George HW Bush invited Donald Trump to his funeral because he didn’t want to “stiff” a sitting president, says a presidential historian who knew the 41st president personally, Yahoo News is reporting.
Douglas Brinkley, a Rice University history professor and author, says that Bush Sr.’s beliefs on Donald Trump were complicated, at best (more on that in a few paragraphs). Nevertheless, he revered the office he used to hold, and for that reason, he believed that to deny a sitting president a place at a former president’s funeral would have been untoward.
“For Bush 41, Trump is the president, and he does not want to stiff a sitting president, so in his own way, it is magnanimous that he is having Melania and Donald Trump come.”
That magnanimity is in stark contrast to the lack of it that has been shown by other Republicans who have died while Trump has been in office. For example, when George HW Bush’s wife Barbara Bush died in April 2018, Donald Trump famously did not intend; first lady Melania Trump attended in his stead.
That was a deliberate choice, says Brinkley.
“The cruder aspects of Donald Trump — the mean Twitters and the name calling — [Bush] found that gauche, and that is why Barbara Bush did not want Donald Trump at her funeral.”
Sully H.W. Bush, a yellow Labrador service dog who worked with the late former President George H.W. Bush, will be traveling with Bush's casket on his flight to Washington, DC https://t.co/WBwh3z5OY0 pic.twitter.com/ITNAxWwbrG
— CNN (@CNN) December 3, 2018
Similarly, when Arizona Senator John McCain died in August, the family of the long-serving Republican, who had publicly clashed with Donald Trump multiple times, very clearly requested that Trump not attend his funeral, as Roll Call reports.
But for George HW Bush, things are different when a former president dies, even when that former president didn’t always see eye to eye with a sitting president.
As for Bush 41’s own relationship with Trump, it was complicated.
On the one hand, says Brinkley, the elder Bush found Trump’s use of his job as a bully pulpit to be disrespectful to the office.
“I think that [Bush] had such respect for the institution of the presidency that Trump annoyed him because he was trying to divide the country at times.”
Nevertheless, Bush 41 was also as dyed-in-the-wool as any Republican before or since, and that meant that he tried to support Trump for the sake of the GOP. That was especially true during the contentious nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. Though dogged by accusations of sexual misconduct, Bush 41, and his son Bush 43, fervently supported Trump’s nominee to the post.
George HW Bush’s funeral is scheduled to take place on Wednesday.