers who is based in Beijing. Let's talk about the U.S.-Russian relationship right now. The Kremlin said specifically the president's decision to cancel the formal meeting leads to, and I'm quoting the Kremlin now, more tension with the United States.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: I think that is certainly the case, although we should point out, last night, as you just said a moment ago, I guess President Trump and Vladimir Putin did have a few moments where they were able to have an informal conversation. It is not exactly clear how much was said.

And we should also point out, Wolf, the Kremlin is saying that earlier on in this G20 summit, that there were contacts initiated by the national security adviser, John Bolton, by U.S. officials with their Russian counterparts, and so it sounds as though there were some conversations going on behind the scenes at this G20 even though there was this icy moment between President Trump and President Putin.

The president was insisting yesterday, the White House was insisting yesterday, this was all because of Ukraine, had nothing to do with the Russia investigation. But at the same time, the U.S. did give up an opportunity at this G20 Summit, where it looked like at times an autocrat summit with MBS, the Saudi crown prince, and Vladimir Putin giving that high five. It almost seemed like an autocrat summit at times at this G20 Summit when in fact the president had the opportunity but passed up on it because he cancelled that meeting to go to Vladimir Putin and say, hey, listen, these are the problems that we have with you right now, you need to change your ways. And the president gave up that opportunity because, they say, because of the crisis with Ukraine, not because of the Russia investigation. It seems he is going to be leaving this summit having more extensive conversations with the Chinese president. Xi Jinping, obviously, then he had at all with Vladimir Putin.

BLITZER: Sitting down with him. And it is interesting that the secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, told me that the dialogue between the U.S. and Russia is not going to resume on a substantive level until the Russians, A, return the Ukrainian ship and the Ukrainian sailors that they captured. So he was laying down specific hardline conditions for any improvement in this dialogue.

Talk a little bit, matt, about what we can anticipate at this dinner that is about to happen later tonight between the Chinese leader and the American president.

MATT RIVERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, I think anyone who says that they know exactly what is going to happen tonight probably isn't totally telling the truth. But I think if there is broad agreement on one thing, it is that anything that is agreed to is going to be relatively broad. I think you're not going to see all of the trade tensions, all of the frictions between the U.S. and China really get solved in the course of one dinner meeting. So the kind of deal you might see would be something like the United States agreeing not to increase rates on existing tariffs, agreeing to not put hundreds of billions more in additional tariffs on Chinese imports, and the Chinese side could do something like agree it a quick buy of more American energy that could cut down on the deficit that the president always talks about, and then maybe move forward with some sort of substantive negotiations, good faith negotiations, on the kind of structural economic reforms that the president has always said needs to be in place before any trade deal is struck.

But I think both sides have some sort of an incentive here. China's economy is slowing down. It is not getting any better because of the trade war. And the United States, the president wants to reassure investors. The markets have been shaky lately, and I think that he wants to come out of this meeting with something to show for it.

BLITZER: He keeps saying, President Trump, there is an excellent relationship with President Xi. We will see how excellent that relationship is in the course of this dinner that is about to take place tonight. [14:25:07] The U.S.-Saudi relationship clearly very strained right now

even though Secretary Pompeo, the president say they are going to continue to support the Saudis strategically in the war in Yemen, they don't want to lose any business. We did see some high fives go on between the visiting Saudi crown prince and Russian president Putin.

ACOSTA: That's right, Wolf. And that more than anything else may have been the image coming out of the summit. And to think that that was supposed be a G20 summit that emphasizes global partnerships on business and so on, the lingering image from this gathering here in Buenos Aires seems to be these two autocrat leaders, Russian president Putin and the crown prince Mohammed bin Salman, high fiving very shortly after this very big global controversy over the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, the "Washington Post" journalist.

And Wolf, as we are remembering former president George H. W. Bush, one has to wonder what former President Bush, the late President Bush would have thought of the outcome of this G20 summit. He was very much interested in multilateral partnerships, not pulling away from the world. And here you have President Trump sort of behind the scenes, keeping his distance from the Saudi crown prince, keeping his distance from the Russian president, in part because they haven't been able to, the U.S. administration hasn't been able to stand up to these types of regimes. What we've seen in the past is the president kind of enabling these regimes and cozying up to people like Putin and Mohammed bin Salman. And a lot of critics of the president will say that has encouraged a lot of bad behavior, and one has to wonder what the late President Bush would have thought of all this.

BLITZER: It's interesting, President Trump keeps saying he's not going to change the U.S.-Saudi relationship, because if the U.S. were to cut back arms sales, for example, Russia and China would pick it all of that. it would be a bonanza for Russia and China and a huge loss for the U.S. So where does China stand on this whole relationship with Saudi Arabia?

RIVERS: I think China sees an opportunity to fill a vacuum there. Simply put, China has always had a policy, consistent policy, of saying we don't interfere with other countries' domestic affairs. We don't have an opinion on these things. We don't -- we certainly don't talk about human rights in the way that the United States consistently has. And so I think China looks at it and says if the United States pulls back, we will do business with Saudi Arabia. They can handle their business the way they will, and we will just go ahead and do it.

ACOSTA: But Saudi Arabia needs the United States. And that's something that the Trump administration doesn't really acknowledge as much as they should.

BLITZER: And with all due respect to the Russian military, armaments, and the Chinese, U.S. arms are much better than those, and the Saudis know that, which is very significant.

Guys, stick around. We're continuing our breaking news coverage. Among the unique things about President George H. W. Bush, his love of sky diving. HLN's Robin Meade was lucky enough to join him on one of those sky dives. She is standing by live. We'll discuss.

And this from Hillary Clinton only moments ago. She tweeted this, "George H. W. Bush was a beloved father and grandfather, a war hero, a public servant, and a class act. In my experiences with him, I always valued his desire to listen, look at evidence, and ask for ideas even from people with different beliefs. My heart goes out to the entire Bush family."

We'll be right back.



[14:33:04] GEORGE H. W. BUSH, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: It is a great and exhilarating feeling. I don't feel a day over 84.


BLITZER: That was former president George H. W. Bush back in 2009 after making a parachute jump to celebrate his 85th birthday. And that would not be the last time President Bush would sky dive. He celebrated his 90th birthday by parachuting out of a helicopter in Kennebunkport, Maine. That jump in 2014 would be the eighth and final time he would sky dive.

Over the years, he invited others to join him on these birthday jumps. HLN Anchor Robin Meade is one of those who took up the offer. Robin rode with President Bush on a plane, and the two took turns sky diving as he marked his 85th birthday. Robin is joining us now in from Atlanta. Wow, Robin, what sticks outs in your mind? What do you remember, first of all about that sky dive, and what do you remember about President Bush doing that with you?

ROBIN MEADE, HLN ANCHOR OF "MORNING EXPRESS": There are so many memories, and I'm thinking so much about the family today. He was so human, compassionate, funny, smart, and engaged, even at 85 then. There's all kinds of tape of us jumping, and the interviews have been played. The things that were behind the scenes really stick out in my mind.

For example, when it came time to jump, I started to panic, because I did the interview beforehand and I was thinking of the questions. I started to panic on the plane and he saw it. And I asked where is the oxygen. Somewhere there exists a picture of the two of us together with oxygen masks on so I could get settled down before the jump. He didn't have to do that. He knew how to jump. He had done it before. But he was so compassionate that you could see that he was not going to make me huff the oxygen alone. And so there we were.

Now, that day, Wolf, it was rainy. We were going to jump on a postage size stamp of land. There was a church steeple there in Kennebunkport, a flagpole, all kind of things going on, and they needed a hole in the weather.

[14:35:08] We were broadcasting it live, so everything was like about timing. And he asked the guys, hey, guy, I want to show robin my boat. Could you fly around and tilt the plane so I can show her my boat? And I said, Mr. Bush, I could clearly see the boat, and I could count the engines. Mr. Bush, why do you need 900 horsepower? And he said, to beat the guy who has 800 horsepower. It was almost like a no-duh answer, but it was so I think evidence of a man who was competitive. Even at the age of 85, he needed the horse power to beat the guy that had 800. And I just loved that about him, because you need to be competitive in nature if you're ever going to run for office. And he still had that. He still had that zing then.

When we got back on the ground after the jump, I was doing live shots about it and about the interview, and up rolls a black car behind me, and the window goes down, and it is President Bush. And he says, Robin, why don't you come to the house now with your husband and have some cake with us? He didn't have to invite me. I'm just some reporter to him. And he did that. And I said, Mr. Bush, I really can't, I have to talk about you and do live shots. He said, well, then why don't you and your husband come over to the house tomorrow morning and have brunch with us? Would you do that? And I was like, yes.

So I'm scurrying around and making all of my travel plans change. So I go there, and he didn't, obviously, have to invite my husband, but he knew my husband was there. And so there are the two of us, kids from a cornfield in Ohio, in Kennebunkport on the back porch of their home there. And we sit there and have a brunch. And he's so thoughtful. He asked my husband what he wanted to drink, and what we wanted for breakfast.

And we sat there and talked about -- oh, you know what, my husband left his phone on, and the phone rings while we're sitting with the former president. And I just wanted to kick him under the table. And he says it is your mother. And Mr. Bush goes, let me answer it. Let me prank your mother. Let me answer it.

So he picks up the phone. My mother thinks it's me. She thinks I'm home already, back in Atlanta. She doesn't know about, I've stayed with the Bushs for the morning. And my mother, quite the prankster herself, says, well, are you all Bushed out, thinking she is funny with her daughter. And Mr. Bush answers, and say, well, this is Herbert, H. Walker Bush. And my mom is like, oh, my God, I'm so sorry.

But those are the moments that he didn't have to be engaged, he didn't have to. And we talked about when he was running again, and he said, yes, the winds had changed, and the people didn't want me anymore. And all those years later, I saw the hurt that he still felt about losing the second election, about not being in the office for eight years. And it just reminded me, so many times we see these people run, and you run and you run. But there is a hurt afterwards, even though he was so respectful, about the people who followed him and about the respect for the office.

I could go on and on. It is the behind the scenes things that I think were really the measure of a man. They didn't have to invite me to their home. The whole family was there in celebration for his birthday. When I came in that morning to their compound, and they don't even like the word "compound," there were two golf carts. One said property of 41, hands off. The other said, property of 43, hands off. And I was like, what's up with that? And he was like, those grandchildren, they will take the golf cart and I need it. So to us, he is a former president. To people who know him as a friend, he's compassionate, a warm person. But to the family, he was grandpa.

And I felt so fortunate just to share a glimpse in that. And to jump with a man who, the first time, he had to jump, in World War II in the service, to this great nation. My thoughts to the family. And I've run on and on, and I could tell you more stories. But what a treasure, and I'm very grateful.

BLITZER: It was really an amazing experience for you, and for him. And very quickly, how did it get started? All of a sudden, Robin Meade of HLN, is sky diving with the president, the former president of the United States who was then, what, 85-years-old, who came up with that idea?

MEADE: I'm not sure. I think it had to do with the Golden Knights, because we do a salute to the troops every morning for years and years on my morning show, and the Golden Knights had kept asking me, why don't you come and jump with us and do a story? And I kept saying no, and I would joke, because my name is on the show, if something happens, they are going to have to spend money on the graphics and change things, if something happens to me, they will have to change the name.

[14:40:07] And I said no, seriously, guy, come up with something that I can't say no to, and I would be happy to. I'm just scared. Well, when the president, former president of the United States, says why don't you come jump and be the only person jumping with us and do it live on the air, if you are ever going to do it, that's the time, right? You've got the best with you. It is the Golden Knights. It is the Secret Service. And it is a former president of the United States. So I joke, I would do it for the story, but I wouldn't do it in real life.


BLITZER: Well, I'm glad everything worked out and you got a great memory there, Robin. Thank you so much for sharing those memories with all of us. We really appreciate it.

MEADE: Thank you so much for letting me give the insight into just a wonderful family, a wonderful man.

BLITZER: Certainly. Certainly wonderful, indeed. We're going to continue our special coverage right after this.


[14:45:22] BLITZER: Only moments ago Vice President Mike Pence weighed in on the passing of President George H. W. Bush. Listen to this.


MIKE PENCE, U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: Well, the hearts of every American are heavy today. With the news that president George H. W. Bush has passed away. We received word last night. And he was a man who loved his family, who loved our country, and he served America with distinction all of his life.


BLITZER: We are also learning of the president's final words before his passing. CNN's Jamie Gangel is joining us now. Jamie, so what have you learned? What do we know?

JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: I've just confirmed, Wolf, with a source who is familiar with the final hours, that actually former President Bush's final words came in a phone conversation with his son, former president George W. Bush, who he called 43, the two men were on speaker phone, and I'm told that President George W. Bush, the son said to his dad, you have been, quote, a wonderful father, and that the father said back, to his son, and replied, I love you, too, and that those were his final words before passing. Wolf?

BLITZER: Powerful words, indeed. Jamie, thank you very much. CNN is remembering the country's 41st president, George H. W. Bush. We're going to have much more just ahead.


[14:51:41] BLITZER: As we remember former president George H. W. Bush, it is important to remind everyone just how down to earth and funny he could be. Take, for instance, this interview back on LARRY KING LIVE in 1992, when President Bush was asked if he still drives now that he is president. Listen to this.


LARRY KING: When was the last time you drove?

GEORGE H. W. BUSH, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: I drive when I'm, I have my own truck, for example --

KING: So do you drive?

BUSH: I got a car in Washington, but I don't drive it very much. I will drive in the circle in the oval in front of the White House. You can drive when I go hunting, something like that. I go hunting every year here in Texas, and I drive a truck.

KING: Still a Texas driver's license.

BUSH: Still. Do you want to see it?


BUSH: I've got be sure.

KING: Make sure it isn't expired?

BUSH: No, no, it's not expired.

KING: And I like that smile.



BUSH: Does it say president?

KING: Yes, President George W. Bush, the White House 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Department of Public Safety, Texas. It's Class C driver's license.

BUSH: Hey, wait a minute.

KING: Six feet, one inches, sex is male --


KING: Eyes are brown, birth date, 6/12/24, and this expires 6/12/93.

BUSH: I'm legal. Where's your car? Let's go for a drive.




BLITZER: You're watching CNN's special coverage of the life and now, unfortunately, the death of president George H. W. Bush. Just ahead, we are going to have much more on the president's final moments.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As pit crew member you're expected to get it right every single time. The pressure is extremely high. I played football for over 10 years, including college. I've had over six or seven concussions. I absolutely wanted to go pro.

Ultimately running down the field full speed I was knocked out again. I blacked out. I was dizzy. I had that blurred vision. I definitely knew I was done as a football player after that hit. I still experience a lot of symptoms to this day. Luckily NASCAR fell into my lap.

I met the head pit crew coach of Chip Ganassi Racing who saw me and wanted to take a chance. I had no idea of NASCAR prior to me joining the series. Being one of the few African-Americans at the racetrack, I didn't think anything of it. It wasn't until it was brought to my attention that there has never been an African-American to pit a car in engine motor sports to win in a top series in NASCAR. So that's when it clicked to me that, man, I'm doing something pretty cool here. My position now in NASCAR was to expose the gospel of NASCAR to as many collegiate athletes that I can. I could have been the first in the lot, but I definitely won't be the last.



[14:59:40] BLITZER: We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world to our special live coverage. I'm Wolf Blitzer. We're live here at the G20 summit in Buenos Aires. We'll have more on that in a moment, and there are some major developments unfolding right now.

But let's start with a closer look at the life of the 41st president of the United States, George Herbert Walker Bush. He passed away last night at the age of 94, just months after his wife Barbara Bush, she passed away --