Ex-Bush Chief of Staff Sam Skinner on 41: ‘classiest person you will ever meet’
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WASHINGTON — Former President George Herbert Walker Bush’s state funeral will be held Wednesday at the majestic National Cathedral, months after mourners gathered at the same place for Sen. John McCain’s sendoff, which turned into a stinging rebuke of President Donald Trump, who was not invited to attend.
Trump, crass. Bush, class. Do I even have to say more? Trump is invited to Bush’s funeral. Illinoisans who served in the Bush 41 administration are here, former Labor Secretary Lynn Martin, an ex-Illinois House member, and Chicago attorney Sam Skinner, a former Bush chief of staff who also served as his Transportation Secretary.
Bush was “the classiest person you will ever meet,” Skinner told me. “He never, ever would want to not have all the presidents and the vice presidents there. He never held a grudge, never had a mean bone in his body. So this was obviously what he wanted and it’s the right thing to do.”
The funeral will be led by Chicago-born Most Rev. Michael Curry, presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church.
It will be a contrast to the Trump-slapping McCain Sept. 1 service, because Bush wanted it this way.
Kinder, gentler. These are words forever associated with Bush.
The day will be a tribute to Bush, who died Friday at the age of 94 in Houston.
Bush, the 41st president and the father of the 43rd, is making a statement by including Trump in the presidents club, an enduring example of taking the high road, a route mostly unknown to Trump.
“I just think that that’s who he is and that’s what he’s been like,” Ed Murnane told me. Murnane ran Bush’s 1988 Illinois campaign and went on to serve in the Bush 41 White House. “And it doesn’t surprise me. I think he feels or felt that there can’t be any petty bickering.” That 1988 presidential election, by the way, was the last time Illinois went Republican.
The service will have implicit drama not of Bush’s making. Trump, still intent on locking her up, will be within feet of Hillary Clinton. Bill Clinton’s friendship for Bush, his one-time rival, is a lesson in reconciliation. Former President Barack Obama, a regular Trump target, and former first lady Michelle will attend.
Presidents and spouses are seated together, in one section. That’s respect for the office of the presidency. During the McCain funeral we saw how former President George W. Bush slipped a mint to Michelle Obama, a relatable friendship bridging political divides.
Trump has been decent to the Bush family since the death of 41. Trump and first lady Melania paid a condolence call to the family Tuesday at the Blair House, the presidential guest house across the street from the White House. While Wednesday will be a day of bipartisan coming together for Bush, I am guessing that it will not have any lasting impact on Trump, because nothing so far has.
Perhaps, though, Wednesday may make a difference for other Republicans, who have gone along with Trump’s reckless disregard of presidential norms.