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State Funeral of George H.W. Bush Ends. Aired 1:30-2p ET
Aired December 5, 2018 - 13:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[13:30:00] DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I remember George W. Bush talking about a note that he had written to his teenage daughters saying there's nothing I can do -- nothing you can do to get me to stop loving you, so please stop trying.
And he talked about unconditional love. His father's unconditional love for him, despite the testing that he put his own father through. Whatever the complications were in that relationship, as we all have complications with our fathers, what really stood out to me was the 43rd president of the United States talking about how much his dad loved him, no matter what. And when he was president, when they shared that amazing moment in history, there was that unconditional love. After 9/11, it was there with the touch of his forearm. And that's something that we can all identify with, what those feelings are like and what this day is like, to lose your parent.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: I want to go back to Dana Bash, who's joined by Jamie Gangel, who was inside the cathedral -- Dana?
DANA BASH, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks, Anderson.
Jamie, just what was it like to be in those walls?
JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, obviously, it was very emotional. I think what was probably the most remarkable moment was obviously former President George W.'s speech. I've seen him do this before. He steels himself to get through the moment, and you could see that through most of the speech. He didn't want to cry. And then at the end he did cry, and the entire front row, the family, was crying as well. James Baker was crying. And then, you know, you don't normally hear applause after a eulogy or a tribute at a funeral, a memorial service. But not only did everyone applaud, they did for a long time. And I think that was partially for the father and everything that his son had said about him, but also because I think people appreciated the moment of the son having to stand up there and do that and knowing it wasn't easy and in effect cheering him on that he did it. And that was a remarkable moment.
BASH: And he didn't just cry, he went with his whole body.
BASH: He had to move back from the lectern. Everybody could feel it with him. Obviously didn't feel what he was feeling, but it was so clear, as you said, how he felt and how he was holding on till that last sentence and he knew it was there and he just couldn't hold it anymore, particularly talking about his sister that he lost.
GANGEL: Right. And at the end saying that his father would be able to hug his sister, robin, now and be able to hold his mother's hand.
I think the other thing that was very nice about all of the tributes was there was a mixture of humor --
BASH: No question.
GANGEL: -- in it. So when George W. Bush said, my father only had two speeds, full throttle and sleep, everybody in the cathedral laughed at that. When he made the joke about his father liking humor and liking a good joke and that's why he had Alan Simpson make one of the speeches. So I think you really had a sense of not just the president, but the man. What did we hear over and over? Friendship, loyalty. So there were the themes about the -- it was very personal in addition to being a state funeral.
BASH: So I was in there for John McCain's funeral. The big difference was the current president of the United States. What was it like to have him in the room with his wife, the first lady?
GANGEL: So what I noticed, two things. All the presidents, the presidents club, as we call it, were talking at the beginning before President Trump and Melania came in and they were reminiscing. I saw, at one point, Hillary Clinton was talking to Lynn Cheney. It was very friendly. There was a lot of chitchat going on. But when President Trump and Melania came in, it was starkly different. President Obama shook his hand. Michelle Obama, former first lady, said good morning, and that was it.
BASH: And then turned and looked forward.
GANGEL: There was -- the others did not greet him. Former President George W. Bush, the son, went over and shook his hand when he came, but there was a stark contrast. And there's no question. I think no one is surprised about that.
BASH: And they're showing the images of what you were just describing so we can see it again.
There's one other thing I want to point out. Hillary Clinton, she never looked to her right.
BASH: Ever. Look. I mean --
GANGEL: And President Clinton, who shakes everybody's hand, he did not reach over. Jimmy Carter, down at the end, who's actually had more kind words at times for President Trump didn't look down. So that was very different. [13:35:07] I think the other thing that no doubt will be discussed is
while President Trump's name was never said in any of the speeches, the tributes to former President Bush, every word, every adjective, every anecdote, stood in stark contrast to this presidency. And I think we're going to be talking a lot about that in the coming days.
BASH: And I genuinely don't think it was intentional at this funeral.
BASH: I think it was just describing the late president, the 41st president, and it is -- it is what it is.
BASH: He's different.
GANGEL: In making the tribute, it was another time, another person, and it couldn't have been more stark.
BASH: Thank you, Jamie.
Anderson, back to you.
COOPER: Dana, thanks very much.
David Gergen, as we watch that picture of all the presidents there, I was watching former President Obama in this image and I couldn't help but -- we've all been in situations where we're in an awkward seat and awkwardness is all around us. But he seems to kind of have almost a slight smile on his face, sort of aware of the awkwardness that he is in the buffer position here.
DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think that's true. And it was remarkable just to his left, the Clintons and everybody else looking straight ahead, not paying any attention. But I think even though it was an awkward moment, this was more about George H.W. Bush than it was about Trump. And I think they kept their emphasis there. I must say, from my perspective, the four eulogies were the finest we've heard in political memory. Right from the first moment, when Jon Meacham took -- stood up and told that riveting story of how Bush was shot down out of the skies and was waiting there, you know, miraculously rescued, but he lost his two men. He asked that question, why was I spared, and spent the rest of his life seeking an answer to that through service. Right from that first moment to the last moment, when George W. Bush choked up and said what my father wanted to do was to go back and hug Robin again and hold Barbara's hand again. Even now just telling the story, it's moving.
COOPER: Yes. Also the minister who was with the family when the president passed telling about James Baker.
COOPER: Massaging the feet of the president. You could see, I mean Baker crying, understandably. But such an intimate, personal moment. It was extraordinary to hear that, I thought.
GERGEN: They were best pals and were so for years because when Baker lost a child, the Bushes turned to him and they became friends and became tennis partners and the like. But I think that Jim Baker would also be uncomfortable comparing it to the last days of Christ and the washing of the feet. That's just not who he is. But he was steadfast for him.
COOPER: By the way, the hearse just passing the World War II memorial that you see there on the mall.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: No, he's the guy who snuck in the Grey Goose.
COOPER: And the steak from Morton's.
GERGEN: He went hunting with him.
COOPER: Tim, I'm wondering what stood out to you?
TIM NAFTALI, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Well, I think the powerful image of George H.W. Bush surviving the crash and then thinking about what to do with the rest of his life, everyone, each of the four eulogists talked about his service. I was struck by the fact that George H.W. Bush was the chief architect of a world that is being dissolved now. He is the chief architect of the revitalization of NATO, of the revitalization of the United Nations, of NAFTA. All of the key parts of the post-Cold War world that George H.W. Bush believed were necessary to keep the peace and make the world prosperous, it was beautiful to see that reminder. It was powerful. And I wondered as that was being said what certain members of the audience, those listening, might have thought about the celebration of a world, I would argue, that will not go away but a world that is now under deep pressure. That was George H.W. Bush's legacy, not just the humanity, not just the decency, not just the dignity, but actual changes in our world. And I think celebrating that today was important.
COOPER: Mary Kate, as a speechwriter, I'm sure you were listening closely.
[13:39:49] MARY KATE CARY, FORMER GEORGE H.W. BUSH SPEECHWRITER: Years ago, when President Ford died, President Bush gave a eulogy like we just heard just now, and my children went to the National Cathedral school and knew all the choir boys. The choir boys had a vote and voted that President Bush had the best eulogy. I sent him a note saying, Congratulations, you won the choir boy vote." And he wrote me back, "Overwhelmed am I, Mary Kate. Imagine a guy like me winning a vote of the National Cathedral choir boys regarding my eulogy of President Ford." I'm sure when President Bush gave that eulogy, he was thinking about, what can young people learn from President Ford. Ford's funeral there were Boy Scouts as ushers, so there were a lot of young people in the audience at the time. And I thought so many times today, what can young people learn from George Bush from the ceremony. I think there were probably a lot of young people watching because I assume some of the schools were closed or schools had them watch it. The things that jumped out to me were decency, loyalty, humor, love, the high road to humility, as Alan Simpson said, and a man who believed in things larger than himself. Many young people want to believe in something larger than themselves. And then, as Jon Meacham put it, making sure that the lives of others are freer, better, warmer and nobler. Russ Levinson at the of his eulogy said he thought this shouldn't be the end of an era. Everybody kept saying it was the end of an era, and that kept bothering me. He said it should be instead an invitation to fill the hole that is left behind. That's the biggest message to young people is, don't see this as something that's never coming back. View this as an invitation to be just like George Bush.
COOPER: That era, that generation of people who saw service as an integral -- as just kind of a given, I mean that -- it is -- it does harken back to another time. You look at, you know, again, he didn't have to go into World War II when he did. He could have stayed at Yale and played baseball and done all the things that a lot of other people --
NAFTALI: One of the other things we have to come to grips with is the effect of losing the World War II generation on our politics. One of the things that's striking about George Bush is he did not like ideologies. He didn't like inflexibility. He was a pragmatist, a moderate conservative Republican. He was uncomfortable when people didn't give, when they didn't seek compromise.
BORGER: But the parties -- you know, the truth of the matter is that what is going on in our country now is that the Bush party, the Bush Republican Party is gone and the Trump Republican Party is dominant. I think that this is the struggle that is underlying what we saw today without it being mentioned. And I think the message from today is neither one has to go away completely. You don't need to vanquish the values of a Bush to have some of the politics or the policies, if you will, of what Trump wants. And it doesn't have to be a world war.
GREGORY: It's interesting, Tim, you made a point about this -- the world, the international order that President George H.W. Bush presided over, held together. Brian Mulroney, the Canadian prime minister, talked about being together Labor Day 2001 and the serenity the Bushes felt about their personal lives, about where they were. Of course, this is just about 10 days before 9/11, when a lot of that international order collapsed. And it was his own son who, as president, challenged a lot of the things that President Bush 41 stood for as a diplomat on the world stage. And that tension, president to president, on different generations on either side of an act are terror are striking.
GERGEN: I want to go back to the World War II generation point. It's very important. It clearly defined George H.W. Bush's life. We had seven presidents in a row, starting with John F. Kennedy coming through George Bush Sr, who were the World War II presidents. All came of age during World War II. Every single one of those presidents wore a military uniform. Six of them were in the war. Jimmy Carter was in the Naval Academy when the war ended and went on to serve honorably. But that experience shaped them enormously. When George Bush Sr had his inaugural parade, there was a replica of that Avenger aircraft that he was in that was in that parade and that was quite purposeful on his part.
COOPER: I want to quickly go back to Dana and Jamie. They have a guest.
BASH: Thank you.
We do have a very special guest. We have Ronan Tynan here. You heard his beautiful voice not once but twice during this memorial service.
Thank you for sitting down with us.
RONAN TYNAN, IRISH SINGER: It's lovely to be here. A sad occasion, but it's not to be here.
BASH: For sure. We want to hear about what brought you to this moment behind us, but first, you were with the late president singing to him on his final day. Can you describe that?
[13:45:00] TYNAN: Well, the president and I had been friends for 19 years. It all came about through Barbara, because she ran the literacy program and I had written a book and she asked me would I read an excerpt from it and be part of the program. So I did. When I got down there, President Bush said, hey, Ronan, don't think for one second you're getting away without singing. And so we became very close and we had a lot of concerts together and a lot of get-togethers at Kennebunkport. He was a wonderful man and it was beautifully personified by all the speakers. He was such a wonderful, loyal friend. One time he said to me, he said, you know, you're like my other son. And I didn't know -- I didn't even know how to answer that. He was just an amazing, amazing man.
BASH: How did it come to pass that you were in Texas and sang "Silent Night" that last day?
TYNAN: How that happened is every so often I would ring the Bush people and ask how he was. Every year I would do a concert in Kennebunkport. After we'd go up and have pizzas and stuff like that, they always came to the shows, the two of them. And a couple of years ago, he invited me to Houston. He asked -- well, actually, Barbara -- he invited me, I had no idea why. Barbara came down the stairs to the door and said, do you know why he has you here? I said, no, ma'am, I don't. She said, he wants you to sing at his funeral. And I said, ma'am, that's not going to be today or tomorrow. So when I went into the sitting room, he said, I suppose she told you. I said, she did, sir, she did. I said, but don't worry, that's all good.
So how it came to be that I was in Houston last Thursday, I was speaking at the commencement for Baylor University for the health sciences, and I had been in contact with Gene -- (CROSSTALK)
BASH: Gene Becker, his long-time chief of staff.
GANGEL: Yes. And they were very concerned about his condition on Thursday. But on Friday he was in great spirits.
GANGEL: He had rallied.
TYNAN: He had, yes, he had. He had a great breakfast. Gene rang me up and said, Ronan, he wants to see you. So I got an Uber. I'm not really good at all that stuff.
When I came into him, he looked great. I thought he looked great. I'm a physician as well, so I thought, you know, he's going to be with us even though I recognized there were signs --
GANGEL: You thought he had rallied.
TYNAN: He turned to me and said, hey, Ronan -- I said, sir, you look great. He said, you need to clean your glasses.
I gave him a hug and we chatted about why I was there. You know, he would kind of communicate and then I said to him, well, Gene had asked me to sing, so I said, do you mind if I sing an Irish song first? And he said, not at all, that would be lovely. So I sang an Irish song and something else. And then Gene said, Ronan, would you sing a Christmas song. I don't know, I just felt "Silent Night" was the right one. While I was singing, he started to mouth the words. Then a lot of people, Mr. Baker was there and his wife. Jeb was -- not Jeb -- Neil, Neil and Maria. And all -- and then his doctor came in and then family started to come, so I felt it was time to kiss him and give my last good-bye. But it was a great privilege and a great honor. I loved him.
GANGEL: Today you sang "The Last Full Measure of Devotion," which I'm told was really the song he wanted. Why?
TYNAN: That's the song. He requested that. Whatever he asked of me, I would have done a thousand times. I wasn't familiar with the song until it was given to me some months back. And then they asked for the "Our Father." So it was a powerful -- it was a beautiful, beautiful ceremony and a great tribute to a wonderful president.
GANGEL: What will you remember most about him?
TYNAN: I have some great memories, Jamie.
(LAUGHTER) I remember we did one of the presentations for the literary program, and one of the readers was a little upsetting, the book was a little sad. He grabbed he and he said, Ronan, you go out there and you make them happy. I said, what should I do? He said, anything. So I said, do you want me to read from the book or will I just talk about the book? He said, whatever you think is going to work. So it went down. Then he grabbed me by the hand and he said, and don't think for one second that you're getting out of here without singing.
[13:50:13] So there were several moments. I was at his 90th birthday party up in Kennebunkport, and he was mad for me to get the visa. For me to become a resident was his big goal. So we were there and I pulled it out of my pocket. I said, here's the green card. He waved at me and said, oh, that's fantastic. Then we were trading socks.
GANGEL: Oh, yes.
TYNAN: So I wanted to honor him as best I could. I will miss him desperately.
BASH: As somebody who was called like a son --
BASH: -- to somebody like the 41st president, final thought?
TYNAN: He was a wonderful father. He was an extraordinary man. He shared himself unconditionally with a lot of, lot of people. He never judged and he had always a kindness for you whatever you met him. And he was a fun man. We will miss him desperately.
BASH: Thank you. It says a lot about you, not just as a singer but as a person that you formed that bond with him.
TYNAN: They did a documentary in Ireland once on me and I had no idea. It was like "This Is Your Life." I had no idea they interviewed him. He said, "Ronan is like a son to me." And I was blubbering mess after that.
BASH: And you definitely are like a Bush --
TYNAN: I love him. President Bush 43, his dedication, his speech was absolutely stunning. Great man, great people. His legacy will always live on. They're a great family.
BASH: Ronan Tynan, thank you so much.
TYNAN: Thank you. Not at all.
Wolf, back to you. WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Very, very powerful performance. And we're grateful to Ronan, as are all the viewers who heard and listened to what he had to say and to sing in that powerful moment.
Right now, the motorcade with the presidential hearse is getting closer and closer to Joint Base Andrews. Momentarily, they will arrive. There will be a formal departure ceremony for the 41st president of the United States, whose casket will be brought aboard that plane, that presidential air craft to take the whole entourage, the family, including the casket, to Houston, Texas, where there will be, Jake, another memorial service tomorrow morning before final burial at the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library at Texas A&M University.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: That's right. And there are different contingencies of organizations from George H.W. Bush's life that are at Joint Air Force Base Andrews right now, individuals from the U.S. Secret Service, from the Points of Life Foundation. We're told the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Dunford, will lead the Honor Guard there, along with the chiefs and chairs of every branch of military service. There will also be a performance of "Going Home" that will be played by the Air Force band that was chosen by George H.W. Bush himself.
One of note. Willie Geist just tweeted this, Jon Meacham, the reporter and historian who wrote that powerful biography of George H.W. Bush and just was one of the four men who eulogized the former president at the National Cathedral service, "Meacham had an opportunity to read his eulogy to George H.W. Bush obviously in the preceding months. And the response, according to what Meacham told Geist that George H.W. Bush said, that's a lot about me, Jon."
Which, of course, it is. It's a eulogy for a former president. That gets to the humility and modesty of the man we've been hearing about so much.
Here we have the procession, the motorcade arriving to Joint Base Andrews.
BLITZER: And Jeff Zeleny, our White House correspondent, is there at Joint Base Andrews. The presidential hearse is there, the motorcade has arrived, but this is the advance we're seeing right now. But momentarily we will see the presidential hearse and everyone is getting ready.
What are you seeing on the scene for us, Jeff?
[13:54:45] JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we're seeing the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and other the other branches of service arriving here in their motorcade. They'll take their position on a chilly and windy tarmac here at Joint Air Force Base Andrews. You can also see the Air Force band is in position as well as the Color Guard. They will receive the casket of George H.W. Bush. We also have several invited guests, former Secret Service agents. You'll remember George H.W. Bush had 12 years of Secret Service agents and continuing on when he went out of office as vice president and president. So many of them here.
But, Wolf, we're also told there's going to be, of course, "Hail to the Chief," one final time, but the song "Going Home," a hymn, a favorite of President Bush's. And the lyrics are quite poignant. This, indeed, will be the final trip home of hundreds, if not thousands of trips aboard Air Force I, aboard Air Force II and other planes that he has taken in his long life of service. So the designation, Ellington Field in Texas as they arrive here. But one more ceremony on the ground here before he is sent off.
BLITZER: We're told, Jeff, the motorcade has now arrived at Joint Base Andrews and this formal departure ceremony is about to begin. There will be full honors rendered. As you point out, "Ruffles and Flourishes," "Hail to the Chief." A full presidential send off for the 41st president of the United States. You see the top military brass. They have gathered there to pay their respects to George H.W. Bush himself, a World War II hero, who volunteered for the U.S. military at the age of 18 on the day he turned 18, fought in World War II. The military clearly paying their respects for this extraordinary person.
We learned a lot, even at this stage, Jake, in those eulogies we just heard. There were nuggets there that were new.
TAPPER: There was a lot of information. Obviously these were four people that knew the former president quite well. His biographer, a fellow world leader, former Senator who worked closely with him, and then, of course, his oldest son. Much of it was about the dignity of the man, his grace, his modesty, his insistence on treating everyone like you would want to be treated. A lot of values that make people wonder where they are in Washington today. You know, Alan Simpson referred to the high road of humility in Washington is not a road that is often besieged with traffic or words along those lines. And yet George H.W. Bush even in that anecdote about Jon Meacham about reading that eulogy to the former president before he passed obviously reveals that, "It's about me," he said. It's a lesson taught by his mother, who told to avoid the big "I ams," don't talk about yourself. It's something his aides and advisers think might have hurt him, politically, his refusal to go to Germany after the fall of the Berlin Wall. His refusal to participate in the ticket-tape parade in Manhattan after the success and victory at the end of the first gulf war. A man who had a healthy sense of self, being a president at the time, but somebody that did not like gushing about himself, like having the light shine on others, as one of his eulogers put in.
BLITZER: I noticed, and I want your thoughts, that when President Bush walked in, he went over to the former presidents and the former first ladies, shook their hands, went down the aisle and thanked them for coming. That when you were arriving there, it was a beautiful gesture, I thought, on his part.
TAPPER: It was. As I said before, he really is now the patriarch of this Bush family, this Bush dynasty, a family that started with his grandfather, Prescott Bush, who was a Senator from Connecticut, that was then assumed by his father, George H.W. Bush. Not the oldest son of Prescott Bush, but the one who assumed the leadership role in the family. And now it falls to W., to Bush '43. That didn't surprise me. It was a nice gesture of him shaking the hands of the four formers that were there, Trump, Obama, Clinton and Carter, thanking them for being there on the behalf of the Bush family.
BLITZER: Yes. It was nice that everyone was there. This was what George H.W. Bush wanted.
TAPPER: It was. And it's a little different than other big funerals we've had this year, the funeral of former first lady, Barbara Bush, in, I believe, was it February or April perhaps?
BLITZER: In April.
TAPPER: The funeral of Senator John McCain. Events where not all of the presidents were there, notably, of course, the current president, Donald Trump.