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The State Funeral of George H.W. Bush; Bush Family Departing Presidential Aircraft. Aired 3:30-4p ET
Aired December 3, 2018 - 15:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[15:30:00] JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Here, Jake, I can tell you, it's a crisp but rather warm December day. A clear blue day for flying. And everyone has their iPhones out, from every family member I can see to other staffers, watching what is about to happen here. You see that Presidential hearse sitting there, but the casket is going to be unloaded and then there will be a ceremony here, complete with "Hail to the Chief" --Jake.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: All right. Jeff Zeleny at Joint Base Andrews, as the plane lands. And Kate Anderson Brower, so this is the first time the five Bush children will be together since their father died. Jeb, Marvin and Doro are on the tarmac, I believe. Neil and George W. Bush on the plane. There are five children, 12 grandchildren, 17 great-grandchildren. Former President Bush or George H.W. Bush hated the term "dynasty," hated it, but that's a dynasty.
KATE ANDERSON BROWER, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: He also hated the term "legacy." And he didn't like it used around him, pause it connotes some sense of entitlement. But clearly this is an American dynasty. In fact, they had six children. Of course, Robin who passed away when she was three of leukemia. And it's an amazing love story between Barbara Bush and George H.W. Bush. George H.W. who is the longest presidential marriage in American history.
They met when they were teenagers at a dance in Greenwich, Connecticut. And she, you know, said he was the most beautiful creature she had ever laid eyes on and the only man she had ever kissed. And her children about threw up when she said that. So, it's a very sweet, loving story. And you can say the residence staff at the White House absolutely adored the Bushes. The butlers and maids they would play horseshoes with the Bushes every week in the summer time. He would grill hamburgers on the South Lawn for them. They were just a really loving, wonderful family to work for. They treated everyone the same, from statesmen to maids.
TAPPER: I heard that from a member of the Obama White House just yesterday, about how every President is liked, every President is loved by the White House staff, but the Bushes, I mean, they would -- this White House staff would line up to see them again.
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Exactly. And it's so fitting that secret service agents were part of the, you know, helping to bring the casket back in Houston. This is a tradition that I believe he started and it carried on to his son, the White House that I covered, George W. Bush, that during Christmas, they would stay in. They would go to Camp David or at the White House. And there was one reason for that, because they wanted to have as many secret service agents' home with their families, not working, to protect them, as possible. I mean, that just speaks to the thought process that goes in to people around them and what takes to protect and help and aid a President who leads the country.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: I think it's the way he grew up, too much is given, much is expected.
TAPPER: Nobesse oblige.
BORGER: Right. And I think that the kindness and consideration, not only to the White House staff, but to everybody who stepped into the oval office, to his political opponents. The letter he wrote to Bill Clinton after Bill Clinton beat him for the presidency, is something now we think of when we think of, when we think of George W. Bush. When we think of that H.W. Bush and we think of that tradition of passing something along to somebody, so they can make something of it.
And in that letter, when he said, I am rooting hard for you, just kind of sticks with me, because it was a hard fight. It was a really hard fight. And he lost, yet he was rooting for the country. And that's just what we think of with Bush. And he got mischaracterized a lot. Remember the wimp factor, the vision thing. He didn't like to talk about himself a lot, and all of that, but there was, there was something tough about him, but also very gentle, as well.
TAPPER: It is the editor of "Newsweek" who put him on the cover. I believe it was in '88, when he was running against Dukakis, the wimp factor. Canes had later expressed regret for that, but we should note, this is a guy who the day he turned 18 and graduated from high school, that same day, went to Boston to enlist in the Navy, to fight world war II, even though everybody from his headmaster to the secretary of war to his father was telling him, go to Yale first, go to Yale first. No, he wanted to go and make a difference. His country had been attacked.
MARY KATE CARY, FORMER H.W. BUSH SPEECHWRITER: Yes, and then he went and flew 58 combat missions. It's a miracle he survived. He got shot down, lost his two crew mates, and it changed his life forever. And he was really a very tough man, on the interior, but gentle on the outside. And I think he got mischaracterized quite a bit, but he was made of iron. He really was. And a lot of it had to do with being shot down as a, what, 18-year-old when he got shot down.
[15:35:00] And remarkable life as a result. And yet when that wimp story came out in "Newsweek," all the people around him that knew him said, that's the last word I would use to describe George Bush. It just didn't --
BASH: That fact you have to be a guest there to see him. The age that he was at that time. CARY: Yes, at the commissioning of the aircraft carrier, he saw the
same cadets all lined up around the age of the aircraft carrier, and he said, I wish I was your age. I wish I was with you tonight standing watch, looking out on the stars. It was one of the formative experiences of his life, was standing watch at night on the aircraft carrier when he was that age. And I think he missed it.
TAPPER: And that generation, that generation, Tim, didn't talk a lot about their experiences in the war. The world war II generation. PTSD was decades away from being diagnosed. I think it was called like shell shock at the time. But he would say things, more recently, in the last 10 or 20 years, about survivor's guilt, about revisiting the day where he lost his two crew members, White and Dell. He was very open about how scared he was and how he cried.
TIMOTHY NAFTALI, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: We all talk about the fact that he kept -- as an older man, he went and jumped out of airplanes again.
NAFTALI: But we don't talk about why. We don't talk about the fact that in 1997, when he went to a meeting of the International Parachutes' Association, talking about parachuting made him think of that day over Chi Chi Jima and the two crewmen he lost. And he wanted to complete the mission. He wanted -- he always felt, you know, he hit his head coming out of the plane. He wanted to parachute again for himself and for them. It just wasn't a stunt.
BASH: He said he wanted to get it right.
NAFTALI: He wanted to connect with that moment, which never really left him.
TAPPER: And he went on to fly, as you say, dozens more missions. Just as you're tuning in, we are waiting for the casket containing former President George H.W. Bush to come out of this plane. There will be "Hail to the Chief" played and a 21-gun salute. Jeffrey Engel, he was a war President. He was the commander in chief for the first Gulf War, for the war in Panama. Here's some of the individuals coming out from the plane. But he hated war.
JEFFREY ENGEL, AMERICAN HISTORY SCHOLAR: Oh, there's no doubt about it. And he really worked hard when he was President, both in the invasion of Panama and subsequently with the Gulf War to make sure the military had whatever force it needed, whatever force they thought it needed in order to ensure that American casualties were limited. In fact, at one point, he was presented with a war plan by general Colin Powell and told it was going to take three 400,000 troops, the largest deployment since Vietnam. And President Bush just stood up and said, you got it, let me know if you need more, and walked out. At which point Powell turned to General Scowcroft, the national security advisor, and said, does he realize what he just authorized? And Scowcroft said, he knows exactly what he authorized, because he wants you to know he's got your back the entire time.
TAPPER: I'm going to throw it back to Wolf Blitzer right now. Wolf?
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Yes, thanks very much. You can see the Special Air Mission 41 aircraft on the ground at Joint Base Andrews outside of Washington, D.C. Jamie, you know, already, we're seeing some individuals de-plane. Fairly soon, we'll see the hearse that's already alongside the plane get the coffin, as well. There will be an official ceremony. And it will be a moving ceremony here at Joint Base Andrews.
JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: So, his whole family is going to be there, I think very shortly. We'll see former President Bush, his son, Neil Bush, their families. The grandchildren. But for those who are watching, a few minutes ago there was a young man with a beard with a lot of cameras who came off the plane first. And I just want to take a moment to tell you, his name is Evan Sicily and he has been the person in charge of Bush 41's health and medical care for all of these years, since Parkinson's. He was a veteran, a medic, and he arranged and coordinated all of the medical care. And you know, there were a lot of struggles over the years and a lot of times they almost lost him. Evan is responsible for saving his life many, many times.
BLITZER: We see the military band there, now approaching. There will be four ruffles and flourishes, "Hail to the Chief," 21-gun salute. John, all of the honors a President of the United States certainly deserves.
JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Without a doubt. And a reminder, "A," of the tradition. How much of George H.W. Bush's life was spent around the presidency. I think what you'll see, you heard the conversation earlier about all Presidents get along with the resident staff, but this staff, just talk about how gracious and just the extra steps, both Barbara and George H.W. Bush took.
[15:40:00] I had the lead of his secret service detail, John McGoogan (ph) earlier today. But again, most presidents get along well with the secret service, but just the extra kind gestures, the notes, the forgiveness when they have a misstep, as often happens. And the Bushes saying, let it go. So, this remarkable moment here, not just for this President, but again for this family that has had such a place in American politics. To watch a President, George W. Bush, walk down those steps, to be part of the agreeing of the body of a President, his father, eight years after George H.W. Bush leaves Washington, George W. Bush in the oval office.
Remember that first day after the inaugural parade, where George W. Bush is sitting at the resident desk and his father comes into the Oval Office. The former President W. Bush -- I have to use the initials for the next few days. I remember conversations with him about that, and just how moving it was. And one of the interesting things, and George W. Bush will eulogize his father, that President George H.W. Bush -- and Jamie knows this better that all -- the Bush men cry. And when you talk to Jeb Bush or you talk to George W. Bush about their father, their mother they viewed as sort of the force of the family.
GANGEL: She was known as the enforcer. KING: And the father was more the gentle soul to them in the family.
But whatever stories they were telling about their father, they would well up in tears. And during their father's political campaigns, I was on the receiving end of this a couple of times from W. -- George H.W. Bush is known as this kind, gentle man. But he ran some pretty tough, pretty fierce campaigns. And George W. Bush was one of his enforcers who would let you know if you wrote something that he felt was unfair to his father.
BLITZER: All branches of the U.S. military are participating in this event right now. Joint Base Andrews. The casket eventually will be moved to the hearse. The U.S. Air Force Band, the ensemble will play "My Country Tis of Thee." there will be currently the Joint Service Color Guard positioned. As you've seen the ceremony, this very, very powerful ceremony, Jamie, is about to begin and the family, no doubt, will play a critical role, not just today, but throughout this week.
GANGEL: The family, you asked the children, they never wanted to disappoint their father. That was the worst thing, if he said, I was disappointed in you. And they really want this not only to be a celebration, but they want everything to be just right for him. And just a little side note. I know that Jeb Bush stopped by the staff office today, as his father would have done to thank everybody on the staff who was working. Truly a 41 touch. But it's very important to them that this really be done to honor, to celebrate, and to remember both the man and the politician.
KING: You can have a disagreement about the politics of whether it's Governor Bush or George Bush, W. Bush who was governor and then President. That's a fair debate. But in terms of the dignity of the people, they're incredibly well raised. If you interact with any of the Bush children, and that is a credit to President George H.W. Bush and to Barbara Bush, just incredibly polite, gracious children who drop notes, who make the right phone calls, who remember the birthdays, who check in on people. When they're up and when they're down, and that to them, to Jamie's point about wanting to do this right, the reverence in which, in my experience, George W. Bush and Jeb Bush, the two I know fairly well -- you see George and Laura Bush there coming down the stairs.
GANGEL: So those are the Bakers, actually.
KING: Oh, I'm sorry.
GANGEL: I think that's Secretary of State James Baker and his wife, Susan Baker, who I think are coming off first, to lead the family, to join them. His best friend.
BLITZER: Perhaps his best friend.
GANGEL: Absolutely. There from the beginning and now we're seeing other -- let's take a look. I think we have other friends who were on --
BLITZER: These are family members. GANGEL: -- the plane and grandchildren coming down and walking over.
There's Neil Bush. Oh, no, Pierce Bush and his wife coming off the plane. Pierce with the beard over to the left. So, these are the grandchildren. Is that George G. Bush there and his wife, Amanda.
BLITZER: I spoke to Pierce Bush yesterday, the grandson. You know, they all had a special name for their grandfather, didn't they -- Jamie?
GANGEL: Gampy. You know, to John's point about, that these children were very well raised, about dropping notes. I will just say that I -- when 41 passed, I sent a quick note and e-mail to his son, former President George W. Bush.
[15:45:02] He immediately e-mailed back, thanking me. He didn't have to do that. But that's this family. So, these are the grandchildren, walking over. That's George P. Bush there and it's a little hard to see in the sunlight. I believe that's Neil's daughter, Ashley and her husband and then in the back, you see Pierce with the beard and his wife.
BLITZER: It's truly a wonderful family, indeed. And over these past couple of days, John, we've gotten to know some of these family members a bit better. And it's such a loving, wonderful family. And you've got to give, you know, the former President and his wife, who unfortunately passed away last April, an enormous amount of credit.
KING: Veterans of the rough and tumble of politics are somehow --
GANGEL: I'm just going to interrupt you. There is President Bush's -- I'm going to get a little weepy now -- his service dog, Sully H.W. Bush, coming off the plane. We all saw that extraordinary photo of him lying in front of the casket yesterday. Mission completed. He will continue his service now and he will go to Walter Reed and work with veterans there. And here is --
BLITZER: The former President, George W. Bush and Laura Bush, walking down those stairs, as well. And he will be delivering one of the eulogies.
GANGEL: This is not going to be an easy eulogy for him. You know, we've talked a lot in the last couple of days that he told me, one of the most memorable moments with his father, when he was President was after 9/11 and he spoke at the National Cathedral. And there is that now-famous photo --
BLITZER: You see Neil Bush behind him, too.
GANGEL: -- of his father leaning over and touching his hand. There is not going to be a dry eye in the house. I know 43 is going to do his best to, as he would say, hold it together, but it's going to be a very emotional speech. So right behind former President Bush and first lady Laura Bush is Neil Bush and his wife, Maria.
BLITZER: And that's going to be at the National Cathedral Wednesday morning, John, which will be a powerful moment, indeed. The former President, President George W. Bush, will be just one of a few who will deliver rather emotional addresses.
KING: And Brian Mulroney, the former prime minister of Canada, selected by the Bush family as a reflection "A" of the international nature of the first four years of the Bush presidency, but "B" of the personal friendships. Brian Mulroney was a key partner in the age. It's hard to remember the age, but if you think back to those days, the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Berlin Wall falling and so many giant global challenges. And the President relied, President Bush relied on personal diplomacy and personal friendships and at times, you see --
GANGEL: That's just -- I'm just pointing, because the family is reuniting there. They were -- that was Doro Bush, his daughter, Doro Bush Cook, and they were just kissing hello. So now all the children are back together, all five children together.
BLITZER: The family has been escorted into their official positions at Joint Base Andrews and now the formal ceremony here at Joint Base Andrews will begin, once again. There will be four ruffles and flourishes, "Hail to the Chief," a 21-gun salute, the casket will be moved to the hearse as the U.S. Air Force Band plays "My Country 'Tis of Thee." There will be a lot of emotional moments, presidential color, which certainly this late President of the United States deserves. And you know what, as we see this unfolding right now, why don't we pause and just watch and listen.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Present Arms.
[15:55:00] (BAND PLAYS "HAIL TO THE CHIEF" AND THEN THE 21-GUN SALUTE. BAND PLAYS "MY COUNTRY 'TIS OF THEE.")
BLITZER: As you see the former President George W. Bush and Laura Bush, the former first lady, beginning to move away from the tarmac. The casket is now in this presidential hearse, and they will begin to make their way about a 40, 45-minute motorcade that will take them from Joint Base Andrews outside of Washington to the U.S. Capitol, where we are. Let's take a quick break, resume much more of our special coverage, right after this.
TAPPER: The nation and the Bush family preparing to bid farewell to former President George Herbert Walker Bush. Moments ago, the hearse preparing to depart Joint Base Andrews right outside Washington D.C. to carry the former President to the Capitol. You're looking at live pictures there.
It was an emotional and moving arrival ceremony at Joint Base Andrews, that the beginning of a week of memorial services honoring the remarkable life of the late President. You're looking there. That's Sully, that was the former President's service dog. Sully.
Welcome to this special edition of "THE LEAD," I'm Jake Tapper. Today Vice President Mike Pence is among those who will remember George H.W. Bush at a ceremony in the Capitol Rotunda. The 41st President of the United States will lie in state there until Wednesday, allowing the public to pay its respects.
We're told President Trump and the first lady, Melania Trump, will pay their respects at the Capitol this evening, as well. On Wednesday, what's been designated by President Trump, a national day of mourning. Friends and family will gather for a memorial service at the National Cathedral in Washington, where the son of the 41st President, 43rd President, George W. Bush will eulogize his father.