When President Donald Trump didn’t attend Barbara Bush’s funeral earlier this year, it stoked chatter about a rivalry between the two powerful families who have a history of sniping at each other.
The former first lady criticized Trump during the 2016 campaign for saying “terrible things” about women and the military, and was long displeased with Trump’s insults toward her husband and sons.
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But many of the family’s confidants said Saturday former President George H.W. Bush wished to put that all aside when it came to Trump attending his funeral.
“If anybody at anytime knew anything about the 41st president of the United States, they would completely and totally understand that he would welcome the current occupant 100 percent,” said an aide in the office of the former president. “This is the way the country says goodbye to presidents.”
Trump said Saturday in Argentina that he spoke with former President George W. Bush and Jeb Bush this morning to offer condolences. He also said the late president Bush was a “wonderful” and “very fine man.” He and first lady Melania Trump will attend Bush’s funeral at the National Cathedral, the White House said.
Even though Bush family members have “a lot of angst” about Trump, they are “unbelievably respectful of the office of the president” and the funeral “is not a political event,” said a former senior Bush 41 White House staffer and a close friend of Bush.
Bush, who joined the Navy after high school and served in World War Two, left the comforts of Connecticut to embark on business and politics in Texas, led a life that was in many ways “opposite of Trump,” the person said. “I don’t see much parallel in their lives.”
Trump long savaged members of the Bush family and in July mocked Bush’s “thousand points of light” philosophy by saying “What the hell is that? Has anyone ever figured that one out?” He branded Jeb Bush “low energy Jeb” on his way to defeating him in the 2016 Republican primary and pronounced former president George W. Bush’s Iraq war “a disaster” on many occasions.
In return, the younger President Bush reportedly muttered “that was some weird shit” after Trump’s inauguration speech and has bemoaned the “nativism” and “casual cruelty” of American politics these days.
The senior Bush reportedly called Trump a “blowhard.” Unlike the junior Bush and Laura Bush, who simply did not cast a vote for Trump in the 2016 general election, the 41st president actually voted for Hillary Clinton, reported author Mark K. Updegrove, who wrote “The Last Republicans: Inside the Extraordinary Relationship Between George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush.”
Despite the two families tangling over the years, the White House was told months ago that Trump would be welcome to any funeral, according to someone close to the Bush family. A former senior Bush 43 White House official also said that the family appreciates that Trump is coming to pay his respects.
“This will be about the celebration of the noble public service that George H.W. Bush gave. It’s not going to be about anybody else. I don’t think it’s going to be about Trump,” said the senior Bush 41 White House staffer.
Despite the speculation that Barbara Bush didn’t want Trump to attend her funeral, one Republican familiar with both families said he thought that perception was unfair to Trump since sitting presidents haven’t traditionally attended first ladies’ funerals in recent years.
The White House said at the time of the Barbara Bush funeral that Trump was skipping it “out of respect for the Bush family.” Melania Trump did attend.
With Trump due to attend the funeral of President Bush, the nation can expect the Bush family to show “kindness and class” to Trump when he attends the service, according to a former Bush 43 White House official.
“I just think that it’s pretty common for president H.W. to rise above a lot of that,” that person said.
He later added: “He was going to be the same gracious guy in death with his funeral plans as in life and that’s the definition of grace, acting a particular way regardless of how you’re treated.”