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Presidential Aircraft Departs for Texas; Number of Moments During Funeral Seem to Reference Trump; James Baker to Give George H.W. Bush Final Tribute at Funeral in Texas Tomorrow. Aired 2:30-3p ET
Aired December 5, 2018 - 14:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[14:31:48] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to our continuing coverage of the state funeral of George H.W. Bush. As you saw the aircraft carrying the Bush family, carrying the former president is on its way to Texas. It will land at Ellington Field at around 5:30 p.m. It will be greeted by about 300 people from -- some from the Houston Astros, from the Houston Rockets and players, people from the Anderson Cancer Center, George Bush High School, a number of dignitaries and there will be a burial obviously tomorrow.
We want you to just take a look at some of the key moments from the actual service itself, particularly let's start with some of the remarks made by Bush 43 when speaking about his father.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Through our tears, let us know the blessings of knowing and loving you, a great and noble man, the best father a son or daughter could have had. And in our grief let us smile knowing that dad is hugging Robin and holding mom's hand again.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: And you see him pat the casket as he walks by.
It's rare to see a display of emotion like that from George W. Bush. Very poignant.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Very poignant and I think he knew he was going to cry at some point in this. What was so poignant in his eulogy, it was about a dad, about a father. It was about a personal relationship. We talked about how they had the difficulty when Bush became president and he was doing some things that his father did not approve of but his father held back and just gave him, as he pointed out, unconditional love.
Once he was out of office, their relationship softened a bit and they could talk president to president. Bush wrote a book about his father and he painted his father's portrait. And they became closer and closer. And for any child to give a eulogy for a parent is difficult. And the world was watching.
JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: George H.W. Bush was the kinder, gentler man. But you have to be fair, he ran some pretty tough campaigns. He was the kinder, gentler face, and he had people who did that for him. He had Lee Atwater. He had George W. in all of his campaigns. I remember David mentioned the 2000 campaign. I covered the 1980 campaign first and then the '92 campaign. I had a few interesting conversations with George W. Bush in those campaigns who didn't like some of the things I had written for the Associated Press in those days.
COOPER: And he would let you know.
KING: He would let you know. And he would let you know in language that could not be repeated. He held his dad in such reverence, and he would come at you. You're questioning my dad. It was dad and mother. That's how they spoke. But I remember in the 2000 campaign, again, it was in that campaign mostly covering Vice President Gore.
He had Karen Hughes bring me up on the plane, and W. said, "We're good, right?" He remembered those other campaigns. He was his dad's enforcer. You forget that about George W. Bush. He was around the White House so much, eight years with Ronald Reagan, four years of his dad's presidency. It's part of the family. The White House is literally in their blood.
[14:35:33] DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: But he's also an emotional guy, 43.
GREGORY: Really emotional guy. I remember telling him when I was covering him that I cried at my wedding and he said that's a good thing, I was the same way. I remember September 12, 2001, when he was in the Oval Office noticeably crying saying he was an emotional guy, when he thinks about the children who have lost parents on 9/11, that it really got to him.
So like the story told about himself father who encountered the leukemia patients who cried and said the media doesn't need to see me weeping, he always thought about that in the public moments when the whole world was watching. And they were again today but it was a more intimate moment where he could give himself some room to be his son.
COOPER: He spoke about that in an interview we played the other day where he talked about giving a speech at the 9/11 memorial, at the cathedral, at the service, and not wanting to cry and making sure he didn't because he didn't think America needed their leader crying at a moment like that and then when he sat down, his father reached over and patted his hand.
BORGER: This is a different kind of moment. These children have lost both parents in a very short period of time. They've lost their mother, they've lost their father, they've lost their moorings in many ways. Even though they're adults, your parents are still your moorings. At the end of the speech, when he said his father would be back with his mother holding her hand and back with Robin, if was just too much for him. I'm sure, in a way, he's spoken with his father about it. I mean, this is something that Bush 41 believed deeply and told people towards the end of his life that this is what he envisioned.
BORGER: I think that's what 43 wanted to envision for him as well.
GREGORY: Isn't lovely as well, 94 years old, right, an amazing life, but also for the son, this patriarch. He got to speak to his father and hear the last words spoken, "I love you, too." It's such a beautiful parting. For those of us who have lost a parent and who have had a beautiful parting, you carry that with you. And we all get to be part of that. We can't identify with what it's like to be a president or the son of a president, but we all can think of this in terms of our own parents and our own relationships.
KING: The Bushes are good people. They're not perfect people. I'll say that and people will say, what about the Willy Horton or what about the George W. Bush mistakes? I'm not saying they're perfect people. They're good people. They send notes, they ask how you're doing, they check in on families. Friendships. It's true of all of them. We focus on now the departed, the late president H.W. Bush and President George W. Bush and Jeb Bush, the three most in the public eye, it's all of them. You could see them after 30 years. They're just nice people. They're good people.
DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I particularly liked Jon Meacham's excellent eulogy, when he said, "an imperfect man who left behind a more perfect union." It was really striking to watch George W. Today, he has had such a struggle, born to this family, born by this father and he was trying to walk in his footsteps. He went to Yale and his father had been captain of the baseball team, first base and George W. Turned out to be a cheerleader.
GERGEN: His father was the youngest pilot shot down in the Pacific in the war and he joined the National Guard. It was not exactly heroic to be defending the great state of Texas from the state of Oklahoma. People sort of knew that. But he evolved over time. I think winning a second term, something his father had not done, but also having his own progress over time.
He was very controversial, especially over Iraq, but I think he reached a peace with his father after he left the presidency because he had done so much, and I think they had both come to terms with their relationship. And it was a lovely relationship toward the end. He's now truly -- I'm not sure you want to call him the patriarch but he's the leader of that family.
[14:40:01] BORGER: And during the last campaign, Jeb Bush defended his father. Do you remember?
BORGER: There was a point when Jeb Bush defended his father when Jeb said, my father is the greatest man I ever knew, period. Because he was part of the dynasty and he was being attacked for just being someone whose turn it was to become president and his father was criticized and Jeb just came out swinging about it.
MARY KATE CARY, FORMER GEORGE H.W. BUSH SPEECHWRITER: I'm looking forward to hearing what George P. has to say, Jeb's son, the oldest of the grandchildren.
I think today was going to be the more presidential of the two days. And even just the two churches, the cathedral is so soaring and intimidating. The acoustics are such you drop a pin, you can hear it in the whole place. People are afraid to even whisper. I think St. Martin's is much more intimate, the ceiling is not so high, there's carpeting. You can have a little side conversation with people. I think it's going to be a very different feel tomorrow and much more personal, not as presidential. That's going to be an interesting sideline.
But going back to Jeb and his oldest son and what they have to say. We heard from 43's children and Neil's two daughters today. We'll hear from Jeb tomorrow.
COOPER: It's amazing the contrast in the national security team, you had George Baker and Scowcroft. It's just a reminder again of a different way of running a White House.
TIM NAFTALI, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: I was going to say that George H.W. Bush did not want a ton of rivals. He wanted people who would respect each other but they didn't always agree with each other. You had Cheney on one side and you had Baker on another. They rarely agreed on foreign policy. So it was Bush who had to make the call. His son was known for saying, "I'm the decider," but George H.W. Bush was the decider. That was what he had to do with that particular group, a very professional, responsible man.
GREGORY: It's interesting, there's so much talk about leadership today and what a great leader President Bush 41 was. And how important that was for a feeling for Americans, to feel they were well led and respected on the world stage. George W. Bush, as a candidate, talked about a humble foreign policy. And 9/11 happens, it becomes a much more aggressive foreign policy. Very much in contrast to the sense of humility and caution his father had on the world stage. A lot of Americans became uncomfortable with how America looked and felt on the world stage. The contrast in leadership from the father to the son in the context of that leadership of the world, which was really talked about a lot today. COOPER: We have to take a quick break. The service emotional
testimony to a life well lived and, at times, not so subtle contrast with President Trump.
We'll have more of our CNN special coverage next.
[14:47:32] COOPER: Welcome back to our continuing coverage of the state funeral of George H.W. Bush. The 41st president is en route back to Texas, back to his home. He's going home. They'll be landing at Ellington Field around 5:30 this afternoon and the burial will be tomorrow.
There were a number of moments that we want to talk about during the church service. Several of them we put together. You could say they're allusions to President Trump or perhaps references to or just kind of hints at -- referencing President Trump. Here a number of comments people have been talking about.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ALAN SIMPSON, (R),FORMER U.S. SENATOR: He never hated everyone. He knew what his mother and my mother always knew, hatred corrodes the container it's carried in. The most decent and honorable person I ever met was my friend, George Bush, one of nature's noble men.
BRIAN MULRONEY, FORMER CANADIAN PRIME MINISTER: I believe it will be said that no occupant of the Oval Office was more courageous, more principled and more honorable than George Herbert Walker Bush.
JON MEACHAM, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: His life code, as he said, was tell the truth. Don't blame people. Be strong. Do your best. Try hard. Forgive. Stay the course.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Just some of the comments.
Hearing Meacham said tell the truth, don't blame people, do your best, forgive, stay the course.
BORGER: It sounds anti-Trump but it isn't necessarily. It's reminding us of the world in which we now live, which is very different, and the world Bush chose to create and the life he chose to live. So all of these adjectives -- he was compared to Lincoln, you know, I believe it was Meacham who said, "For Lincoln and Bush both called on us to choose the right over the convenient, choose hope over fear." Your mind actually goes to --
COOPER: I suppose in any description of the life of the 41st president, it is going to stand in stark contrast, because everything about the 41st president, everything he believed in is pretty much antithetical -- [14:50:02] BORGER: From Trump.
COOPER: -- to the current president.
GREGORY: Right. The way he wore the presidency. How he felt the presidency is bigger than himself, are not qualities you would say sign to President Trump, who thinks about himself more than the presidency, or the job being bigger than himself or his self-interest. Those contrasts are clear. The way he's conducted his politics. There were early signs in the kind of populism of George H.W. Bush.
He encountered it with Ross Perot, with Pat Buchanan. He didn't hold up particularly well under it. That was part of a reality he was coming to see he had to move beyond. That point of President Bush 43 saying his dad always told him that failure was part of living a full life, but it shouldn't define your life. It's the fact he wouldn't let it define his public life after he lost to Bill Clinton that I think was so ennobling for his legacy, too.
BORGER: The way he adopted Clinton after he lost to him.
BORGER: And the way, and a friendship --
GREGORY: The whole idea of the club, the idea that Trump was there, he was seated, he didn't speak, all these moments of discomfort. I said it a few hours ago, I wonder if Trump, being in that moment for the first moment, realized he really is part of this, and will be part of it in life and in death, whether it made him think about this.
CARY: I have to say, I interviewed when I made "41," the documentary about President Bush, I interviewed many of these people. Alan Simpson said to me, word for word, in 2014, "Hate corrodes the container that it's in." This credo that John Meacham said has been in letter after letter, here's what I believe in, tell the truth, work hard. Looking at it today through the lens of President Trump sitting in the front row, but whether President Trump had been there today or not, those words would have been said today because that's what George Bush stood for.
NAFTALI: I don't think anybody was sub tweeting today.
NAFTALI: But the point here is that we've gotten to a point in our history where talking about being well behaved and dignified and selfless is viewed as an attack on the president. And why is that so? Because to many people he embodies of the opposite of those qualities. BORGER: When you look at that picture of all of them sitting in the
front row, I think our inclination is we want them to be a happy family, this club, and they're not. You know, they're just not.
COOPER: Tomorrow, the state funeral gets personal, and the 41st president's best friend, James Baker, will give his final tribute. More on that next.
[14:56:53] BASH: Welcome back to our special coverage of the state funeral for George H.W. Bush, the 41st president of the United States.
I'm Dana Bash, here with Jamie Gangel.
Jamie, you were in the service, in the cathedral behind us. There were so many poignant, memorable moments. One of them was when the Reverend Dr. Russel Levenson Jr, who is the rector at St. Martins Episcopal in Texas, when he spoke about one of the final moments where his best friend, former Secretary of State James Baker, was rubbing the former president's, late president's feet. Let's listen in.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REV. RUSSELL LEVESON JR, RECTOR, ST. MARTIN'S EPISCOPAL CHURCH, HOUSTON: Toward the end, Secretary Baker and I were sitting on the sofa next to each other a few steps way, and he whispered to me, you know, that man changed my life. A bit later, Secretary Baker was at the foot of the president's bed. And toward the end, Jim Baker rubbed and stroked the president's feet for perhaps half an hour. The president smiled at the comfort of his dear friend. Here I witnessed a world leader who was serving a servant who had been our world's leader.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BASH: Remarkable to hear the story he was rubbing his feet. What an act of love, never mind the Biblical illusion, and to see his face, to see him break down.
JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: James Baker was with George Bush from the very beginning. They were tennis partners, they were best friends. I mean, they've known each other so long, James Baker was a Democrat when they first met. And you'll notice that the only person to walk in with the family, who wasn't family, was James Baker and his wife, Susan Baker. So they were very, very close. And I think especially after Barbara Bush's passing, James and Susan Baker were really making sure that they were with him as much as possible. And he will be giving one of the two eulogies tomorrow.
BASH: Exactly. I was going to ask about that. As we look ahead to tomorrow, the final day of this week, many days, I should say, of tributes, tomorrow, in Texas, at St. Martin's, that will probably be the most personal.
GANGEL: Absolutely. This is home. And we're going to see the one who went all the way back with him, James Baker, and then his grandson, George P. Bush, who is the only member of the family who is holding office right now, and I expect these to be very personal about the man.
BASH: And you think about today, what we saw -- we only have a few seconds left -- how would you sum up?
GANGEL: I really think it's the words that we saw to describe this man, a different time, gentility, class, dignity, that's what we'll remember.
BASH: Jamie, thank you.
GANGEL: Thank you.
BASH: Thank you. Appreciate it.
Thank you for watching. You have been watching CNN's special coverage of George Herbert Walker Bush's state funeral.
CNN's Brianna Keilar picks up our coverage.