News World George HW Bush remembered in moving service, despite Trump snub

George HW Bush remembered in moving service, despite Trump snub

george hw bush funeral
George W Bush fought back tears during the moving service to his father George H W Bush in December. Photo: AP
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Former US president George HW Bush has been remembered at an emotional Washington funeral Thursday morning (Australian time) packed with US and foreign dignitaries.

With every living former president looking on, George W Bush, who also served as US leader, fought back tears as he remembered his father in a touching and humour-filled eulogy.

The 43 US president said his father had “showed me what it means to be a president that serves with integrity, leads with courage and acts with love in his heart for the citizens of our country”.

Mr Bush’s voice cracked with emotion as he concluded: “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.

“And in our grief, let us smile knowing that dad is with [his daughter] Robin and holding mom’s hand again,” he said.

“Dad, we’re going to miss you.”

Mr Bush’s wife, former first lady Barbara Bush, died earlier this year.

George hw bush funeral
The surviving former US presidents shared a pew at the service. Photo: AP

Awkward encounter

Ahead of the formal funeral service, former presidents Barack Obama, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter, and their spouses, chatted easily among themselves from their seats in the front row at Washington’s National Cathedral.

The ex-presidents leaned over their wives to chat with one another, while Bill Clinton and former first lady Michelle Obama shared a quiet conversation.

The convivial atmosphere ended with the Trumps’ arrival, minutes ahead of the motorcade carrying Mr Bush’s casket.

First lady Melania Trump greeted both Obamas and former president Clinton with a handshake.

Mr Trump then shook hands with both Obamas before taking his seat. Hillary Clinton stared straight ahead as the Trumps arrived, and the Carters appeared not to recognise their arrival at all.

After that, the small talk along the row largely stopped.

The awkward encounter was ignored by the Bush family and did not disrupt the unusual bipartisan spirit on display at the service.

“George HW Bush was America’s last great soldier-statesman,” presidential biographer Jon Meacham said in a eulogy.

“He stood in the breach in the Cold War against totalitarianism. He stood in the breach in Washington against unthinking partisanship,” Mr Meacham said.

The state funeral service capped three days of remembrance in Washington. Mr Bush’s remains are now being returned to Texas for burial.

Former Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney praised Mr Bush as a strong world leader who helped oversee the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Mr Bush, who died last week in Texas aged 94, was remembered as naval aviator who was shot down over the Pacific Ocean in World War II, and a commander in chief who defeated Iraqi forces in the 1991 Gulf War.

The guest list included Britain’s Prince Charles, Australian Governor-General Peter Cosgrove and leaders of Germany, Jordan and Poland, along with a host of former world leaders, such as former British prime minister John Major, who was in office during Mr Bush’s term.

Hundreds of people lined Pennsylvania Avenue in downtown Washington to watch a hearse drive the late president’s coffin from Capitol Hill, where he had lain in state since Monday night, toward the cathedral.

Mr Trump, a Republican like Mr Bush, infuriated the late president when he attacked his sons, George W Bush and Jeb Bush, one of Trump’s rivals in the 2016 Republican primary campaign.

The Trumps spent about 20 minutes visiting with the Bush family ahead of the service.

“Looking forward to being with the Bush family. This is not a funeral, this is a day of celebration for a great man who has led a long and distinguished life. He will be missed!” Mr Trump tweeted on Wednesday night.

-with AAP

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