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Former U.S. President George H.W. Bush Dead at 94. Aired 4-5a ET
Aired December 1, 2018 - 04:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): This is CNN breaking news.
NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Hello, everyone. We continue to follow the breaking news out of Houston, Texas. The former U.S. president, George Herbert Walker Bush, has died at the age of 94. Hello, I'm Natalie Allen.
GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): I'm George Howell. George H.W. Bush was the 41st President of the United States. He was a World War II veteran who rose to national prominence in the 1980s when he became vice president to Ronald Reagan.
Bush followed Reagan, serving one term as President of the United States the years 1989 to 1993.
ALLEN: In 1990, Mr. Bush ordered the U.S. military to the Persian Gulf to push invading Iraqi forces out of Kuwait. His wife, seen there, former first lady, Barbara Bush, died in April; she was 92.
HOWELL: Our colleague, Anderson Cooper, has more on the life of George H.W. Bush.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST (voice-over): George Herbert Walker Bush was born in Milton, Massachusetts on June 12th, 1924. The son of a future U.S. senator, he married Barbara Pierce. They had six children; two would follow his footsteps into public life.
GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I, George Walker Bush, do solemnly swear.
COOPER (voice-over): In 2001, his eldest son, Texas governor, George Walker Bush, became the 43rd president, the first since John Quincy Adams to follow his father into the White House.
JEB BUSH (R), FORMER GOVERNOR OF FLORIDA: I'm now about to enter, so help me God --
COOPER (voice-over): His second son, Jeb Bush, served two terms as Florida governor and in 2016 unsuccessfully ran for the Republican presidential nomination.
After earning a degree at Yale, the elder Bush moved his family to Texas, where he made a fortune in the oil business. There his budding interests in Republican politics blossomed. That one fact helped Bush become elected to two terms as a congressman. But he was defeated in two subsequent bids for the U.S. Senate. His disappointment didn't last long.
GEORGE H. W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We view this item as a -- so seriously that we consider it a possible turning point in the history of the United Nations.
COOPER (voice-over): His political profile was high enough that President Nixon appointed him U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. Later he became chairman of the Republican National Committee.
President Ford sent him to China to head up the U.S. liaison office as part of a new initiative in U.S.-Chinese relations. And in 1975, Bush came home to become director of the CIA, a job associates said he truly loved.
He left that job when Democrat Jimmy Carter became president and soon became a player in national Republican politics. Bush ran against Ronald Reagan in the 1980 GOP primaries, winning some but eventually withdrawing when it became clear he wouldn't be the nominee.
But Reagan believed the Texas oilman could help him win over the party's moderates and named him as his running mate. As vice president, Bush spent a lot of time on the road. He was Reagan's heir apparent in 1988.
BUSH 41: I want a kinder and gentler nation, like 1,000 points of light in a broad and peaceful sky.
COOPER (voice-over): He also made a campaign promise that would come back to haunt him.
BUSH 41: Read my lips: no new taxes.
COOPER (voice-over): His selection of a running mate surprised many.
BUSH 41: My choice for the vice presidency is Senator Dan Quayle of Indiana.
COOPER (voice-over): The voters supported the ticket.
BUSH 41: So help me God.
COOPER (voice-over): As the nation's 41st president, Bush's focus returned to international affairs. He presided over the collapse of communism in the former Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War. He ordered U.S. troops into Latin America to capture Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega.
BUSH 41: The responsibility for sending someone's son and, today, daughter into harm's way rests on the shoulders of the president. So it is the most difficult decision.
COOPER (voice-over): He would order U.S. troops into combat again, allied with dozens of other countries, to free Kuwait from Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein's aggression. The first Gulf War didn't last long.
In less than six weeks, the Iraqis were booted from Kuwait but Saddam Hussein remained in power and held a grudge. Years later, a car bombing plot hatched in Iraq targeted Mr. Bush during a visit to Kuwait.
BUSH 41: You've got to have security. If I have to have it with the Secret Service, I've got the best there is and we will continue to be careful.
COOPER (voice-over): The United States retaliated with a missile attack against Iraq's intelligence headquarters. The man behind the plot would not be captured for another decade. The second President Bush ordered the U.S. invasion of Iraq.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ladies and gentlemen, we got him.
COOPER (voice-over): At home, President Bush was hammered by critics for compromising with Congress on tax increases and breaking his "no new taxes" promises.
BUSH 41: Well, it was a mistake --
BUSH 41: -- to go along with the Democratic tax increase. And I admit it.
COOPER (voice-over): In a three-way battle with Bill Clinton and Ross Perot, he lost. He lived long enough to see his son accomplish what he did not: win a second term in the White House.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So help me God --
BUSH 43: So help me God --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Congratulations.
COOPER (voice-over): At his son's request, he also briefly reentered the public spotlight.
BUSH 41: The aftermath of the devastating tsunami --
COOPER (voice-over): He joined with former president Bill Clinton to help raise money for victims of the 2004 earthquake and tsunamis in Asia. The two reunited in late 2005 to help the victims of Hurricane Katrina.
As a young Navy pilot, Bush's plane was shot down and he had to bail out over the Pacific. As a far older man he would jump from planes again to celebrate his 80th, 85th and 90th birthdays. BUSH 41: It feels good. It's an exhilaration. It sends a message around with these guys all around the globe that, just because you're an old guy, you don't have to sit around drooling in the corner. Get out and do something. Get out and enjoy life.
COOPER (voice-over): It was a life that brought George Herbert Walker Bush back to the White House in 2011 to receive the nation's highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Those of you who know him, this is a gentleman, inspiring citizens to become points of light in service to others. His life is a testament that public service is a noble calling.
COOPER (voice-over): At his beloved wife Barbara's funeral, President Bush posed for a photo with other surviving former presidents. The years had taken their toll on his body but his dignity and resolve shined through, part of a graceful final act in a life of public service.
BUSH 41: I do not fear what is ahead, for our problems are large but our heart is larger. Our challenges are great but our will is greater.
ALLEN: He certainly lived a full life.
HOWELL: He did. To the fullest. Absolutely.
ALLEN: And we received this statement from the Bush family, son and former president George W. Bush released the statement on behalf of the family.
"Jeb, Neil, Marvin, Doro and I are saddened to announce that, after 94 remarkable years, our dear dad has died. George H.W. Bush was a man of the highest character and the best dad a son or daughter could ask for.
"The entire Bush family is deeply grateful for 41's life and love, for the compassion of those who have cared and prayed for Dad and for the condolences of our friends and fellow citizens."
HOWELL: And this from the current President of the United States, Mr. Trump, in Buenos Aires for the G20 summit, releasing this statement, which reads in part, "Melania and I join with a grieving nation to mourn the loss of former president George H.W. Bush, who passed away last night.
"Through his essential authenticity, disarming wit and unwavering commitment to faith, family and country, President Bush inspired generations of his fellow Americans to public service, to be, in his words, a thousand points of light, illuminating the greatness, hope and opportunity of America to the world," end quote.
I want to bring in now to talk more about this, CNN presidential historian, Tim Naftali, on the phone, Tim the author of the book, "George H.W. Bush, The American President Series, the 41st President 1989-1993."
Tim, again, thank you for your time today on this sad occasion but remembering this American icon.
What are your first thoughts?
TIM NAFTALI, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Well, I think in retrospect we can say that George Bush, George Herbert Walker Bush, was the right man at the right time for this country and, I would argue, as well, for the world.
The Cold War didn't end because of one person. The Cold War wasn't won by the United States. But the Cold War needed to end peacefully a partnership between Mikhail Gorbachev and the American president.
And the world was very lucky that that American president was George Bush. George Bush knew that it would serve no purpose to rub Mikhail Gorbachev's nose in the collapse of the Soviet bloc in Europe.
George Bush understood that only diplomacy and patience would lead the Russians to accept that a unified Germany could have the choice of entering NATO if it wished to.
George Bush understood that he was dealing with a human being in Mikhail Gorbachev. He could empathize with Gorbachev. He could actually walk in his shoes.
George Bush had learned the importance of diplomacy by being America's representative at the United Nations. He loved to use the telephone.
NAFTALI: He loved to call members of other countries. He loved to visit with them, he and his wife, Barbara. He got to know them in the 1970s.
These were friendships that would prove very useful to him when he became vice president and then President of the United States. So Americans will remember him for many ways and many reasons.
But for people of the world, George Bush will be remembered as a diplomat, as someone who understood American power and was very proud of American power but also understood that responsibility came with power.
He brought dignity to the office of the president. And he accepted and understood that others wanted respect and dignity. So he was one who could deal with other -- leaders of other countries on a level -- on their level and they on his level.
So there was even a sense, he had a feeling of it that they were peers, which is the way it should be. So I think in -- the way we'll be talking in the days to come a lot about his career, the public service he gave Americans. But as we discuss this tonight, let's not forget what role he played
as a world statesman. And I think he brought to the position of President of the United States at the end of the Cold War a humility that was desperately needed at the time.
HOWELL: We're talking about a president certainly who was iconic on the international stage; you mention bringing the Cold War to an end. Also with a certain humility and, it has been expressed by so many, a certain authenticity in the way he approached service.
Family, friends and service, were paramount to this former President of the United States. Domestically, pointing out, his very important hand in the Clean Air Act and also Americans with Disabilities Act.
But Tim, I ask you about this president, a president that is reminiscent of a different tone in politics compared to what we're seeing now.
NAFTALI: Well, this is a president who believed that the office of the president was larger than him. He respected the office and understood that he was simply a caretaker of the office, that someone else would take it later and that he ought not to break it while he was in the office.
He is someone who chased at the opportunity to serve his country in World War II. He actually entered military service younger than he should have and became, in fact, the youngest pilot in the U.S. military.
He admired Franklin Roosevelt. He thought about the role that Franklin Roosevelt had played in keeping the country together in the Great Depression and then throughout World War II.
So he had a sense of heroes who were in the White House. And he did not want to let his side down. So one of -- one of his characteristics was that he had a hard time talking about himself. He was not a very good communicator. He followed one of this country's greatest communicators, Ronald Reagan, and he preceded another great one, Bill Clinton.
He himself was very bad at expressing what he was doing. Indeed, after he left office, he didn't even write a memoir; so unusual for presidents. So in many ways, he was not his best personal P.R. agent. For him, the presidency was something bigger than P.R.
HOWELL: He focused on bipartisanship and, again, looking at an image now of this former president with other former Presidents of the United States and first ladies. This is a president who certainly marked the spirit of bipartisanship; a person, again, who was not a braggadocious (sic) man but a person who put service first.
And here is a person, Tim, who, at his 80th, 85th and 90th birthdays, decided to skydive, to jump out of a helicopter -- my goodness -- out of planes, rather. He certainly had that spirit of life.
NAFTALI: He certainly did. He also had a sense of physical courage. And he was also, in some ways, connecting with that very important moment in his life, when he nearly died as a young man, when his plane was shot down by the Japanese.
And he -- he hit his head, he parachuted out of the plane and he hit his head. And he lost two members of his crew and he never forgave himself. He always remembered the loss of those two members of the crew.
So, for him, the skydiving was not just a sign of vitality. It was not just a way of triumphing over the aging process but it was a way of communing with that day in the Pacific --
NAFTALI: -- when he lost his two comrades.
HOWELL: I saw him speak of this term, CAVU, ceiling and visibility unlimited. And this certainly a president whose life embodies CAVU.
Tim Naftali, thank you for taking the time with us.
NAFTALI: For today and he was a very great man.
ALLEN: George H.W. Bush spent much of his life in politics. So it's fitting the last public image of the late president shows him casting a ballot.
HOWELL: Take a look there. His spokesperson tweeted this picture one month ago today. It shows Mr. Bush at a polling place in his hometown of Houston, Texas, during early voting for the midterm elections there. He was joined by his two closest friends, his service dog, Sully, and his former chief of staff, Jim Baker.
ALLEN: We are remembering the life and legacy of the former president. Of course, he died at age 94, just a few hours ago, it was announced.
HOWELL: It was. And under his watch, the world saw the collapse of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of communism. We'll have much more on the life of George H.W. Bush as we return.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LARRY KING, CNN HOST: Do you think about dying?
BUSH 41: No. A little bit but not a lot. It doesn't scare me. It used to. When I was a little kid, I'd think about dying, I would scare the -- terrible. But you get older, Larry, you know, you don't think about it a lot. I've got too much to do and too much to live for, too much happiness.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) (HEADLINES)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH 41: I am pleased to announce that at midnight tonight Eastern Standard time, exactly 100 hours since ground operations commenced and six weeks since the start of Operation Desert Storm, all United States and coalition forces will suspend offensive combat operations.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HOWELL: The former President of the United States there, speaking on February 27th, 1991, speaking on the end of combat operations in Operation Desert Storm. The former president now dead at the age of 94 years old.
ALLEN: George H.W. Bush was known as much for his generosity and kindness as he was for his skill as a tactical politician who was fiercely competitive. He was a patriarch of an American political dynasty, although often refusing to accept the "dynasty" term attached to his family's name.
Over the last few years, Mr. Bush was hospitalized a number of times.
HOWELL: He revealed that he suffered from a former of Parkinson's disease, which left him unable to walk. So he got around in a wheelchair or a scooter. He celebrated his 94th birthday back in June.
ALLEN: Former U.S. president Barack Obama also expressing his condolences to the Bush family. Here's his statement.
"America has lost a patriot and humble servant in George Herbert Walker Bush. While our hearts are heavy today, they are also filled with gratitude. Our thoughts are with the entire Bush family tonight and all who were inspired by George and Barbara's example."
Also hearing from former U.S. president Bill Clinton and the former secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, praising George H.W. Bush for his service to a nation. I'll read that in part.
The statement saying, "Few Americans have been or will ever be able to match President Bush's record of service to the United States and the joy he took every day from it.
"From his military service in World War II to his working Congress, the United Nations, China, the Central Intelligence Agency, the vice presidency and the presidency where he worked to move the post-Cold War toward greater unity, peace and freedom," unquote.
In 1989, during Mr. Bush's presidency, thousands tore down the Berlin Wall. Freedom and ultimately a united Germany came from a bitter Cold War that had separated Berlin since the first concrete barrier went up.
ALLEN: Our senior international correspondent, Fred Pleitgen, joins us now from Moscow to talk about that.
Fred, yes, he had a low profile but George Bush went by it very carefully on how he helped foster the reunification of Germany.
FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You're absolutely right. I think one of the things people will remember, not just in Germany but in Moscow, as well, he had huge influence here, also in Russia, is, as you said, the way that he went about his work, very professionally. At the same time, understanding the time of that moment, understanding that there was a big historic opportunity in that moment and then immediately moving forward in a very ambitious way.
Of course, one of his big partners in doing that and remarkably so was at the same time the head of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev. We just a couple of minutes ago got reaction from Mikhail Gorbachev. I want to read a little bit of a quote of that because it literally just came to us a couple of minutes ago.
He said, quote, "I have a lot of memories associated with this person. I. I had a chance to work together during the years of tremendous changes. It was a dramatic time that demanded great responsibility from everyone. The result was an end to the Cold War and the nuclear arms race."
And then he adds, "I pay tribute to the contribution of George H.W. Bush to his historic achievement. He was a real partner."
I think the important thing is really that last sentence that he put in, "He was a real partner," because that was really one of the things that, as I recall back then -- I was still quite young at that time -- was very remarkable.
You had these two enemy nations, the Soviet Union and the United States, an all of a sudden it was the Bush administration that --
PLEITGEN: -- very quickly understood that Mikhail Gorbachev and his administration in Moscow could be a partner for real, tremendous changes in Europe.
Obviously there were a lot of other really important figures, like Helmut Kohl, Margaret Thatcher, who played an important role. But the fact that George H.W. Bush realized that Mikhail Gorbachev could be a partner to bring down the Iron Curtain and to move things forward that quickly and in a peaceful way, that is certainly an achievement that I don't think anybody in Europe, certainly anybody in Germany, will ever forget -- Natalie.
HOWELL: It was such an important moment in the world. We talk about these two figures, of course, talk about the former president who's passed away, Bush. We talk about Mikhail Gorbachev. But I'm curious to ask, just living through that time, what was the feeling, the sentiment of the moment?
PLEITGEN: Yes. You know, I think one of the things that people today forget, because obviously German unification happened at that time, the collapse of the Soviet Union happened, was that, being in Germany at that time, that things were not as clear-cut as we're thinking now.
I recall when the Berlin Wall opened, when the Berlin Wall came down, people were going over. The first thing that most people in Germany thought, and I think most politicians in Germany thought, was that you were going to continue to have two German states that might have better relations but no one at the beginning thought that it would be the end of the East German state.
And it was really politicians with a vision, people that we're serenading now, like Helmut Kohl, who also quite recently passed away, like George H.W. Bush and like Mikhail Gorbachev who very much grasped what this moment meant, who understand that this could be a much more transformational change, a much bigger change that could take place in Europe and one that needed to take place in a peaceful way.
I think that's something that we can't stress enough. Keep in mind, there were tens of thousands of Soviet troops inside East Germany. There had to be a way found to get those troops back to the Soviet Union, to make sure that all of this was also done in a very face- saving way, in a non-humiliating way for the Soviet Union.
I think that's something that showed that George H.W. Bush really had a deep understanding of what was going on. And of course also an extremely professional team around him, as well.
ALLEN: Yes, it was an extraordinary time. You're right, very sad, the passing of this former president. But it's good to remember what he helped foster. And I just remember, he is talking to Gorbachev, meeting with Gorbachev. It was quite a time.
We really appreciate it, Fred Pleitgen, for us in Moscow. Thank you.
HOWELL: Thank you.
ALLEN: You are watching CNN's breaking news coverage on the death of the former president. We'll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH 43: So here's a guy who runs for senator of Texas twice and loses and runs for President of the United States in a primary against Ronald Reagan in the state of Texas and loses and ends up being president.
And all the time was still a great father. In other words, defeat didn't define George Bush. There's something greater in life than, you know, chalking up political victories or political losses. It taught me and I'm confident it taught Jeb that you don't need to fear failure.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ALLEN: George Herbert Walker Bush's son talking about him there.
Welcome back to CNN's breaking news coverage on the death of the former president and, again, his son there, George W. Bush, hearing some of the lessons he learned from his father.
HOWELL: At this point no cause of death has been made public and funeral arrangements are pending. Bush Sr. took on many, many roles in his life, a Texas oilman, decorated combat pilot, congressman, diplomat and director of the CIA.
ALLEN: But his political career reached a further peak when he became vice president under Ronald Reagan, succeeding Reagan to become the first sitting vice president since 1836 to be elected president.
It was on his watch that the Berlin Wall came down, winning the Cold War with the Soviet Union to a symbolic end.
Let us go now to political analyst, Michael Genovese. He played a role in the first Bush administration as a crisis management consultant from 1989 to 1990.
Michael, thanks for talking with us. I was a news anchor at CNN during the Bush presidency, remember it quite well. Things that people are saying about President Bush, the thing that stands out to me, of so many things, was former president Bill Clinton said no one will ever match his record of service.
It's almost like what did George Bush not do?
He did so much.
MICHAEL GENOVESE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: And it was a lifelong career. All of his adult life he was in and out of public service, a resume that was unmatched and is unmatched. And that tells you just how much experience matters.
They used to jokingly refer to him as the Rolodex president because he had a Rolodex, a lot of your modern viewers won't know what that is, but basically a list of phone numbers. And he would use that because he knew everyone. He called everyone. He talked to everyone.
So he had personal connections to leaders all over the world. That served him very well. But I think, in a very real sense, he's a man who was easy to admire. He was a gentle man and a gentleman who had great dignity.
All of those people who worked for him have nothing but praise to say of him. When you look at all of the tell-all books that have come out of so many administrations, they didn't really happen under George H.W. Bush. People who worked for him liked him, admired him and respected him.
ALLEN: Yes. Absolutely. That's what we've heard over and over again. And he was instrumental, of course, in brokering the end of the Cold War. And he was the first to really cement that with Mikhail Gorbachev.
GENOVESE: In a way, he was the perfect personality and person to do that because he was not flamboyant. And instead of raising the flag and bragging and puffing his chest, he decided to let things begin to unravel in the Soviet Union, not interfere.
And that lack of overt interference allowed the Soviet Union to make the moves it made and --
GENOVESE: -- to basically end the Cold War.
He was also instrumental in the same respect regarding the unification of Germany. There were a lot of people who thought that the Bushes (ph) might move in -- it was a very tense time.
And rather than the president trying to go in and sort of make things happen, he sat back, observed and when he needed to give a nudge, he gave a nudge. But he was not overt. There was a lot of behind-the- scenes leadership.
ALLEN: I can remember being on the anchor desk. You wouldn't just see him a lot. He wouldn't come out a lot and do that many news conferences. He was very low key as a president but, again, accomplished so very much. And he did talk about the one thing that hurt him and that was losing the election, not being re-elected.
GENOVESE: Of course it had to. And especially given that he was on such a high from his incredibly masterful leadership of the international coalition that was the Gulf War and the economy was starting to pick up. I think if the election had been six months later, he probably would have won because the economy was picking up.
But it was because he broke a political promise not to raise taxes, "Read my lips, no new taxes," that he really suffered politically. He did the right thing for all the right reasons and yet he suffered politically. But he wasn't the kind of person that would puff his chest out and demand recognition and demand attention. He earned it.
ALLEN: Absolutely. And post presidency, Michael, we're at a point in our country now, where we're not unified. And this man, you know, President Bush did so much to unify; even his friendship with Bill Clinton was a tremendous unifier. GENOVESE: Well, he comes from a different age, the last of the World War II generation, the greatest generation, some argue. And he put country first. The last, I think, person you saw who was like that was John McCain.
And so George H.W. Bush, John McCain, both great Navy heroes, war heroes, were a generation gone by. We could use a lot more of that integrity about service, about the dedication that you have for a cause greater than yourself. It's now about how big a man or person you can be; it's about how good you can do for others, how much you can serve, how much you can contribute.
And people like McCain and George H.W. Bush were those kind of persons. It's all about character. In the end, it's about, for individuals, for presidents, for anyone, it's about character. And George H.W. Bush, flawed, of course, made mistakes, no doubt. But he was a man of character and substance.
ALLEN: He lived quite a life, didn't he?
He was a happy man, too.
GENOVESE: He was with Barbara for 73 years. And those who have had incredibly close, wonderful marriages and relationships know just how important that relationship was.
It was completely sincere. It was mutual, 73 years together with the woman he loved more than anything or anyone else. And those few of us who know what that's like know how genuine, sincere and beautifully impressive that is.
ALLEN: Absolutely. Thank you for your reflections, Michael Genovese. Thank you, Michael.
GENOVESE: Thank you so much.
HOWELL: You talk about this iconic American figure but, Natalie, I mean, you really get into it there. The relationship between him and his wife, it was a special thing.
ALLEN: When he went off to fight in the war, he named his first plane after her, Barbara One; the second, Barbara Two, and his third, Barbara Three.
HOWELL: Stay with us, of course, as we remember the life of the former U.S. president, George H.W. Bush, dead at the age of 94 years old.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JENNA BUSH HAGER, GEORGE H.W. BUSH'S GRANDDAUGHTER: There's people in heaven that you want to see?
BUSH 41: Definitely. I can't quite sort out in my mind how we're going to find hem.
HAGER: Who would you want to see first?
BUSH 41: Well, it depends if Barbara predeceases me. Probably go with her but I think my mom and my father and maybe Robin, our little girl that died.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HOWELL: The former U.S. president, George Herbert Walker Bush, has died in Houston, Texas. He was 94 years old. His son, former president George W. Bush, described his father as a gentle soul who could enter one of the toughest arenas in life and remain a gentle person.
ALLEN: A lot of people would concur with that.
ALLEN: CNN's Jamie Gangel sat down with him to talk about 41's influence on his own presidency.
JAMIE GANGEL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: There is a famous picture, your first moment after you were sworn in, in the Oval Office.
BUSH 43: Yes. So we had gone to the inaugural parades. I decided I was going to go see what it was like to be in the Oval Office as president. And I was in there, taking in the moment.
And Dad walks in, I said, "Welcome, Mr. President."
He said, "Thank you, Mr. President."
And it was a very moving moment. It was a fitting end to a great day.
GANGEL: Did he give you any advice?
BUSH 43: No, no. And he was very guarded about giving me advice unless I asked for it. But there's a lot of speculation -- and there should be -- about the father and son relationship during my presidency.
But people can't really understand, though, is that he knows what goes into making a presidential decision. There's a lot of study, a lot of advice, a lot of reasoned advice and nuanced advice. And he knew I was getting that. And so rarely or never did he say, "You need to do this, you need to do that."
GANGEL: Was it hard to live up to him?
BUSH 43: No.
GANGEL: Because ... ?
BUSH 43: Of unconditional love. In other words, the message from George Bush was, I love you no matter what you do. I might have tested that unconditional love on a fairly regular basis at points in my life.
But he never said, in order for you to live up to my expectations, you've got to do this or you've got to do that.
GANGEL: So how did you know when he didn't like something you did?
BUSH 43: Oh, he made it clear. I mean, it was pretty obvious. It wasn't -- he didn't yell, scream. But the worst words you could hear is, "You've disappointed me."
So if you love a guy and admire a guy and he says I've disappointed you, it's pretty stinging. I don't remember him raising his voice. I do remember him saying, "You've disappointed me."
GANGEL: You have an expression, that you have --
GANGEL: -- your dad's something and your mother's something.
BUSH 43: Yes. You know, you hear people say, just following in his daddy's footsteps, he's run on his daddy's coattails. And so I had to figure out ways to defuse that. And one of my lines was, you know, I inherited half my father's friends and all his enemies.
And then they would always ask me, what's the difference between you two?
So I just would say, look, I got my daddy's eyes and my mother's mouth. And that pretty well shut them up -- which, by the way, is true.
GANGEL: Your dad made a point never to criticize you. But in Jon Meacham's book, he did say this, he sometimes thought your public tone was a little too harsh.
BUSH 43: Probably. Yes. As I said, I got my daddy's eyes and my mother's mouth. Yes. I'm sure, of all the millions of words I uttered, some of them came out, you know, in a way that might have been a little overpowering.
I remember going to the Pentagon and -- a very emotional time right after 9/11 and they kept asking me about bin Laden this, bin Laden. I said. we're going to get him dead or alive. And you know, it's a -- I could have put it more artfully. But yes, that's a fair criticism. GANGEL: Best advice he ever gave you?
BUSH 43: Do what you say you're going to do.
GANGEL: Keep your word?
BUSH 43: Keep your word, yes.
GANGEL: Give me some words to describe your father.
BUSH 43: Humble, driven, competitive, willing to listen to the other person, great listener, thoughtful and a person what cared deeply about others who hurt.
One of the more very dramatic moments for me came on September the 14th at the National Cathedral. I was very fearful of bursting out in tears and the country didn't need to see a weeping president.
I finished the speech. And went back to the pew and sat down. And I felt his hand reach across Laura and grab my arm. Just a small gesture but it meant a lot to me. It was a very sweet moment of fatherly love.
ALLEN: That was sweet. I don't remember that moment. It was nice to see it, wasn't it. We'll have more for you after this.
ALLEN: Our breaking news, the death of former U.S. president George H.W. Bush. He lived a full and interesting life with many, many roles.
HOWELL: Many roles. It was so interesting, a minute ago, before the break, we heard from the former president, George W. Bush, speaking about his father. There aren't many instances in American history where, you know, a father sees his son or -- become President of the United States. And we've seen it happen.
ALLEN: It's remarkable.
HOWELL: Yes. Here, in this instance. And now we can hear from the former president, George H.W. Bush, in his own words. Take a look.
KING: Are you happy out of office, do you still miss it? BUSH 41: I don't. I miss some aspects. But it's been so long since we were there. But 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 loved being president, loved working at trying to help people and do -- 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 liked me. I think people were disappointed. I think people wanted change. And I've got a whole rationale of reasons why I did not get re-elected.
But maybe if I had been a little more emotional or more revealing of the person, why, 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 we had a good administration and good people and I think the same thing is true with our son.
And he, you know, he had tough times and all. But he is 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. Don't 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 say, have you lost it with this crazy guy?
And some of mine look at it and they say it's just the same thing.
What are you doing with Clinton?
And just because you run against someone does not mean you have to be enemies. Politics does not have to be mean and ugly.
I've never liked 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 on 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 that they did that kind of thing for dead guys. Here I am and I want to -- I want to be around, hell, I'd even eat broccoli if I could make it for another five years.
This one was December of '43.
"My darling Bar, this should be a very easy letter to write, words should come easily and, in short, it should be simple 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 have thought about the immeasurable joy that will be ours someday. How lucky our children will be to have a mother like you."
KING: Do you think about dying?
BUSH 41: No. A little bit but not a lot. It doesn't scare me. It used to. When I was a little kid, I'd think about dying, I would scare the -- terrible. But you get older, Larry, you know, you don't think about it a lot. I've got too much to do and 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 onto this person, he said, get ready, get ready, get ready to jump. You get out to the door and you look down and there's no feeling of support. And that is -- you know, I figure, what the heck am I doing?
Then off you go and it's just heaven.
KING: No regrets then?
BUSH 41: 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 now.
HOWELL: No regrets.
ALLEN: That's very wonderful. And I loved what he said, politics doesn't have to be mean and ugly.
HOWELL: You know, he --
ALLEN: Thank you for that.
HOWELL: -- he represents an American figure in politics that is very different than the time we're experiencing now. It was a person who focused more bipartisanship, more on making sure that sides came together to push to a common good goal.
ALLEN: More of that, please.
HOWELL: For sure.
ALLEN: Thank you for watching this special CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Natalie Allen.
HOWELL: And I'm George Howell. CNN's breaking news coverage continues, the death of the former U.S. president, George H.W. Bush. Stay with us.