Trump salutes Bush at U.S. Capitol

US President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump pay their respects as US President George H. W. Bush lies in state in the Rotunda of the US Capitol in Washington, DC on Monday. - AFP

US: US President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania paid their respects Monday to late President George H.W. Bush, whose remains lay in state in the US Capitol.

The Trumps made a brief visit to the Capitol rotunda, where Bush’s flag-draped coffin was resting as part of tributes to honour the 41st US President and commemorate his extraordinary life.

Bush died peacefully Friday at age 94, at his home in Houston, a passing that led Americans to reflect on his life of duty and service to country as a leader of the so-called “Greatest Generation.” Only the second President to see his son follow him to the Oval Office, the Republican stalwart is being honoured with four days of commemorations and services in Washington and in Texas, where he will be buried Thursday.

Trump is scheduled to attend a state funeral service Wednesday at the Washington National Cathedral -- the first Presidential funeral since Gerald Ford died in 2006.

President Trump was driven from the White House up to Capitol Hill on Monday.

With the First Lady at his side, Trump saluted, and they stood at Bush’s casket for about a minute.

Bush never warmed to Trump, and he had let it be known that he did not vote for him in 2016. Trump himself has criticized the elder Bush on the campaign trail.

But on Monday, Trump wrote members of Congress to hail Bush as a man who “led a life that exemplified what is truly great about America.” “President Bush worked selflessly throughout his long life to bring about a world of justice and lasting peace,” he wrote.

Bush was a decorated World War II fighter pilot, onetime ambassador to China, former head of the Central Intelligence Agency, and vice president to Ronald Reagan before winning the White House.

Military pallbearers carried the flag-draped casket into the rotunda as a fiery sunset bathed Washington in a glow.

The somber ceremony was attended by his son George W. Bush -- the nation’s 43rd President -- and other relatives, dignitaries and more than 100 members of the House and Senate.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell lauded Bush -- who occupied the White House from 1989 to 1993 -- as a patriot who steered the country as straight as he had piloted his World War II airplane. Bush is the 12th US President to lie in state in the rotunda. Just three months earlier, the honour was accorded to senator John McCain, a former Republican presidential nominee who died of brain cancer.

Hundreds of members of the public began quietly filing in to the Capitol late Monday to pay their final respects. Bush will be honored at a state funeral service at the cathedral on Wednesday, which Trump has declared a national day of mourning.

Bill Clinton will be among the living US Presidents to attend, along with dozens of foreign leaders including Germany’s Angela Merkel.

Former Canadian prime minister Brian Mulroney said he would deliver one of several eulogies, at Bush’s request.

On Thursday, Bush will be interred at the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library Center in College Station, Texas, next to his wife Barbara, who died in April, and their daughter Robin who died of leukemia at age three. House Speaker Paul Ryan alluded to that political setback in his Capitol remarks and said Bush handled defeat with grace.

“He was the first President to teach me that in a democracy sometimes you fall short -- and that how you handle that is just as important as how you win,” Ryan said. - AFP



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