It seems CNN could not refrain from taking a dig at President Donald Trump even as he paid his respects to former President George H.W. Bush.
The president and First Lady Melania Trump made a solemn visit to the Capitol Rotunda on Monday night where Bush is lying in state after he passed away on Friday at the age of 94.
Historian Jeffrey Engel cautioned against giving Trump any credit for his gesture on “Anderson Cooper: 360,” suggesting “thoughtful and careful” consideration of how to “interpret” his actions.
CNN host Anderson Cooper noted that the president was “following through” on traditional protocol, citing a previous comment by former White House adviser David Gergen who spoke about Trump providing Air Force One to carry the former president’s remains on Monday from Texas to Washington.
Trump approved the same mode of transport for the 41st president going back to Texas for another service and his burial on Thursday. Trump also extended an invitation to the Bush family to stay at Blair House, the official guesthouse across the street from the White House, as has been traditional.
But Cooper’s points did not impress panelists Monday who took exception to the host’s suggestion that Trump was, perhaps, trying to “mend fences” with the Bush family.
“He’s not one to mend fences. I think he’s doing this because he feels he has to do it and I’m also assuming that General Kelly has had a big hand in it,” one guest told Cooper Monday after watching the Trumps pay their respects. “That said, I can’t help but wonder if there was a thought bubble over Donald Trump’s head just now, what he was thinking as he stood there.”
“I have to imagine he was thinking how much longer do I have to stand here?” Engel snarked.
Cooper noted that Trump will be in attendance at the funeral service on Wednesday at Washington National Cathedral. And though he will be seated in the front row alongside former presidents Barack Obama, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter, Trump will not be delivering the eulogy which will come from Bush’s son, former president George W. Bush.
“Traditionally a sitting president would give a eulogy for a former president. Obviously that is not going to take place,” Cooper said.
“I think we need to remember the historical precedent, that a sitting president in the room is typically given the honor of addressing the crowd, any crowd to be honest,” Engel concurred.
“I think we need to be a little bit thoughtful and careful about how we interpret what President Trump is doing here,” he added. “David Gergen just mentioned we need to give him credit for not tweeting out nasty things about President Bush. I’m concerned that we shouldn’t give credit to someone for not kicking dirt on the grave of a person who just passed away.”
The Bush family reportedly expressed that Trump would be welcome at the senior Bush’s funeral despite a history of disagreements and comments made by both sides. The focus during the funeral will be on the former president’s life and the family has no intention of taking things to the nasty level that was seen at the funeral of the late Sen. John McCain in September.
Gergen, who served under the administrations of Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, and Bill Clinton reiterated his point on CNN, however. Calling on a more fair assessment of Trump’s actions, he said that critics “shouldn’t question” his motives when he is doing what is expected of the president.
“I just say that when he does something like this, he does it in a solemn way, a gracious way. The family has been very grateful to him, the Bush family,” he said. “We shouldn’t question his motives. He’s doing it right. I think there are times when we should say, you know, he’s doing this one right.”
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