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The State Funeral of George H.W. Bush. Aired 10:30-11a ET
Aired December 5, 2018 - 10:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Another very, very moving ceremony at the U.S. Capitol honoring the 41st president of the United States. The casket is now on that presidential hearse. The motorcade will begin leaving the U.S. Capitol. It will head down Pennsylvania Avenue, drive passthrough White House, won't stop, drive past the White House. President Trump and the first lady Melania Trump, they left the White House just a little while ago for the National Cathedral. They will be there together with some 3,000 other invited guests and the motorcade will eventually get to the National Cathedral for this state funeral.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: What a sad but also odd moment this must be for President George W. Bush, one of only two men in the history of this nation to have served as president after his father, served as president. Because not only is he going through what must be a heart wrenching experience helping to bury the man who he revered so much, he is also getting a glimpse of what his funeral will be like. Very few Americans will have the opportunity to be honored in such a way with a state funeral such as this one. And he is saying how he and obviously President Obama, President Clinton and others not to get (INAUDIBLE) but the sendoff that they will all experience. We see president --
BLITZER: You can see the former president, there you see the former vice president -- there's Bill Clinton and Al Gore. Joe Biden is there as well. But Jake, we're already seeing President Jimmy Carter and Rosalynn Carter there. We're already seeing the former President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama. They have gathered inside to pay special tribute to this great American.
TAPPER: That's right. And we heard from a reporter inside the cathedral that President Obama was talking at one point to one of his closest allies when he was president, Angela Merkel. Angela Merkel who credits President George H.W. Bush for helping to manage the reunification of Germany after the Berlin Wall came down. It was not long after the wall came down that Angela Merkel got involved in politics herself. There is Vice President Pence talking with former first daughter Chelsea Clinton. It's a rare moment.
BLITZER: Barack Obama -
TAPPER: Barack Obama saying hi to Senator Pat Leahy. Michelle Obama greeting Senator Pat Leahy. It's really very rare to have this kind of attendance together. There is the presidential hearse leaving the grounds of the Capitol. It will again drive past the White House and then arrive at the National Cathedral - at the National Cathedral. There will be a special -- let's listen in.
[10:35:00] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: This is President Trump arriving at the Cathedral. All the other former presidents have already arrived. He will join them, obviously not be speaking. But he will be in attendance. This, the body of George H.W. Bush heading towards the National Cathedral. It will take about 10 or 15 minutes to get there. This is an opportunity for people who have wanted to come and pay their respects to line the route. It's interesting, John, I mean as we watch this, you know, some of the people lining the route have a - where adults -- when he was the president -- others were too young and yet still want to come and pay respects or sort of just bear witness to this moment in history.
JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: A rare moment in history. This is the Capitol yesterday with my young son with Dana. And there are other families there as well and parents are saying the same thing. But you know, of course, their children have no concept. They can't put into context what is happening, just to let them see it now so that 5, 10, 15 years from now maybe it remembers - it touches them. And then now you are watching as we are getting close here to the procession. It is about to past the White House. It won't stop. Just a reminder, George H.W. Bush was president for four years but he was also in that complex. That's what's his son and his family eight years as vice president.
So, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue was 12 years of George H.W. Bush's life and career, and not just for him, Barbara Bush, George W. Bush would often talk about what he learned including respect for the institution and respect for the buildings, respect for what he called the temple of democracy. As you watch this play out in the city -- CIA director, ambassador, U.N. ambassador, congressmen, vice president, president, George H.W. Bush in that motorcade right now passing through a town that he - again, a one-term president. You see the smiles on the family. I think they are so grateful that their father is be remembered and appreciated and perhaps being put into a better context now, whether it is his international world management in an incredibly tumultuous time -- Bill Clinton never gets his balanced budget. George H.W. Bush doesn't break his signature promise and do the right thing for the country, he said even though it hurt him politically. I think that is one of the reasons why you see the smiles on the family faces because this town where the Bush name his party rebukes it now is appreciating the great man.
COOPER: You see Supreme Court justices there all seated together. Again, the former presidents all seated together, something you rarely see except in events like this. You see Michelle Obama, you see Vice President Dick Cheney as well as Vice President Joe Biden. It's an extraordinary image to see them all in one spot. And as we said, President Trump has arrived.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: And you know this is you know we are looking at George H.W. Bush's legacy. He never used to talk about it. He used to call it the L word. And he didn't like to talk about the vision thing or anything else. But when you look at the history of his presidency and you look at the people who are here to honor it, you look at somebody I would argue who had the most robust resume of anyone ever to serve in that office of the presidency who was more prepared going in than anybody I can remember. And I think that is part of what is being honored today, not only the way he conducted himself, but his tremendous years of public service because he was about service, and his family was all about service.
COOPER: It's interesting about him serving as ambassador to China which I didn't realize he was actually offered the best ambassadorships to London or Paris.
JEFFREY ENGEL, SMU PRESIDENTIAL HISTORY DIRECTOR: After Watergate he had been of course head of the Republican National Committee. Gerald Ford wanted him out of town because he had done so much to defend Watergate. Bush wanted to get out of town. Ford offered him the job of being ambassador to Paris or to London, the two most assignments he could offer. And George Bush really surprised him by saying I want to go to China. He had two reasons. The first is he thought China would be interesting. And the second was the ambassadors to London and Paris were supposed to subsidies the entertainment budget for the embassies and Bush say he had kids to put through college. And you might hit the really --
COOPER: So China would be -
ENGEL: He marvels at how -- inexpensive it is. The best part of the story though is that he did not tell Barbara Bush that they were going to China until after he had already accepted the job.
I always wonder what that conversation -
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was the best moments of her life, the happiest years because she had him all to herself except for the dog. And she loved being in China. It was a good gamble on his part.
[10:40:00] DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I'm looking at you know these images of the former presidents. There is the Vice President Dan Quayle and the higher part of your screen. And then Vice President Pence. But to look at Bill Clinton, you know if you reflect on what then President Bush said at the time that he was far more qualified than Bill Clinton to become president and then the hurt that he felt after losing in that economy and yet it was George W. Bush who takes credit for bringing these two guys together in their post presidency to work in response to hurricane relief.
And I look at the picture of the presidents. You know W. would tell guys like John and I you know you guys can't talk about my legacy because you were there. And you are starting to see the legacy of George H.W. Bush actually for some time taking shape. And even the legacy of his son as kind of the Bush political dynasty is being reflected on today. Now you look at these presidents. Here comes President Trump who I wonder if he will have a moment of reflection today as he kind of rips and tumbles his way through the presidency that I am now really part of this and I will be part of this in death, as well. It has to be kind of a powerful moment for anybody who steps into that space as he'll do today in a way that I don't think he has before.
BORGER: But that is what the Bushes have done. And that is what 41 has done. They have invited him into that space whereas he has not been invited in before nor did he want to be, by the way, because he is the disrupter.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We call him the Reagan-Bush years. Everything was about Ronald Reagan. Reagan National Airport, the Reagan Diaries and he kept a bit of a lower profile in many ways but since John Meacham piece come out, and 43 wrote a book on his father, 41 -
BORGER: That's right.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- in decision appoints reflected what W. on his father. There is a new appreciation that's come up just in a couple of years for Bush 41. His legacy is growing. And then you have Texas A&M, the presidential library where people go. You have the airport in Houston named after Bush 41. Now the CIA. So the legacy is growing.
COOPER: We should just point out that the presidential hearse now is passing by the White House as you're saying, that house that for so many years was a residence and place of work for George H.W. Bush.
KING: The pictures inside the Cathedral remind you of another thing too, the president's club. We're going to watch in moments how President Trump works his way into that.
He has spoken of those people except for George W. Bush briefly and how that place --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's spoken of those people.
KING: Very well put. But as this hearse passes the White House. You see Al Gore, you see Dan Quayle, you see Dick Cheney. Not since Martin Van Buren had a vice president to be elected president, it is not an easy thing to do in history. And George H.W. Bush did it. You see it in the second row behind the presidents, men who wanted to be president and one who wants to be president in the case of Mike Pence. And they should read the history of George H.W. Bush because it's not an easy thing to pull off.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And the history itself. I think it's really important that it reflects how the people in the administration actually remember their time. They thought of it as a very successful administration. There is really no modern presidential administration at all that --
KING: Let's just listen in.
ENGEL: There is really no modern presidential administration from - start from Lynden Johnson until today that has been so open with its history and has been so eager to tell its story. That's been so excited to have its records revealed. Not Nixon obviously, not Ford, not Reagan. Nobody has been so good, if you will, about saying we want to tell our tale because we are very proud of what we did. It really reflects how they provided access to people who want to learn the history.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Isn't it also just pretty to watch the pageantry of these events. You know George Herbert Walker Bush was president at a time when the public could actually drive along Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House until the Oklahoma City bombing made that closed to only pedestrian traffic. But you know you watch this and you think about inauguration of presidents. And when they will march in the parade often on foot in front of the White House as President Bush 41 did and of course his predecessors and successors and then this finale.
BORGER: And then they return home to just be a citizen again and no longer a president.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You know seeing this picture of the presidents and hearing George W. Bush talk earlier about his father reach over and grabbing his hand, there is a phrase that is commonly used about the president which is master of the small gesture. And I think we're going to see a lot of small gestures. The ones I have noticed just last night or the night before at the Capitol having the band play the Navy Hymn which is President Bush's favorite song, having the captains of the aircraft carrier in the front row, having - the "Neared My God to Thee" just played.
[10:45:19] I don't know if you guys caught it. That was also played at the beginning of Mrs. Bush's funeral. And so, I think it was certainly on purpose. President Bush's finger prints are all over this. And I think we're going to see more and more of those touches, you know nods to the Secret Service agents being the Honorary Pallbearers. The Secret Service agents, he was already beloved. Remember when he shaved his head in honor of Patrick. That cemented him for all time in the Secret Service Hall of Fame.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And John King and I can remember, if you look at Vice President Cheney, it is also the multi-layers of history and policy and war and peace that Dick Cheney who served as his second choice to be president 41's after John Tower was not confirmed secretary of defense and leads to ably during the Gulf War only to in president 41's eyes serve his son less ably in his advice in the follow on Gulf War.
DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: And now we have George P. Bush who will be doing one of the eulogies. He lives across the street from me in Austin. And he is the family historian. He has been working to save the alamo to make a multicultural story. He pays big cost for that in Texas for trying to redefine what the alamo is. But he is the historian of the Bush family. He knows everything that occurred. I'm looking forward to his remarks.
BORGER: And the new generation of politicians. (CROSSTALK) He is the future. One thing that is so remarkable to me in John Meacham's book is the president being so forthcoming about how much it hurt when he lost and how he felt that he had disappointed people in being a one- term president and just talking about what he did wrong, how he could not talk about himself or even his achievements very well, and how he made a mistake with the tax hike. Remarkable honesty coming from somebody willing to look inside, have somebody else tell his story, not himself, look inside and say, you know what, I did a lot of stuff wrong, but I also got a lot done in four short years.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He won a profile and courage award for the read my lips, no new taxes. Democrats awarded him for that -
GREGORY: President 41 had to sweat out two election nights with his son there in Austin in the governor's mansion which goes to recount of course. And even in 2004 it wasn't declared that night. I wonder if he could do something he had which is be reluctant.
BORGER: And again, we are going to see a lot about the relationship between W. and his father which had its tensions when Bush 43 was president, but when the two of them are no longer president, the portrait that W. painted of his father, the book he wrote about his father of the bond that they formed when they didn't have all the stress of being president and how to behave with each other on their heads. That relationship in his later years was really wonderful to watch.
COOPER: It's also interesting to see so many foreign leaders attend this. I mean there was such an international focus for the presidency in Bush 41. You think about obviously the relations this administration is having currently with leaders around the world. Angela Merkel is here. Brian Mulroney from Canada who's actually going to be giving one of the eulogies.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Think of the brinksmanship that we are in the middle of right now even with Russia over nuclear weapons, something that was a signature achievement of President Bush 41 as a carryover from the day achieved under President Bush.
COOPER: And here is President Trump and Melanie Trump arriving. Let's listen in.
[10:50:00] BLITZER: What a remarkable moment as we see the current president of the United States and the former presidents of the United States all sitting in the same row honoring the 41st president of the United States, Jake. It's pretty amazing to see the seating arrangement here at the Washington National Cathedral.
TAPPER: That's right. And it's a time, a funeral when everybody comes together and puts aside their ideological and partisan differences. And yet you can't help but think about the tensions in that room, the discomfort that President Trump may be feeling, I don't know. He came in and President Obama greeted the first lady, Melanie Trump and then President Trump himself as did former first lady Michelle Obama. There has been a lot of bad blood not just between President Trump and the Democratic presidents and first ladies in that pew. Obama, Clinton and Carter, but also between President Trump and the Bush family.
Obviously, George H.W. Bush felt it was important to have the current president there. He was invited. He wanted to make this as was representative of the George H.W. Bush's life about something bigger than just tensions and grudges, but about the nation coming together.
BLITZER: You see the current president and former presidents in the front row. You see the current vice president and the former vice presidents in the second row. John King, what do you see?
KING: Striking to me. We'll see what happens after because it's obviously the ceremony is about to begin. The Obamas greeted the Trumps. The Clintons looked directly straight ahead. President Trump did not make a point to try to reach across to the Clintons. The Clintons did not make a point to try to reach across from the Trumps. There is some separation there. They are seated by protocol. The current president, then the most recent president, seated in order there.
But there is an opportunity there, if you wished, to reach across the -- Mr. Trump - President Trump decided not to do that. Hillary Clinton looked straight ahead. Her head was locked straight ahead at that moment. I don't want to make too much of it. We'll see if there's interaction after the ceremony. We are in a very solemn moment right now.
But in this unique club at a moment where we know the current president has made no effort, unlike Barack Obama did reach out to George W. Bush at moments. Bill Clinton did reach out to George H.W. Bush at key moments of national crisis or international decisions. Donald Trump has not done so.
BLITZER: John, stand by. Jim Acosta, our chief White House correspondent, is there at the National Cathedral as well. You're watching all these amazing pictures as we all are. What are you hearing?
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: I just wanted to add to what you were just talking about a few moments ago with John King. And that is I talked to a source close to the president. President Trump earlier this morning who said, yes, the Bush family was very gracious in inviting President Trump, first lady Melanie Trump to the services this morning. But there was another outreach that was important in all of these in this truce between the Bush and Trump families. And that is when President Trump selected Brett Kavanaugh for the Supreme Court. One of the first people that he called to notify the world of this decision that he had made was the former President George W. Bush, Bush 43.
And Bush 43, the Bush family took that as something as an olive branch according to the source close to President Trump. It was very well received. And so I think that also helped foster this truce that we are seeing today, although it may be uncomfortable to watch at times.
And I think the other thing we should point out, Wolf, is that you know for all the talk of Trump world, we are seeing President Trump in the middle of Bush world right now, sort of the greatest generation meets make America great again and as a reminder of the greatness of this country before Donald Trump came along. Wolf?
TAPPER: And for President Trump it must be, I have to say, uncomfortable. This is obviously not just a bunch of Democrats on that pew who have been very critical of him and vice versa. But the Bush family, we know that George H.W. Bush, the late president, did not vote for President Trump. We know that George W. Bush did not vote for President Trump. So, this is a room and part of his appeal, I suppose, the idea that he was very anti-establishment even though he is now the embodiment of the establishment. President Trump is in a room full of people who did not vote for him in many ways.
BLITZER: It's good to see Jimmy Carter, Rosalynn Carter there, as well. Anderson, these are truly, truly remarkable pictures all being shown in honor of the 41st president of the United States.
COOPER: Yes. It's a glorious Cathedral, the National Cathedral obviously and quite an assemblage. Gloria Borger, I mean, traditionally, the sitting president would be one of the people asked to give a eulogy.
[10:55:05] That's not the case here. You can say, well, Bush 43, it's a unique situation because Bush 43 who will be giving the eulogy was also a president. You could also say that the Bush family clearly chose not to have the current president actually speak though he was invited. I'm trying to read sort of the expression on everybody's face. It's sort of interesting. I don't know if it is a slight smile at times on the face of Barack Obama, the awkwardness of the situation.
BORGER: It's a little - the Michelle Obama -- first of all, I think it was a situation in terms of the speeches where you can say that his son, a former president, will give the eulogy and I don't think anybody could argue about that. And maybe Trump was relieved by that I would presume. But don't forget, Michelle Obama, she shook hands. She just wrote a book in which she said - I'll never forgive Trump for putting my family safety at risk by pushing the birther conspiracy. So there is a lot of tension there. And Trump must feel in many ways like a stranger in a strange land in this assemblage of people who served Bush 41 and Bush 43, neither of whom he has professed much admiration for. But in the end he is the president and has been gracious and remember, the Trump's ran over to blare house and met with the Bushes for 23 minutes which is a long time. And so they have been giving this outreach. And I think it has been appreciated.
COOPER: Let's go to Chris and Dana who are at the Cathedral. Chris, Dana?
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: All right, Anderson. We are watching the hearse arrive here at the National Cathedral, very solemn moment even with all the media here. It is a very hushed scene. You see the color guard and the honor guard. They are going to have their procession now of bringing in the casket. The family arrived just moments before. We have been seeing the pictures inside. All the presidents, the historic image of the four presidents there with their wives. And you see all the vice presidents behind them. This is the moment of the beginning of the service. So let's just listen and watch this part of the process.
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: There are so many people here, yet you can hear a pin drop. The unbelievable knowledge of the moment that you're watching, that's happening with the history of not just saying farewell and memorializing and honoring of late president but knowing the gravity given how many five former presidents, one current president rather, four former presidents, one current vice president, four former vice presidents, all in that Cathedral with the family and friends ready to greet this casket.
CUOMO: Very heavy hearts, obviously. This isn't just a state funeral. It is also a national moment. We haven't had the passing of a president in many years, since 2006. And the time that we are living also helps shape the significance of this moment and what President George H.W. Bush stood for, the congregation of thousands inside the National Cathedral. And to see the people there and the faces from the past and to remember what political culture was about then.
And again, not to put emphasis on things being wrong or tension, but a time when things were different and some would argue better. You are seeing there now obviously our 43rd President George W. Bush. He has a very heavy task today to eulogize his father. He will be the last speaker during this ceremony. And there is a little bit of a delay here. But everything has been thought out. I have been really impressed by the precision of the events today.
BASH: They have been planning it. And obviously, along with the now late president himself which is as protocol expects. And that's exactly the way that he went along with what other presidents before him have done in modern times to make his wishes known.