President Trump will attend George H.W. Bush’s funeral Wednesday at Washington National Cathedral. The family wants to keep things cordial. The Washington Post reported Monday that in inviting Trump to the funeral this summer, the Bush family gave the president assurances that the service would be devoid of anti-Trump sentiments. “The comparisons are presenting themselves; we are not heightening them,” a person familiar with the preparations told Post. Another added that Bush “wouldn’t want anyone there to feel uncomfortable, including the incumbent president.”
This was certainly not the case with the September funeral of John McCain, to which Trump was not invited. The late senator had a far more contentious relationship with the president than did the elder Bush, and though Trump was not referred to explicitly at McCain’s memorial service, those who spoke didn’t do much to disguise their disgust with the current state of politics. According to the Post, many in the White House, including the president, were upset about the tone of McCain’s funeral. Though Wednesday’s service may not be so politically charged, it isn’t because of a sterling relationship between the president and the family of his two most recent Republican predecessors.
Trump mocked the elder Bush as recently as July, struggling to decipher the late president’s famous “thousand points of light” line used as a call for civic duty in the United States. “Thousand points of light? What the hell was that, by the way?” Trump yelled at a campaign rally in Montana. “Thousand points of light? What did that mean? Does anyone know? I know one thing: Making America great again, we understand. Putting America first, we understand. Thousand points of light! I never quite got that one. What the hell is that? Has anyone ever figure that one out? And it was put out by a Republican.”
Trump has also derided Bush’s family. He belittled Jeb Bush mercilessly during the 2016 campaign, and suggested that George W. Bush was responsible for 9/11. “The World Trade Center came down during your brother’s reign, remember that,” Trump reminded Jeb during a debate. “That’s not keeping us safe.” Trump has also said that it would have been “wonderful thing” if George W. Bush had been impeached, while bashing him for invading Iraq. Though Trump hitched much of his presidential candidacy to his supposed opposition to the invasion, he told Howard Stern in 2002 that he supported it.
Funeral invitation now in hand, the president has gushed about Bush since he died on Friday. He even canceled a G-20 press conference “out of respect” for his family, although it’s unclear how the Bushes would have been offended by the president speaking with reporters in Argentina. On Monday, he capped a morning of witness tampering by noting that he was “looking forward to being with the Bush Family.” Hours later, the president and first lady visited Bush’s remains at the Capitol Rotunda. As often happens whenever Trump visits the dead or families of the dead, the White House produced a sizzle reel of the Respectful President.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 4, 2018
Though Bush’s funeral isn’t likely to include any underhanded jabs at the president or the corrosive state of politics he represents, it’s going to be a near-Herculean task for Trump to sit still for a prolonged period of time at an event that has absolutely nothing to do with him. Maybe W can pass him some hard candy to keep him occupied.