Donald Trump has ordered American flags to be lowered to half-staff to mourn the passing of the 41st president, George H.W. Bush, who died on Saturday, KRQE-TV (Albuquerque) is reporting.
Trump, who is in Argentina for the G-20 summit, issued a proclamation that all flags must be lowered to that position and remain so for 30 days, in keeping with tradition.
“I invite the people of the world who share our grief to join us in this solemn observance.”
The tradition of lowering flags to half-staff (or “half-mast” if referring to a flag on a sailing vessel) dates back to the 1600s and is used internationally as a symbol of mourning (or in some cases, distress or something else entirely). In the U.S., federal laws give the president the power to issue an executive order dictating that flags be lowered to half-staff, and for how long they must remain so.
In the case of the death of a sitting or former President, tradition dictates that the flags be kept lowered for 30 days, a tradition going back at least as far as the death of Gerald Ford, if not earlier. The law also gives the president the power to order flags lowered to half-staff for the deaths of other notable Americans, or in times of national distress (such as following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks), for a length of time according to his discretion.
— Jill Piggott (@JillPiggott) December 1, 2018
Throughout his presidency, Donald Trump has been short on opportunities to order flags lowered. In fact, prior to the death of George H.W. Bush, he only had one other such opportunity, and by some measures, he failed.
Back in August, as BBC News reported at the time, Trump caused significant controversy in the way he treated the issue of lowering the flag following the death of Arizona Senator John McCain. The two men, though both Republicans, had publicly and repeatedly clashed over policy and other issues, often to the point that Trump berated or belittled McCain publicly.
And when McCain died August 25, many Americans expected that the president would order the flags lowered to half-staff for a period of time, in honor of the Vietnam War veteran who had served in the Senate for four decades. Trump did indeed order the White House flags lowered to half-staff, but then they were re-raised the next day, after a much shorter period of time than what might have traditionally been expected for the death of such a prominent American. After getting some criticism, Trump ordered the flags lowered again.