Former President George H. W. Bush got the last laugh on President Donald Trump by inviting him to attend his funeral this week, where he could not be the center of attention. As GOP strategist Rick Wilson explains, it was a brilliant final act of a life dedicated to public service.
After all, Trump was not on Twitter the whole day whining and lashing out. He was effectively restrained on Wednesday because he had to sit in a church pew and at least pretend to be respectful.
“For that, we can thank the late former president Bush, no fan of Trump,” Wilson wrote in an op-ed for The Washington Post. “By insisting on his successor’s inclusion in the proceedings, Bush forced the current White House occupant to briefly abandon his unfrozen cave-man act, denying him the chance to further debase the office of president by siphoning the dignity out of 41’s final hours in D.C. — something 45 likely would have relished, given the opportunity.”
Indeed, not inviting Trump was certainly an option, and it’s not like Bush did not have plenty of reasons to ban Trump from setting foot inside the National Cathedral. Trump repeatedly attacked Bush and his sons former President George W. Bush and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush.
Former First Lady Barbara Bush never forgave Trump for these attacks, which is why she banned him from her funeral this past April.
But George H. W. Bush refused to give Trump a free day at a golf course. Instead, he forced him to attend an official function full of tradition all while Bush’s friends and family delivered tributes that acted as rebukes to Trump simply because Trump is such a horrible person and a terrible leader.
“Trump might have half-expected, if not outright welcomed, such a rejection, as it would have given him an opening to abrasively tweet about the Bush legacy, employing Trump’s patented Twitter formula: insulting nickname, distracting punctuation, malapropism, logical fallacy, self-own, hit send,” Wilson wrote.
But in his final wishes, the late former president put the dignity of the office and, by extension, the nation’s dignity, above all, knowing that the passing of a president is a rare occasion and, even in passing, any chance to demonstrate honor and decorum would provide a welcome contrast to this divided political moment.
Lacking a snub from which to pivot, Trump did the only thing he could do as a member of the now-five-member living president’s club: He issued an appropriate official statement on Bush’s passing, largely steered clear of the week’s Bush remembrances and showed up for the funeral at which he had no speaking role.
It had to have been torture to Trump, Wilson argued, because he wasn’t the center of attention. This day was not about him and trying to make it about himself would have been disastrous. But, again, the nation watched as Trump had to see person after person deliver a eulogy praising Bush’s military service during World War II, his commitment to NATO, his major role in negotiating NAFTA, and his leadership.
Trump dodged the draft during the Vietnam War, frequently attacks NATO, is trying to rebrand NAFTA to take credit for it, and has displayed an utter lack of leadership skills.
“Trump saw himself eclipsed by the memory of a superior man and his anti-statesmanship outshined by the disdained values of a presently defunct GOP, whose passing we collectively view with increasing regret,” Wilson continued.
A president who nurtures only his ego saw people from both parties turn out to honor a president who understood the line between partisanship and pragmatism. Trump, a man who exists in a purely transactional bubble, had to sit and listen to stories of friendships that spanned decades, a loving marriage that began before Trump was born, Bush’s commitment to family and his total comfort with the person he was. As to this contrast, the record doesn’t whisper; it screams.
“He knew exactly what he was doing by opting not to exclude Trump from his funeral; he controlled the uncontrollable,” Wilson concluded.
It’s a fitting final gift to the nation and the American people Bush risked his life to defend and spent decades serving in public office.
Americans witnessed what a real hero and president looks like and Trump witnessed the memorial service he will never receive.
Featured Image: Screenshot