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Former President George W. Bush eulogizes his father as 'the brightest of a thousand points of light'

Noah Bierman and Sarah D. Wire, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

The world's most exclusive club -- Presidents Donald Trump, Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter -- attended, rubbing elbows for the first time since Trump was inaugurated in January 2017 after a bitter campaign in which he criticized nearly every one of them.

All of the living first ladies attended the service at Washington National Cathedral. Rosalynn Carter, who had been expected to miss the event, was able to make it.

Trump attended the funeral but has not been asked to speak. He is the first sitting president not to make the speakers' program at the funeral of a predecessor since President Richard Nixon failed to eulogize Lyndon B. Johnson in 1973.

Trump sat somewhat awkwardly in the front row among the other presidents, shaking hands with the Obamas when he arrived as the Clintons stared coldly ahead.

When President George W. Bush arrived a few minutes later, he shook hands with each of president and first lady, and appeared to fish for a piece of candy to give to Michelle Obama.

Although Trump often criticized the elder Bush, as well as his sons George W. and Jeb, the family deliberately avoided using the funeral to make a political statement against him. Trump was excluded from Sen. John McCain's memorial service at the same cathedral in September.

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Since Bush's death Friday at age 94 at his home in Houston, Trump has showered his family with condolences and offered tributes to his public service.

On Tuesday afternoon, Trump and first lady Melania Trump exchanged embraces with the Bush family at the Blair House, the president's official guest quarters. Trump has granted them use of Air Force One, as the plane is known when the president is aboard, for transporting the casket.

Despite those efforts, comparisons between Trump's muscular "America first" nationalism and Bush's call for a "kinder, gentler America" inevitably have dominated some of the news coverage.

The former president was eulogized by his son George, the 43rd president, along with former Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney; Alan Simpson, a former senator from Wyoming; and Meacham, a historian who wrote "Destiny and Power: The American Odyssey of George Herbert Walker Bush."

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