Read: George H. W. Bush is dead
Nancy Pelosi, who entered Congress shortly before Bush became the nation’s 41st president in 1989, called him “a gentleman of the highest integrity and deepest patriotism” and said it was a privilege to work with him. While Donald Trump belittles his opponents with demeaning nicknames, Pelosi said that Bush demonstrated “great humility, unwavering compassion, deep faith, and extraordinary kindness in and out of the political arena.” Whether she meant to or not, she sounded as if she were drawing a contrast with the current president.
From the Democratic Party’s 2020 hopefuls and possibles came more praise. Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts called him “an American patriot who lived his life and served our country with dignity” and whose “devotion to public service was unmatched.” Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont said that he and Barbara Bush will be “remembered for their humble and devoted service to the country they loved.” Julián Castro, the former HUD secretary and mayor of San Antonio, recognized “an admirable life of service to country.” Representative Beto O’Rourke of Texas tweeted about “his leadership, his decency & his essential kindness” and how he made “public service about country, and America’s responsibility in the world, less about party.”
Read: A kinder, gentler Republican president is dead
No friendship between former presidents from different parties can exceed that which existed between Bush and the Democrat who sent him to an early retirement in 1992, Bill Clinton. The two eventually built an exceedingly close personal relationship that was made possible by Bush’s graciousness. When Clinton entered the Oval Office for the first time as president, he found a note from the outgoing president with a heartfelt message. It concluded, “You will be our President when you read this note. I wish you well. I wish your family well. Your success now is our country’s success. I am rooting hard for you.” While in office, Clinton sometimes sought his predecessor’s advice. And as is often the case with ex-presidents, their relationship continued to deepen once both had left the White House. They united in purpose, leading fund-raising efforts after the 2004 Asian tsunami and Hurricane Katrina the next year.
“It speaks to the character of both men,” George W. Bush said of that friendship in 2014. “Bill Clinton treated Dad with great deference and Dad has become a friend of his.” Andy Card, who served in the elder Bush’s administration and returned as 43’s chief of staff, once said: “They have become really great friends; in fact almost like family and that’s like a jealousy for the rest of the Bush kids. They think they got this other brother named Bill Clinton.” In recent years, the Democrat tried to visit H.W. annually, often bringing the colorful socks that he loved to wear. They had a long lunch last year between the elder Bush’s hospitalizations and, it turned out, shortly before Barbara Bush passed away. Calling theirs a father-and-son relationship is probably a saccharine oversimplification, but they were genuinely close.