Former President George W. Bush said the lasting legacy of his father’s impact on the presidency is the “office is more important than the man,” something that’s “really one of the most important things for Americans to understand.”
“And therefore, one of the jobs is to strengthen the institution of the presidency, bring honor to the office. And that clearly George H. W. Bush did,” Bush told CBS in a series of recent reflections on the 41st president aired tonight on 60 Minutes.
Bush Sr. passed away Friday at the age of 94 at his home in Houston. The city is planning a Monday night memorial event in front of City Hall to honor the late president, led by Mayor Sylvester Turner and featuring the Houston Symphony, gospel singer Yolanda Adams, country music star Clay Walker and the Gatlin Brothers.
Bush’s casket will be flown to Joint Base Andrews on Monday, and his body will lie in state at the U.S. Capitol through Wednesday. That morning is his funeral at Washington National Cathedral, where he will be eulogized by Bush 43, former Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, former Sen. Alan Simpson (R-Wyo.) and historian Jon Meacham.
His body will then be flown back to Houston to lie in repose at St. Martin’s Episcopal Church, where Barbara Bush’s funeral was held in April. On Thursday, his casket will travel by train to the George Bush Presidential Library and Museum to be interred next to Barbara and their daughter Robin.
Bush 43 said Bush 41 looked better to people over the years because “that’s the way time works.”
“I think he’s gonna go down as the greatest one-term president ever, because of his foreign policy, deftly handling the end of the Cold War, for example, reunification of Germany,” he said.
Former President Obama told CBS that he especially admired Bush Sr.’s foreign policy.
“All those things could have gone haywire at any point,” Obama said of the fall of the Berlin Wall and end of the Cold War. “And the restraint, the caution, the lack of spiking the football that they showed was, I think, an enormous achievement.”
“He was a good reminder that as fiercely as we may fight on policy and on issues, that ultimately we’re Americans first,” Obama noted. “And that kind of attitude is something that I think a lot of people miss.”
Former President Clinton, who denied Bush 41 a second term, called his former rival “a world-class human being, in my book.”
“And our friendship just got better. And in a world where everybody’s just guttin’ each other all the time, I thought it was a good thing to show,” he said.
Bush 43 was asked what, when it was his turn to occupy the Oval Office, kinds of things his father would say to him.
“‘I love you.’ And, you know, as corny as that sounds to some, it is the most important words you can hear in life,” Bush said. “You don’t hear a lotta people say ‘I love you’ when you’re president.”
Bush said that he and his father are uncomfortable with the notion of “legacy” because “it’s kind of self-serving.”
“One of the things about his presidency is that he followed a big figure in presidential politics, Ronald Reagan. I mean, Ronald Reagan cast a giant shadow. And he should. I mean, he’s a transformative president,” Bush added. “And secondly, historians tends to focus on two-term presidents. and so I feel really good about — people, if they analyze not only his accomplishments but his character, they’ll say, ‘Job well done, George H.W. Bush.'”