Ordinary Americans, generals and former cabinet members yesterday paid respects at the US Capitol Rotunda to the late US president George H W Bush, who died last week at the age of 94 after a life of service as a World War II hero, head of the CIA and wartime president.
Under the soaring Capitol dome, office workers and tourists walked silently past a flag-draped casket that bore Bush’s body. They were joined by former secretary of state Colin Powell, who led the US military during the 1991 Gulf War, as well as US generals from that campaign against Iraq and former Homeland Security secretary Tom Ridge.
Bush, the 41st US president, was remembered as a patrician figure who represents a bygone era of bipartisan civility in American politics.
National flags flew at half-staff on many foreign diplomatic buildings on Washington’s ‘Embassy Row’, past which Bush’s coffin will be transported on its way to the Washington National Cathedral for a memorial service today.
President Donald Trump, a fellow Republican, yesterday visited with the mourning family at Blair House, near the White House.
“The elegance & precision of the last two days have been remarkable!” Trump wrote in a tweet of the Bush memorial events.
Bush’s service dog, a young Labrador retriever named Sully, also walked past the casket and sat near it briefly.
Bush, father of the 43rd president, George W Bush, will be buried tomorrow in Texas.
Mourners lined up to enter the Capitol beginning on Monday evening for the public viewing.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell opened a session of the Senate on Monday heralding the “daring” former naval aviator, former director of the Central Intelligence Agency and president who won the Gulf War against the forces of Iraq’s President Saddam Hussain.
“Year after year, post after post, George Bush stayed the course,” McConnell said.
Bush was elected president in 1988 after serving two terms as president Ronald Reagan’s vice president.
During his four years in the White House, Bush ended the Iraqi occupation of Kuwait, steered the United States through the end of the Cold War and condemned China’s 1989 crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square.
But he was dogged by domestic problems, including a sluggish economy.
When he ran for re-election in 1992, he was pilloried by Democrats and many Republicans for violating his famous 1988 campaign promise: “Read my lips, no new taxes.”
Democrat Bill Clinton coasted to victory, ending Bush’s presidency.
A Connecticut Yankee from a wealthy family who moved to Texas to be an oilman, Bush has been eulogised as a president with a keen sense of civility and duty.
“His character speaks most, because of his character, how he handled so many important points in our history. The Iraq war, the falling of the Berlin Wall, he wasn’t (saying) that’s all about me,” Theresa Murphy, 64, a retired New York high school history teacher, said on Monday.
“Can you imagine what it would look like if our president today did that?”
Bush is the 12th US president to lie in state in the Capitol Rotunda.
The first was Abraham Lincoln following his assassination in 1865.
Early in his political career, Bush served in the US House of Representatives from 1967-1971.
He lost bids in 1964 and 1970 for a US Senate seat from Texas.
The federal government and some financial exchanges will be closed today for a day of mourning.
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