I have been collecting my thoughts on the passing of President George H. W. Bush. The death of any former president is a big deal. It is a small club who have served in that exalted office and we can’t help but mark the march of history, reflecting on where our nation is and where it once was. It was to be expected that this particular death would be amplified by the fraught political prism in which we find ourselves.
I would venture that most of the avalanche of articles, columns, and tributes to President Bush carry an explicit or implicit comparison with the current president. We see allusions to service, temperament and a distant vision of the Republican Party. Amidst the encomia there have also been some who are critical of the late president, focusing particularly on the Iran Contra scandal, the first Iraq War and domestic policies.
One cannot serve for as long as Mr. Bush did and in the positions, he held without amassing a record that would be subject to debate. I saw his presidency in real time through the lens of journalism. What we reported is part of the historical record, and I will leave it to historians to put his public life into a broader context.
I will always honor a life of service. And my condolences go out to the Bush family, the women, and men whom he loved deeply and who loved him back. I mourn the passing of a time that he exemplified when politics often rose above partisanship. I mourn for a time when men of privilege felt duty-bound to serve their country in war. I mourn a time when our Constitutional transfer of power between administrations of different parties was handled with grace and when those who fought in pitched political battles could still reach out to each other as fellow citizens bound by our common humanity.
Many say that the era of President Bush has long since passed. That is in many ways obvious, but that’s true for all eras of history. We are at a perilous place today, but we have been through many before. Mr. Bush, blessed with a long life, lived and served through many moments where the future of our nation and world seemed destined to be bleak. I trust, however, that he never lost faith in a notion that we can once again summon up our better angels. Optimism is part of the American character and we can use this moment of reflection to renew the call for a better and more just nation.
And so, with all this in mind, Rest In Peace President Bush. You served our country well.