Michigan Republicans and Democrats praised the life of former U.S. President George H.W. Bush on Saturday, describing him as compassionate, principled and willing to reach across the aisle in politics.
The 41st president of the United States died Friday night in Houston. He was 94. His wife of more than 70 years, Barbara Bush, died in April.
“He was a great person who served his nation not only in the military and as President, but as a role model for all of us. His commitments to family and country before, during, and after his presidency were inspiring,” Gov. Rick Snyder, who ordered the lowering of flags statewide for 30 days to honor the former president, tweeted Saturday.
Bush, a World War II veteran, former CIA director and international ambassador, was known for his role in ending the Cold War and driving Iraqi forces out of Kuwait during his 1989 to 1993 presidency. The Yale graduate and Texas resident saw his son, who bears the same first name as him, elected to the nation’s highest office in 2000 and re-elected in 2004.
Democrats, including both of Michigan’s U.S. senators, released statements showing respect for Bush’s service and leadership.
“We mourn the loss of former President George H.W. Bush and honor his lifetime of service to our country — as a Navy pilot in World War II, a diplomat, and a statesman who brought principled leadership to the world,” U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., said in a news release. “Our hearts are with the entire Bush family during this difficult time.”
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Bush was in Detroit on one of the most important nights in the city’s sports history. As vice president, Bush handed a baseball to Detroit Tigers Hall of Fame third baseman George Kell, who threw it for the first pitch at Tigers Stadium the night Detroit won the 1984 World Series.
“Autographing baseballs, hats and programs, the 60-year-old Republican attracted the attention of a packed ballpark and millions of Americans watching on television,” the Free Press reported Oct. 15, 1984.
Bush and his wife, Barbara Bush, spent time in Wyandotte and Dearborn in 1945 while he trained with his squadron at Grosse Ile Air Base, according an excerpt from her book, “Barbara Bush: A Memoir.”
Edward Haroutunian was a member of Michigan’s 17th Congressional District when he met Bush at the Republican National Convention in 1988.
“He was a guy who dealt with things with a middle-of-the-road point of view. He held many different titles that presented massive difficulties, and he dealt with issues as they arose as a representative of the United States,” Haroutunian said. “His credentials and personality were just outstanding.”
Bush was “certainly well-liked” by Michiganders because of his ability to bring civility to politics, he said.
“A lot of times people forget that the guy who made George H.W. Bush was (former Michigan Gov. William) Milliken,” Haroutunian said.
Bush ran against Reagan in the 1980 primaries — Bush won seven contests that year, and Michigan was one of them.
“Bill Milliken literally took Bush around the entire state of Michigan and promoted him significantly to the point that in Michigan that year, George Bush came ahead of Reagan in a two to one margin,” Haroutunian said. “It wasn’t enough in 1980 to do anything for his presidential (aspirations), but it brought an awful lot of delegates to the convention — which was in Detroit that year — and as a result, he became the vice presidential nominee.”
U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee, D-Mich., said in a news release that he first met Bush after a presidential debate in 1992.
“President Bush was as kind and generous then as he was later in life. As we celebrate his life’s accomplishments and mourn his passing, I know that President Bush and his wife of 73 years, the late Barbara Bush, are once again together now,” Kildee said.
Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel, formerly the chair of the Michigan Republican Party, released a statement Saturday.
“We mourn the passing of an American patriot, former President George H.W. Bush,” McDaniel said. “He stood for American strength and cared deeply for the American people, alongside his late wife Barbara. President Bush’s legacy of bold leadership, patriotism, and humanitarianism will live on long after his passing. We at the RNC are praying for the entire Bush family.”
Torion Bridges, second vice chair of the Wayne County Republican Committee and pastor of the Commonwealth of Faith in Redford, said his first-ever TV memory was of a speech Bush gave, which Bridges watched in his Detroit home.
“What I hear from my peers who have met (Bush) is that he was the same man you saw on TV,” said Bridges, 31. “He was down to earth, he was caring, he was loving, he was a perpetual servant and the last of a dying breed. He was truly loyal to America’s values.”
Contact Omar Abdel-Baqui: 313-222-2514 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @omarabdelb. The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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