Jeb Bush expressed hope Tuesday that those mourning his father’s death as “the end of an era” will be wrong.
Speaking at a Wall Street Journal event ahead of Wednesday’s memorial service for his father, former President George H.W. Bush, the former Florida governor and presidential candidate remembered his dad as “the most generous, kind person you’d ever meet.”
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George H.W. Bush’s health declined greatly in his last two years of life, Jeb Bush said, but “he never complained” and poor health never stopped him from enjoying a martini with former Secretary of State James Baker — even in the hospital, even at 10 in the morning.
“His later years were defined by not retiring,” Jeb Bush said of his father’s post-presidency, adding that he wished older Americans would follow his father’s lead of living a “purposeful” life after retirement.
“This is a time to celebrate George H.W. Bush, not to grieve his loss, and that’s what we’re doing as a family right now,” he said, telling the audience that his dad will be surrounded inside his memorial service and around the world by his “legions of friends.”
“It’s a good time to be his son,” he added.
Jeb Bush largely avoided discussing the tense relationship his family has had with the current occupant of the White House, saying that President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump have been “gracious” to his family, and that when Trump called him and his brother George W. Bush, “he couldn’t have been nicer.”
To those suggesting Trump was snubbed by not being offered the chance to eulogize the 41st president, Jeb Bush pointed out that “we have a unique circumstance here — my brother was president.” That meant Bush 43 had “first dibs,” but Jeb Bush joked that his mother, Barbara Bush, who died this past spring, will be looking down and “about ready to slap George” if he goes on too long.
Jeb Bush did address the growing partisan divide in politics, telling the audience that his father represented a “kinder, gentler” political discourse in contrast to the more tribal political landscape today. “Politically, it’s not winning, but that’s not to say we shouldn’t restore it,” he added.
He said that the “contagion” hadn’t spread as far as Washington may think, but joked that he could just be more hopeful because he doesn’t visit the nation’s capital as often.
Rather than a more divided culture stemming from more partisan politics, Jeb Bush said, today’s political landscape reflects a more divided, coarser culture. He said he’s not surprised “we don’t have the same sort of camaraderie” as his father’s generation. “We’re in silos,” he lamented.