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CNN NEWSROOM

The State Funeral of George H.W. Bush. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired December 5, 2018 - 14:00   ET

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


[14:00:00] JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: The funeral of Senator John McCain, events where not all of the Presidents were there, notably of course the current President, Donald Trump, not invited to McCain's and he did not attend Barbara Bush's.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: When he got there, he shook hands, President Trump, with Michelle Obama and former President Obama. But there was nothing else beyond that.

TAPPER: A lot of people reading a lot into that about Hillary Clinton not looking at President Trump. Why didn't President Trump shake this person's hand, why didn't this person shake President Trump's hand? That's probably for another time and place to have that discussion. But obviously a lot of tensions in that pew, things that have been said. There are a lot of tensions between the Bush family and President Trump.

BLITZER: That's the hearse arriving at Joint Base Andrews. Jeff Zeleny is there on the scene. This formal departure ceremony is about to begin.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It is, Wolf. We are seeing the motorcade, the hearse with the two American flags, as well as the poignant seal. President Bush and Laura Bush are directly behind the hearse as well as other family members as can you see filing through there. They will be taking their place on this windy tarmac here at Joint Base Andrews and they will, of course, be having one more ceremony. This is one of the key stops. We will see the casket taken out of the hearse and loaded on to Air Force One. I'm told similar to other Presidents, the casket will be played in the staff cabin of air force I as his remains fly to Texas. I can see President Bush not too many feet in front of me looking out the window at this scene unfolding here. The family members will be waiting inside in their cars for a moment as they get into position here, Wolf. Again, the flags whipping in the breeze. A poignant moment out here. The family now filing out of these buses and getting ready to hear "Hail to the Chief" and the 21-gun salute.

BLITZER: Full military honors for the 41st President of the United States. And this Presidential aircraft, it was -- it's very symbolic because President Bush '41 would fly in this plane, it was the first Air Force One that he used as President of the United States. I think it's got a special name now, a Special Air Mission 41 they're calling it. Only if a current sitting President is aboard that aircraft is it called Air Force One. TAPPER: He traveled the world in any manner of capacity. He was the U.N. ambassador to the United Nations, headed the mission to China before the U.S. even had an official U.N. ambassador there. He served as head of the CIA. He served as Vice President for eight years, during a period of which he would joke about how often Vice Presidents were dispatched to international funerals. I think he quipped something along the lines of "if you die, I'll fly," something like that and a President heavily focused on international relations, no less than his 1988 opponent, Mike Dukakis, former governor of Massachusetts, praising how wise he was. There's his son, George W. Bush, the 43rd President, here for the final good-bye. He's there with General Michael Howard, who is the head of the command here in D.C., which includes the honor guard.

BLITZER: All the family on the tarmac getting ready for this final departure ceremony. They'll be boarding this plane and heading off to Houston with the casket of course. There will be more state funeral services tomorrow in Houston followed by the burial at Texas A&M University, where the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library is based.

[14:05:00] TAPPER: Look at how George W. Bush is becoming right before our eyes the patriarch of the Bush family. He was the oldest brother of the children who had come to grieve and mourn their father and today he is the patriarch of the family, the head of the family.

BLITZER: It's another moment and it's another emotional moment. I just want to listen in and watch.

[14:10:00] (Departure Ceremony for George H.W. Bush)

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: They'll be boarding the aircraft now. The flight should be about three or four hours to Houston, and then the burial tomorrow. It is remarkable, it just feels like they came here just a few days ago. There's been so much that's taken place over the last several days. Now to see them all as a family getting back on this plane and heading home.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: The personal tomorrow, the home chapel in Houston and then the burial. This has been the Presidential part, if you will, the farewell to their father. To the Bush family, their father, who happened to be President but most of all their father. So now they're back to Texas, his adopted home state, the state that was so important to him. Just to watch the family get on the plane, this plane in during the George H.W. Bush presidency. He flew around the world in a tumultuous time in them. His son used this plane. You see George W. Bush going up the steps right there. There's two of them. I'm not sure if this was one. George Bush said he wanted to fly the 747 into Baghdad at that precarious moment because it is the symbol of America's might and glory. For a President who had domestic achievement as well but is better known for managing the world at an incredibly tumultuous time, a final flight home on what has become a symbol of American democracy, that flag on the back. It's pretty cool.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: I couldn't help but see a little bit of relief, particularly on Laura Bush's face. She has been standing next to her husband, literally propping him up for the next few days, her arm under his arm the entire time. And for the first time now I saw her relax a little bit. He had given his eulogy, this difficult part, returning to Washington was coming to an end and now they were taking H.W. home and this were all returning home, and I could just see the difference in her. And even in him. They wanted this to go off so well and it did for them. I think that's the way Bush 41 had wanted it and had planned it. And I think that hearing the last "ruffles and flourishes," that's emotional. And I think they were holding their breath for days. And they are exhaling a little bit.

DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: What Jake Tapper was talking about, to see George Bush 43 as patriarch of the family. John was references earlier work as a journalist he'd done where George W. Bush was kind of an enforcer in the family, a fierce protector of his dad, very defensive of his dad and his legacy before he had gotten his life together to the point where you could see his own political future and to see him travel over time to this day, so emotional, it was for President Bush 43 as he returned home to Midland, Texas. But now to pick up the mantel for his father, it's quite a journey and you could see him really wearing it with a lot of emotion today.

[14:15:00] DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I thought this was not only moving for the Bush family but more importantly for people across the country. This nation is hungry for inspiration. I think thought found it today. Remember before Jeb ran Barbara was telling people the country is Bushed out. And it seemed that way. I think it was one of the reasons he didn't get the nomination. I think today people are looking at the character and looking at George H.W. Bush and the whole family in a different light, a positive light.

MARY KATE CARY, FORMER GEORGE H.W. BUSH SPEECHWRITER: I was with the family last night. They were really looking forward to this being a celebration and not a cry fest, as they would put it and I think they've got to be really pleased with the way it went today. This was a spectacular sendoff. I think they planned it that way and it was beautifully executed. I think President Bush would have been uncomfortable, as Jake was saying, too much about me. But it has his fingerprints all over it and they've got to be thrilled with it.

TIMOTHY NAFTALI, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: A week after the 1992 election, President Bush sat with answer Simpson, Senator Simpson's wife and had a very deep and difficult and loving conversation. He wrote in his diary that night he felt rejected by the baby boom generation. He felt disconnected. And he wrote values, duty, country, service, honor, decency, all the things I really believe. We saw all of those things highlighted today. And it is a great thing for our country and we desperately need that.

COOPER: Does it have a lasting impact beyond --

NAFTALI: I'm an optimist so don't ask me. I think -- if John Meacham is right and John Meacham is the poet laureate of the Bush family but in many ways, he is the historian laureate among presidential historians. If he is right, I think he is. That is part of the American creed so it doesn't go away. KING: The question is short term or long term, how are we having this conversation. In the short term there are things about to happen that will test your optimism. We're going into a spending fight, a shutdown fight, which includes the border wall, which is something we saw the President fight fiercely for and Democrats fight fiercely against. We're at a key moment, getting to the top of the pyramid that is the Mueller investigation. However, I think the longer term, to the people who have to make big choices come January, what can they take away today? We talked about that when Senator McCain died. Nancy Pelosi may become speaker, Democrats will take power in the House. President Trump has to decide how do I navigate in this new world? His instinct is to fight, to do combat at 6 a.m. on Twitter until the end of the day. Is there a reassessment? Don't know. Wouldn't bet on it. There is a moment here everybody who has power and makes choices from the President to the Democratic leadership to the Republicans who just got their you know what kicked in Congress trying to decide what comes next. This is a moment of choices. We'll see which choice they make.

GREGORY: You know, John, everybody watching, especially the younger generation, the wrong thing to take away is that this is an ode to a bygone era. The reason they're celebrated is because it's what is our American public and political life. It's a tough media climate, tough political climate, we're so divided in lots of ways but I think the pageantry today was the enduring pageantry.

KING: The point that the Bushes have become a pariah in the Republican party, California tells things the country is about to go through early, because it is so big, because it is so diverse, because it is so interesting. The environmental movement, California first, later the rest of the country, so many things. The anti-tax movement, even in the days of Pete Wilson, the immigration movement, he held power, the Republican party just got wiped out in California. Why? A lack of decency, a lack of common ground, a lack of treatment of immigrants with respect. So what decision does other Republicans make at this moment? Are they going to stay on team Trump till the end or do they start thinking about the Republican party after Trump?

[14:20:00] The people who came to power in Orange County in the Bush years, in the Bush Republican party who want at least a path to legal status, if not a path to citizenship, who don't mind having dinner or a conversation with a Democrat, those are gone. What lesson can the Republicans party learn from what just happened to it? Do they start to have a reassessment? That's one of the many choices.

GERGEN: I agree the values are still out there but we've been slipping away. This generation, this World War II generation increasingly seems like from a vanished world, what's encouraging is a lot of people in the younger generation today, there's a lot of idealism. I think they take heart in listening to what George H.W. Bush helped.

BORGER: And Bush 43, what was striking to me, he read a part of his father's inaugural address. And his father said we cannot hope only to leave our children a bigger car, a bigger bank account, we must also give them a sense what it means to be a loyal friend, a loving parent, a citizen who leaves his home, his neighborhood and town better than he found it. And that may be what the local organizing is about now that you're talking about, David, that this isn't bygone. It's different. It just got to be different.

GERGEN: It's a struggle.

BORGER: But it's a struggle. It's an ongoing struggle. The Bush name has been a pariah in the 2016 campaign certainly. No more I think after this. But I think the values are the values of this nation and the pendulum swings back and forth always.

CARY: Early yesterday this morning at the capital to pay my respects, they had this table of notebooks for people to leave messages to the family. I went over to the table and somebody ahead of me, clearly a young kid had written, "George H.W. Bush was a great man, we should remember him." That's my hope, that young people will remember this, that all of this is soaking in and it will have effects for a long time in ways we may never know.

NAFTALI: Today we were reminded of the importance of faith to the Bush family and the Bush family and George H.W. Bush. I think the challenge now is whether faith leads to selfishness or selflessness. It's not a matter of politics, it's a matter of community. We're reminded that community can also be associated with power and ambition. He could be ambitious and a man of community.

KING: I think another lesson is the caliber of the people attracted to this President and this man. Mary Cate was a young staffer in the White House, I was talking to nick burn burns, it's not just President Trump. We were talking about how President Trump is having trouble attracting quality people into the government and that's true, and that's in part because of how he conducts himself. But the quality of people in public service has declined pre-Trump as well. That's the challenge, to get millennials who they don't think government can do much. They haven't seen government in their lifetime do much they think is worthwhile. So how do you get younger people to want to be in public service. If you look in the rows, the 3,000 people in there, take away the politicians, the people who were -- we went through this with Senator Kennedy as well, attracted young, talented people who went on to populate this town and run for office themselves and get into public service. Part of the dynasty of the Kennedy dynasty and Bush dynasty is that a hell of a lot of good people who have really good experience continue in public service.

CARY: In lieu of flowers, President Bush said please donate to the Bush school which is his vision for exactly that. In trying to get it tuition free so that kids can go right into public service without all debt.

COOPER: Back to Wolf and Jake.

[14:25:00] BLITZER: Special Mission 41 now beginning to taxi on the runway at Joint Base Andrews outside of Washington, D.C. this will be the last time that the 41st President of the United States will be aboard one of these Presidential aircrafts as this flight will take him and the entourage, the family, the friends aboard this Presidential aircraft to Houston for a continuing memorial service tomorrow morning and final burial at Texas A&M University, the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library. Jake, you and I were both White House correspondents. We spent a lot of quality time aboard Air Force One covering Presidents of the United States.

TAPPER: And it's the last time that George H.W. Bush will be on a plane like that, the last time that George H.W. Bush was in Washington, a town where he served for decades in various capacities, congressman, CIA director, RNC chief, Vice President, President. It's the last time a former navy flyer will be in an airplane, having volunteered for that service at the age of 18 as world war ii was just beginning for the United States, right after pearl harbor. I have to wonder what else are we saying good-bye to here? Are we saying good- bye to this man of course but are we also saying good-bye to this particular kind of leader, particular kind of Republican, conservative in principle, moderate in many aspects, on a policy level believed in international institutions, whether the united nations or NATO, somebody who believed in alliances and as President somebody who believed in working across the aisle as a President dealing with a Democratic congress, signing major pieces of legislation into law, like the Americans with disabilities act, which came to help him later in his life will he was confined to a wheelchair, the clean air act and then personally somebody who stood for decency and humility and modesty in a lot of ways.

Jeff Zeleny, do you have new information?

ZELENY: We do. I was speaking with a member of the Bush family who is on the plane now and they said it is a moment for the family to exhale, in their words, a moment to actually talk together and come together as a family for the next two or three hours or so on board this plane. You see Special Air Mission 41 taking off, they are recounting the service, praising President George W. Bush for his eulogy. And spending some time together as the plane begins to take off destination: Ellington Field in Texas.

BLITZER: Special Air Mission 41 now taking off from Joint Base Andrews en route to Houston, Texas. Our special coverage will continue right after this.