Bush’s presidential funeral train first in nearly 50 years
By WILL WEISSERT and DAVID J. PHILLIP
Friday, December 7
SPRING, Texas (AP) — The locomotive was painted to resemble Air Force One, but George H.W. Bush joked that if it had been around during his presidency, he may have preferred to ride the rails rather than take to the skies.
“I might have left Air Force One behind,” Bush quipped during the 2005 unveiling of 4141, a blue and gray locomotive commissioned in honor of the 41st president and unveiled at Texas A&M University.
On Thursday, that same 4,300-horsepower machine left a suburban Houston railyard loaded with Bush’s casket for his final journey after almost a week of ceremonies in Washington and Texas. The train then embarked on a slow roll to his presidential library in College Station, passing thousands of people who stood along the tracks. Many of them held up their phones for pictures and watched from highway overpasses.
One of the first small towns to greet the train was Pinehurst, where Andy Gordon, took his 6-year-old daughter, Addison, out of school so she and her 3-year-old sister, Ashtyn, could witness the moment firsthand.
“Hopefully, my children will remember the significance and the meaning of today,” said Gordon, 38. In Addison’s hand were two small American flags.
At one point, state troopers hovering in a helicopter ordered people to get off the tracks as the train approached. Some onlookers left coins on the tracks to be flattened into keepsakes.
More than two hours after departing, the train rolled to a stop in College Station, where Bush was laid to rest during a private ceremony next to his wife, Barbara, who died in April, and his daughter Robin, who died at age 3 in 1953. Family members, including former President George W. Bush, were also aboard the 12-car train that was greeted by student cadets and mourners upon arriving at Texas A&M University.
The train’s sixth car, a converted baggage hauler called “Council Bluffs,” was fitted with transparent sides to allow the mourners lining the tracks views of Bush’s flag-draped coffin. The train rolled past the flashing lights of firetrucks, some hoisting American flags from their ladders, and past state troopers who saluted from the side of the tracks.
It is the eighth presidential funeral train in U.S. history and the first since Dwight D. Eisenhower’s body traveled from the National Cathedral in Washington through seven states to his Kansas hometown of Abilene 49 years ago. Abraham Lincoln’s funeral train was the first, in 1865.
Robert F. Kennedy was never president, but he was running for the White House when he was assassinated in Los Angeles in 1968. His body was later transported to New York City for a funeral Mass and then taken by private train to Washington for burial at Arlington National Cemetery. Thousands of mourners lined the tracks for the 200-plus-mile journey.
Union Pacific originally commissioned the Bush locomotive for the opening of an exhibit at his library titled “Trains: Tracks of the Iron Horse.” It was one of the few times the company has painted a locomotive any color other than its traditional yellow. After a brief training session during 4141’s unveiling 13 years ago, Bush took the engineer’s seat and helped take the locomotive for a 2-mile excursion.
“We just rode on the railroads all the time, and I’ve never forgotten it,” Bush said at the time, recalling how he took trains, and often slept on them, during trips as a child with his family. He also called the locomotive “the Air Force One of railroads.”
Bush, who died last week at his Houston home at age 94, was eulogized Wednesday at a funeral service at the National Cathedral and again Thursday at St. Martin’s Episcopal Church in Houston.
The funeral train has been part of the official planning for his death for years, Bush spokesman Jim McGrath said.
Union Pacific was contacted by federal officials in early 2009 and asked, at Bush’s request, about providing a funeral train at some point, company spokesman Tom Lange said.
“We said, ‘Of course and also we have this locomotive that we would want to have obviously be part of it,’” Lange said. He noted that trains were the mode of transportation that first carried Bush to his service as a naval aviator in World War II and back home again.
Eisenhower was the last president to travel by train regularly. A key reason was his wife, Mamie, who hated to fly. During the 1952 campaign, Eisenhower traveled more than 51,000 miles and made 252 stops. And while he often flew, his wife rode the train the whole time, Union Pacific said.
Still, when Bush beat Democrat Michael Dukakis and won the presidency in 1988, both candidates used trains to make some campaign stops. Bush also occasionally traveled by train in 1992, when he was defeated by Democrat Bill Clinton, including making Midwest stops aboard a train dubbed “The Spirit of America.”
Weissert reported from Austin. Associated Press Writer Nomaan Merchant in Pinehurst, Texas, also contributed to this report.
See AP’s complete coverage of George H.W. Bush here: https://www.apnews.com/GeorgeHWBush.
George H.W. Bush’s overlooked legacy in space exploration
December 5, 2018
Wendy Whitman Cobb
Associate Professor of Political Science, Cameron University
Wendy Whitman Cobb does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
On July 20, 1989, the 20th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, President George H. W. Bush stood on the steps of the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. and, backed by the Apollo 11 crew, announced his new Space Exploration Initiative (SEI). He believed that this new program would put America on a track to return to the moon and make an eventual push to Mars.
“The time has come to look beyond brief encounters. We must commit ourselves anew to a sustained program of manned exploration of the solar system and, yes, the permanent settlement of space,” he said.
As a political scientist who seeks to understand space exploration’s place in the political process, I approach space policy with an appreciation of the political hurdles high-cost, long-term and technologically advanced policies face. My research has shown that policy change both in general and in space policy, is often hard to come by, something exemplified by the Bush administration.
Among Bush’s many political accomplishments, few recall SEI, probably because it was largely panned immediately following its announcement. However, Bush’s presidency came at a key turning point in NASA’s history and ultimately contributed to the success of the International Space Station, NASA leadership and today’s space policy. As the country mourns his passing and assesses his legacy, space should rightly be included on Bush’s list of accomplishments.
Vice presidential years
While presidents are usually the most closely associated with the American space program, vice presidents often play a vital role. As Ronald Reagan’s vice president, Bush was intimately involved with NASA throughout the 1980s. He visited the astronauts who crewed the second shuttle mission in 1981, commiserating with them about their mission which had been shortened. And, he often enjoyed speaking to astronauts mid-flight.
In a 1985 White House speech, Bush announced that teacher Christa McAuliffe would fly aboard the ill-fated Challenger. In the wake of the disaster, Reagan dispatched Bush to meet with the families at Kennedy Space Center given his ties to the mission. After a private meeting with the families, Bush addressed NASA employees at Kennedy and pledged the space program would go forward, a promise he kept as president.
SEI and the Space Station
Shortly after taking office, the Bush administration sought to provide a vision for NASA. Bush reinstated the National Space Council and, allied with Vice President Dan Quayle, developed the SEI to coincide with the anniversary of Apollo 11. With less than six months between Bush’s inauguration and July 1989, there was little time to flesh out specific deadlines or funding sources. What resulted was a vague promise to build a planned space station in the next decade, return to the moon and venture onto Mars. With this lack of specifics, the SEI aroused immediate suspicion from both NASA and Congress.
The SEI faced a number of political hurdles upon its announcement. But 90 days later, opposition to SEI grew exponentially when a follow-up analysis of the initiative revealed a 30-year plan with a half-a-trillion-dollar price tag. Then the discovery of a flawed lens on the Hubble Space Telescope after its launch in 1990, the massive cost overruns on what was then called Space Station Freedom (the program had grown from $8 billion in 1984 to $40 billion in 1992), and an economic downturn all combined to threaten overall funding for NASA. While Bush lobbied aggressively for the SEI, the program failed to receive support and was largely shelved.
But what emerged from the SEI was still significant. When Congress threatened to cut funding to and essentially end the nascent space station, the Bush administration pushed to save it. Although NASA’s overall funding was cut, Bush’s support and the rationale behind the SEI gave the space station enough continued importance that Congress restored $200 billion to the space station budget.
Finally, the moon to Mars framework has remained relevant in human spaceflight. George W. Bush’s Vision for Space Exploration, proposed in 2004, retained the same goals but grounded it with a clear timetable and budget. Proposing a moon-Mars program is nothing revolutionary, but the SEI kept the idea of an expansive exploration agenda alive.
One of most significant impacts a president can have on a bureaucracy is choice of agency leadership. In that area, Bush succeeded in placing his stamp on NASA for years to come. Bush’s first choice for NASA administrator, former astronaut Richard Truly, was out of his depth politically. Truly did not support SEI and other space initiatives and was fired in 1991, partially at Vice President Quayle’s urging.
Bush’s choice to replace Truly was Dan Goldin, who became NASA’s longest serving administrator, staying on through the Clinton administration. Characterized as one of the most influential administrators in NASA history, Goldin took on the job of finding more support for the space station. He convinced Clinton that it could be useful in foreign policy. As a result, Clinton used the space station as a tool to ease Russia’s transition to a democratic state. The International Space Station was launched in 1998 due in large part to the support from the Bush administration. Having hosted 232 people from 18 countries, the ISS recently celebrated its 20th anniversary.
More importantly, Goldin initiated a program known as “faster, better, cheaper” (FBC), which required NASA to do more with less by bumping up the number of lower cost missions. Although this mindset led to several high-profile failures, including a crashed Mars probe, Goldin successfully shifted NASA onto a more sustainable political footing. As a result, Bush’s choice of NASA leadership was crucial to the direction and success of American space exploration.
Space exploration is a difficult policy field. It requires long-term planning, consistent funding and visionary leadership, any one of which is difficult to achieve. Further, space policy is incredibly sensitive to overall economic dynamics, making it susceptible to continual budget cuts.
One can certainly debate the benefits of the International Space Station or the scientific value of human space exploration but, for better or for worse, NASA is the agency it is today because of the choices George H.W. Bush made as president. Ad astra, President Bush.
See No Evil, See No Good: The Truth Is Not Black and White
By Matthew Johnson
It is hard to watch TV these days without seeing reports pertaining to the recent death of the elder George Bush — former president, CIA director, and whitewashed war criminal. I call him a “whitewashed war criminal” because there are inconvenient truths that the mainstream media would rather ignore in favor of the usual hero worship that accompanies the death of a popular politician (see also: coverage on the death of John McCain or, even more egregiously, Richard Nixon). Sprucing up our departed politicians, disgraced or otherwise, seems to be a nod to our most respected civil discourse values, but it’s not a favor to the truth and the whitewashing only makes it more likely to happen again.
Perhaps the most inconvenient truth relating to war crimes of Bush the Elder involves Panama in 1989. Under the guise of protecting democracy, then-President Bush illegally invaded a sovereign nation that posed no threat to the United States, calling it “Operation Just Cause,” in order to remove its ruler — with disastrous results. The U.S. government acknowledges that at least 300 Panamanian civilians were killed, but other sources have estimated that as many as several thousand were killed with tens of thousands displaced. At best you could call it an overreaction to Noriega’s involvement in drug trafficking and a peculiar form of democracy promotion. The era of slaughtering civilians as acceptable collateral damage is over in the eyes of international law and simple decency. Bush could have resolved that contretemps without Panamanian children and other noncombatants dying.
At the time, Bush was facing criticism at home for being a “wimp.” Apparently, cutting civilians down removed that label and cleared a line of sight to his next adventure, into Kuwait and Iraq, where his forces engaged in a “turkey shoot”(the words of some of the aircraft gunners who mowed down defenseless fleeing Iraqi conscripts).
But those are simple examples from the George H. W. Bush White House years, a one-term run. What of the rest of his life? We’ve heard the encomiums, but the gaps and omissions that are not so flattering need to be a part of the record, if not harped on in the immediate time of a person’s funeral or memorial.
Bush was Nixon’s Chair of the Republican National Committee during the Watergate scandal, not a praiseworthy time for most ranking Republicans, and he committed some nefarious political acts in that role. His role in the war crimes committed by the Contra in Nicaragua is another very dirty, lethal episode, exposed briefly some 30 years ago.
So, please, yes, let’s be respectful at funerals and in first announcements, but when the truth is buried alongside the bodies it is of poor service to history, to American self-assessment, and to respect for the whole truth. We have little patience for Germans who deny their Nazi history, no fondness for Japanese who forget that they were brutal aggressors in the 1930s and ‘40s. We expect others to learn from studying both their accomplishments and their horrific mistakes. We can expect no less of ourselves.
Matt Johnson, syndicated by PeaceVoice, is co-author of Trumpism.
Trump presidency’s personnel turmoil stands in stark contrast to the ‘nice guy’ administration of George H. W. Bush
December 11, 2018
Professor of Political Science, College Emergency Preparedness, Homeland Security and Cybersecurity, University at Albany, State University of New York
Eric Stern has previously worked as a subcontractor for and received honoraria from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
University at Albany, State University of New York provides funding as a founding partner of The Conversation US.
John Kelly’s resignation as White House chief of staff makes him the latest in a long line of senior officials to leave the Trump administration.
That brings turnover of senior staff at the White House – excluding cabinet-level positions – to 62 percent, which is higher than the past six presidents at the same point in their administrations, according to the Brookings Institution. In addition, no fewer than nine secretaries out of 24 have vacated their cabinet positions.
If Trump has the highest churn of recent presidents, who had the lowest? George H. W. Bush, who died on Nov. 30. His administration had just 25 percent turnover of senior White House staff in the first two years of his presidency. In addition, not a single cabinet member left during that period.
The late Stanford political scientist Alexander George and I wrote about Bush’s management style as part of the 1998 book “Presidential Personality and Performance.”
Our analysis of presidents from FDR to Bill Clinton showed that Bush was notable not only for his own foreign policy expertise but for his kinder, gentler approach to managing his team, which led to exceptional collegiality among his staff. And I believe many of his foreign policy achievements came as a result.
Given the high turnover among team Trump, you don’t have to look hard to see the impact on America’s foreign policy over the past two years.
Impulsive shifts have been common, such as on policy towards North Korea, when Trump flipped from threatening “fire and fury like the world has never seen” to saying the regime is “no longer a threat” after a summit with the country’s leader – even though little changed.
Other policies were poorly prepared, inadequately coordinated or bungled when they were rolled out. For example, the travel ban, which initially attempted to block visitors from seven Muslim-majority countries, caused chaos when it was announced with little discussion among government agencies. And the administration’s zero tolerance immigration policy led to a massive outcry after thousands of children were separated from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border.
In-fighting among advisers and senior staff has been particularly intense, vicious and regularly leaked to the media. In fact, according to conservative Trump critic David Frum, no administration has ever been so prone to leaks.
In terms of turnover, the raw stat alone doesn’t fully convey the extent of the problem. In just two years, Trump has had three national security advisers, two White House chiefs of staff, two secretaries of State, two secretaries of Homeland Security and two CIA directors. He’s also had two FBI directors, two National Economic Council directors and soon will have two attorneys general.
It is important to note that while this pattern is certainly striking and concerning – an excessive churn of key officials can be disruptive – it is not unique. Similarly, most modern administrations suffer from internal conflict.
An exception was the first Bush administration.
A kinder, gentler approach
Bush’s national security and foreign policy team was notable not only for its substantial successes and effective policymaking but also for its loyalty, collegiality and relatively limited leaking.
As Bush biographer Jon Meacham put it, “The Bush foreign policy team operated with an extraordinary degree of harmony.”
In his entire term, Bush had only one national security adviser and one secretary of defense. His first secretary of state, James Baker, served three years before becoming White House chief of staff.
This harmonious team produced a string of major foreign policy achievements. For example, he presided with prudence and a steady hand over a profoundly turbulent and potentially dangerous time in international affairs, namely the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Cold War.
His team negotiated major reductions in nuclear arms, brought a reunified Germany into NATO over the objections of Russia and European allies and built a broad international coalition to eject Saddam Hussein from Kuwait.
What were the secrets of Bush’s success in leading his national security team? Based on my own research on presidential management styles, managing conflict in foreign policymaking and other research on leadership, a number of factors stand out.
Experience and expertise
George H. W. Bush’s career progression – which presidential scholar Tom Preston views as a key variable affecting Bush’s foreign policy performance – prepared him unusually well for the presidency, and especially for leading national security and foreign policymaking.
He served as a naval aviator during World War II, ran an oil company in Texas, served a term in Congress, was an envoy to China, spent a year as CIA director in the Ford administration and worked as Ronald Reagan’s vice president for eight years, all before being elected president in 1988.
Bush was knowledgeable about the issues and comfortable engaging in rough-and-tumble policy debates with his advisers inside and outside of government, as well as with foreign leaders. He respected and was respected by his advisers.
Network and chemistry
Bush developed and maintained a vast social network accumulated throughout his career, built the old-fashioned way through personal relationships. And he drew heavily on this network when he recruited his foreign policy team.
In other words, not only was he able to tap people who were highly experienced, well-regarded and competent for key positions, he also had prior personal relationships with many of them. They were both experts and “buddies.” Bush and James Baker shared a relationship that lasted the rest of their lives, with the latter visiting his friend on his deathbed.
These personal ties facilitated candid and critical exchange of information and views, which in turn contributed to effective exploration and solving of national security and foreign policy problems.
Collegiality among the principals
Bush expected his advisers to work together as a team. Competition and policy advocacy would be moderated by norms of collegial behavior and deference to his presidential prerogative to make the final calls.
Advisers were encouraged to develop and maintain good working relationships not only with the president but with each other and to refrain from toxic forms of bureaucratic political maneuvering and manipulation not uncommon in Washington. As described in the official State Department history, “Although intense policy differences occurred, a collegial approach to foreign policymaking was the norm, especially in the ‘breakfast group’ [that] met weekly to iron out problems that could not be resolved through the bureaucratic channels.”
The professionalism and generally collaborative approach of this team has been noted by many scholars.
In addition, open debate was encouraged before a decision was made – but after that, support was expected and generally received. Those who came out on the losing side of a debate received reassurance that they still had the president’s confidence.
Gentle leadership and loyalty
In his inaugural address in 1989, George Herbert Walker Bush famously defined the goal “to make kinder the face of the nation and gentler the face of the world.”
There are those who believe that nice guys finish last. However, the legacy, leadership style and foreign policy achievements of Bush strongly suggest otherwise.