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tv   CNN Newsroom With Fredricka Whitfield  CNN  December 1, 2018 8:00am-9:00am PST

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good morning. welcome to live coverage of the life and death of president george h.w. bush. i am john king in washington. >> i am dana bash in houston. today we honor the life of the 41st president, george herbert walker bush. he died late last night at the age of 94.
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months after his wife's death. he is known as a war hero. to those close to him, his most important role was family man. he was a father to six and has 17 grandchildren. his love story with barbara bush is one for the ages. in his last years of life, the former president said he was never scared of death. >> doesn't scare me. used to. when i was a little kid, thinking about dying, scared. you get older, larry, you don't think about it, i have too much to do, too much to live for, too much happiness. no regrets about anything. no regrets about one single thing in my life i can think of. i made mistakes, but they don't measure up to regrets now. >> you may remember a few months ago the touching cartoon of barbara reuniting with her young daughter in heaven. after barbara bush's death,
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there's now a new drawing. george h.w. bush joining them both, his plane atop the clouds, with the words we waited for you. joining me, special correspondent jamie gangel. you spent so much time with his family over the years, one of the few that would understand how robin stayed with the bush family decades after her death. they always considered her part of the family, long after she was gone. what are we learning this sad day? >> obviously for the family, even though he has been sick a long time, had health challenges from parkinson's, in and out of the hospital, this is a very, very sad day. i think that even though they knew that his health was failing, you know, we all have denial about these things and he had rallied so many times. and also his spirit is extraordinary. his family and staff would play a game. how are you feeling, one to ten.
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he was never less than a seven. he always had extraordinary spirit. up until the last, he wanted to go on. he said to me not too long ago, jamie, i am going to live to maybe 102 or 104. so it is a hard day, though not unexpected. he was surrounded by some of his family. a lot of people say they're best friends, but james baker and his wife were that. >> the closest friends if you go back. jim baker, part of something you reported on extensively, the legacy of this president. underestimated president in many ways. >> extraordinary. one of the things, we have tape. we have a whole documentary tonight with those closest to
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him and a lot of former presidents, former supreme court justice clarence thomas. i think we have tape to look at of his legacy. george h.w. bush may have sat in the oval office for just four years, but his legacy will last for generations. in foreign policy. >> this will not stand, this aggression against kuwait. >> bush's coalition in desert storm was unprecedented, uniting nearly 40 kuncountries, ending conflict in weeks. a play book for all presidents that followed. >> you want to know how to fight a war, look how george bush fought the first gulf war. >> it ended on his watch without a shot taken or bomb dropped. >> he didn't gloat because it would not be in his nature to gloat at someone else's
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misfortune. >> that same diplomatic restraint shown when the iron curtain collapsed. >> on the day the berlin wall came down, we all went over to the oval office to tell president bush that he had to go to berlin. i wanted him to go to berlin. >> and he said? >> he said what would i do, dance on the wall? he said this is a german moment. i thought the president of the united states just stepped back. this is a german moment. >> i think he deserves credit for getting the world off in the right direction at the end of the cold war. the cold war being over was not an excuse to pack up and go home, it was an excuse to build a new world of cooperation. time will prove that he was right in wanting an integrated, cooperative world of strong security but lots of predom, lots -- freedom, lots of
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democracy. >> on the domestic front, bush is credited for improvements to the clean air act and signing the americans with disabilities act, critical legislation that revolutionized access for millions, including bush himself when he suffered from parkinson's in his final years. >> back -- that community holds him as a hero. there are liberal advocates that advocated for the movement, but my grandfather got it done. it is changing the culture how people with disabilities can shine and let their abilities shine and have jobs in places they might not have jobs. i think that's an awesome legacy. >> another legacy many will remember bush for this. >> you don't have to sit around drooling in the corner, get out and do something, enjoy life. >> bush did that, jumping over
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and over and over again, even for his 90th birthday. >> i think the reason he did it is because he has a young heart and that it's the thrill of the jump. and wunls once he did it the fi time, became a natural for the next four, five times. >> while bush 41 disliked the word dynasty, no question he was thrilled when his oldest son became the 43rd president of the united states. >> he felt a sense of pride and i was grateful for that. i was happy that he was happy. >> did he give you any advice? >> no. and he was guarded about giving me advice, unless he asked for it. >> for many, bush 41 will long be remembered for what he did after the white house. >> the family legacy isn't about who is president or first lady or governor, the family legacy
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is the legacy of service. >> he turned a campaign vision into a post presidential mission statement. >> i want a kinder, gentler nation. like a thousand points of light in a broad and peaceful sky. >> that call prompted millions to volunteer. and bush and wife barbara did their part too, helping to raise an estimated $1 billion for charity. >> it does fit my dad's philosophy that the definition of a successful person is not just about how much money you make or the ws in your column, it is about helping others, it's about acting on your heart. >> is there a phrase that you think embodies him? >> i would say it is service above self. >> a legacy that led him to receive the highest civilian award in the united states, the presidential medal of freedom. >> his life is a testament that
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public service is a noble calling. we honor george herbert walker bush for service to america that spanned nearly 70 years. >> a lot of the kindness, jamie, of the former president played out behind the scenes. you have inside information on a phone call, his son win-- wins presidency, and he calls al gore. >> he was the first person to reach out to al gore, after he conceded the recount, not to gloat, but he himself knew how painful it was to lose. and he said that to al gore. and i'm told it was -- it's never been really discussed publicly, a very emotional moment. classic george h.w. bush. >> classic without a doubt. fantastic reporting. jamie will be here through the day. new statements in from chief justice john roberts.
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saying i am saddened to learn of the passing of george h.w. bush. he was an extraordinary and fundamentally decent man. it is with sadness we learned of the passing of president bush. i was honored to be nominated by him to the united states court of appeals. he and mrs. bush were the essence of decency and kindness through the years. we extend thoughts and prayers to the bush family. dana? >> and president bush leaves behind not only a rich political legacy but he was a war hero, devoted husband, patriarch to an american family dynasty, a man born into wealth who spent his life in public service. i want to bring in jeffrey engle, founding director of the center for presidential university at southern methodist university, author of several
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books on the life and legacy and career of george h.w. bush, including the latest book, when the world seemed new. thank you so much for coming here. you talked last hour about the incredible amount of history that he helped guide the first half of his only term. you had an important and unique insight into the man as somebody that was a co-author, and you interviewed him for your own books about him. take us behind the scenes on what it was like. >> everybody that worked with president bush would say fundamentally the same. he was fundamentally a gentleman. he thought about other people, thought about what other people might need. he was not necessarily a prima doen awe. we were in the pool, and
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realized we didn't have towels. who would walk up and say do you need towels, carrying them. carrying a stack of towels, wanted to make sure we had what we need. friendly and nice. >> you talked about his humility. you were working with him to extract stories and information that probably contradicted the dna he has, not to be braggadocious, heard that word so many times this morning, was it hard to get him to talk about something? >> it was hard, and for another reason, george bush lived his life through friends. he used to talk about when somebody became a friend, they were always a friend. the bush christmas card list was 25,000 people long. started to work on it in january to be sure it was ready to go by december. therefore, when you talk to the president about people he had political rivals with or foreign
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adversaries in many cases, once they had become a friend, moved into a different category, michae mikhail gorbachev, he found it friends now, we're friends now. >> getting him to talk about how his dog milly had more important policy experience than bill clinton was probably different by the time you got to him. talk about his resume. we're in houston. he represented this area in the house. several decades ago. tried to get a seat in the senate a couple of times, was defeated, then did so many things, and his resume, modern day, we think of this president, vice president, maybe the father of a president, it is so rich. >> i think you can argue he has the single best pre-presidential resume of anybody in the oval
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office. just start ticking it off. not only a congressman, director of the cia, ambassador to united nations, he was director of republican national committee and then as you mention vice president for 8 years before coming into office. had an incredible wealth of experience. he ran for the senate in the late '60s, trying to turn texas red. this was still a blue state. he was trying to be on the van guard, didn't quite make it. that set up the rest of his life. he went to the united nations after that and really learned at that moment that he loved diplomacy. if he had not lost that election, we wouldn't have the diplomat, might have had the senator, but not the man that learned to think about the international system. >> when he lost, it was richard nixon that sent him to the united nations. >> yes. nixon and he were quite close. nixon and he were correspondents through the 1960s, even when some didn't want to deal with richard nixon after his loss for
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the governor's race in california, and nixon came to bush who was a congressman at that time and said if you run for the senate, i will make sure if you don't get it, you'll be fine. we'll get you something. he asked at that point to be once bush lost, asked to be treasury secretary. nixon said you're not qualified. but instead why not think about the united nations and what's interesting, bush's best qualification for united nations in 1970 was that he didn't know anything about diplomacy, therefore he would be willing to do what henry kissinger wanted him to do. that moment that bush was willing to make that deal, do exactly what i need to do, because it was a chance to learn. >> it is amazing to hear stories about how single decisions, things change. he wasn't treasury secretary, he was ambassador to the u.n. and opened up the world to him and changed the way the world worked. thank you so much.
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get back to you later today. join cnn tonight as we honor the life and legacy of george h.w. bush. we begin at 8 eastern with a special report remembering 41. >> coming up from his life in the navy and beyond, george h.w. bush left an indelible mark on many lives he touched. up next, we talk with one of his former speech writers about their time and work together.
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welcome back. we are remembering the life and legacy of george h.w. bush, the 41st president of the united states has died at the age of 94. he passed away overnight in houston after several months of declining health. a little more than seven months after wife barbara's passing at
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age 92. during his acceptance speech for the republican nomination in 1988, he delivered a touchstone phrase that would become his volunteer foundation. >> i want a kinder and gentler nation. like a thousand points of light in a broad and peaceful sky. >> joining me now, mary cape kerry, speech writer. thank you for joining us today. let's talk about the thousand points of light convention speech. he got some pressure to take it out. tell us about that. >> i wish i could take credit for that speech, i think that was one of his best, certainly one of his best delivered speeches. great peggy noonan worked with him on that speech. he put in that line about a thousand points of light. there was a fair amount of
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pressure from campaign leadership to take it out, and they thought it was a nice thought but not something that was hardcore campaign sort of sentiment, and he kept it in and used it again in his inaugural address, and then as time went on, he said more and more times inviting young people to join him in a life of meaning and adventure through service to others. one of the things i was instructed to put in just about every domestic speech i wrote for him was from now on in america, no definition of a successful life others. it is written in marble now on
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the outside of his presidential library. that's how important it was to him. >> that's right, not too far from here in houston. as the speech writer for this man, he was open about the fact that being an orator. >> he would be the first to say he was not the greatest orator. we had a meeting with speech writers in the roosevelt room, he told us this story when he was vice president he fwot ingoa limo with president reagan to go to an event. in the limo, one of his aides handed reagan the speech cards for the event, and the president flipped through them, made a few
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notes, said thank you very much. and president bush said is that the first time you're seeing it? he said yeah. and he thought this is not going to go well. they got to the event, president reagan hit it out of the ballpark. now president bush sits with us and says never think you can do that with me. please do not do that with me. i want all speeches 48 hours in advance so i can sink my teeth into them and practice. and we abided by that. there were many times where he would tell us to tone down some of the speeches that were a little more emotional. for example, if he had to go meet the remains of soldiers coming in to dover, delaware, he would often take down the speeches, he knew he would get emotional and start crying. president reagan was able to do it because of the nature of his background where he could get through emotional stuff more easily. part of it was because president
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bush served his country as a soldier. i think as an airman, that effected his emotions when he was dealing with people that have given their lives for the country. >> let's be honest, it is because the bush men cry. there's nothing wrong with that. thank you so much. >> my pleasure. >> and president bush's legacy is marked not just by the many lives he touched but how he shaped the republican party. still ahead, how that legacy is still being felt today. how different it is today. and outgoing republican house speaker paul ryan tweeted about president bush was a statesman. in our sadness we express deepest condolences to the bush family. we give thanks to god for the life of this patriot. - [narrator] meet the ninja foodi,
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♪ read my lips. no new taxes. famous, infamous words from president george h.w. bush at the 1988 republican convention where he accepted the party's nomination. those words would later come back to haunt him. some would say he believed it cost him the bid for re-election
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when he broke it. dav david, help us on this sad day, put this president into context. the last one term president, first vice president since martin van buren elected to the presidency. his old congressional seat flipped to the democrats in texas, and would george h.w. bush have a played in today's republican party? >> that's a very interesting question. i don't think he would be nominated in today's republican party. and it is questionable whether ronald reagan would have been nominated in today's republican party. it has taken an extreme turn to the right. as you know so well, john, there was a split in the republican party that developed at the beginning of the 20th century when teddy roosevelt went off with a moderate wing and taft stayed on the conservative side. went through the century with
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moderates represented in 1940, and eisenhower was an east coast lead establishment kind of group to george bush's father, prescott bush who had enormous influen influence on george h.w. bush. again, almost got rid of nixon for prescott bush. in the reagan white house, it was conservatives that took control of the party, and george h.w. bush was in a wing of the party that was beginning to decline. when he ran in 1988, he had conservative opposition, and to keep the conservatives on his side he made that pledge. read my lips, no new taxes. it was basically a bow to the conservative, but it was a terrible mistake in retrospect. he looked himself in, when the deficits started growing so much, he felt obliged for the
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sake of the country to break that promise. and breaking that promise did cost him the election in 1992. re-election. >> it did, and yet, you don't see it often in years since i would argue someone that was willing, knowing he might cost himself his career to do something he thought was best for the country. a life of contradictions. economics degree from yale. and the knock was he didn't understand the country was in the middle of a recession. talk about timing as a transitional figure. in part was he not in some ways unfamiliar with changes in our culture, tv age, that infamous moment in the clinton, perot debate he looked at his watch. put george h.w. bush into context. >> george h.w. bush belonged to a different generation, it didn't boast or hold itself forward. his mom told him you can't do that. and he came out of this
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tradition and that shaped everything he did so that he was not who wanted to have a fight. you talk about restoring civility, he is the perfect example of the kind of model we ought to have about that. but increasingly he belonged to an older generation. and impart am part of an older generation, we don't click as well as 25 years ago with younger generations, don't understand the references, musical references and all of that. i admire that in george h.w. bush. i think he was true to himself. he was authentic through his life. >> david gergen, appreciate your thoughts. you'll be with us through the day. from political rivals to long time friends, president george h.w. bush and clinton had an unlikely friendship. more on that just ahead.
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and some of mine look at it and say just the same thing, what are you doing with clinton? and just because you run against someone does not mean you have to be enemies. politics does not have to be mean and ugly. >> this morning, we honor the life and legacy of president george h.w. bush. that, what you just heard, is case in point. one of the most complex, remarkable relationships in president bush's life was with president bill clinton. on clinton's inauguration day in 1993, he came across this handwritten letter from bush at the white house. it reads dear bill. when i walked into this office just now, i felt the same sense of wonder and respect that i felt four years ago. i know that you will feel that, too. i wish you great happiness here. i never felt the loneliness some presidents have described. there will be very tough times, made even more difficult by criticism you may not think is fair. i'm not a very good one to give
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advice, but don't let chris imcompeten -- critics discourage you or push you off course. you will be the president when you read this note. i wish you well, i wuish your family well, your success now is our country's success. i am rooting for you. president clinton wrote an op-ed in "the washington post," calling his relationship with george h.w. bush one of the greatest gifts of his life. here is anderson cooper with more on the two men that went from political adversaries to close friends. >> incident 1992 presidential election, they were bitter rivals. >> character counts. you cannot make the white house into the waffle house. you cannot, you cannot flip flop on all these issues. >> and the up start governor. >> when there is no national
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vision, no national leadership, no national direction, a thousand points of light leaves a lot of darkness. >> hard feelings from the election of 1992 had begun fading several years when an international disaster brought two former presidents together. the day after christmas of 2004, catastrophic earthquake struck near indonesia, setting off tsunamis that killed nearly a quarter million people. two million more in 14 southeast asian countries were displaced. >> i asked two of america's most distinguished private citizens to head a nationwide charitable fundraising effort. >> when george w. bush asked his father to reach across party lines along with bill clinton, little did he know he was creating one of the most unlikely friendships in politics. they toured the disaster area, got to know one another. >> i enjoyed working with president clinton. we were political adversaries,
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the current president and he don't always see eye to eye on issues. that's not what's important. what's important is this trying to help people. >> mutual admiration was clear for all to see. >> should have seen him going town to town, country to country, energizer bunny here would kill me. >> later, hurricane katrina brought the former presidents together, this time raising money to help their fellow americans. former president bush's book, published letters all the best gives deeper insight into that bush, clinton friendship. >> may all of the democrats forgive me this close to the election, i love george bush. i do. >> after that 2006 remark at an awards ceremony, bush wrote to clinton, i so appreciated your words about our relationship, about our friendship. it was from your heart. i hope you know i feel the same way. >> they have become really great friends. almost like family. >> clinton joked about it at the dedication of george w. bush's
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presidential library. >> starting with my work with president george h.w. bush on the tsunami and the aftermath of katrina, people began to joke that i was getting so close to the bush family, i had become the black sheep son. >> american politics at its best, one time rivals, working, laughing together, helping others. anderson cooper, cnn. >> it was a remarkable relationship. want to take you to buenos aires, argentina. president trump at the g20, meeting with angela merkel moments ago, discussing his grief at the passing of george h.w. bush, and a conversation with his son, george w. bush. >> have you spoken to president george w. bush? >> yes, i have, and jeb also. and i expressed deepest sympathies. angela and i were just talking about it. he was a wonderful man. you may want to explain your little meeting with him. i found it very interesting.
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>> i was in white house, visiting george bush, and he is the father -- >> we extended our best wishes, and otherwise, he was a fine man. i met him on numerous occasions. he truly loved his family. one thing that came through loud and clear, very proud of his family, very much loved his family. he was a terrific guy. he will be missed. and he led a feel life and exemplary life too, i will say. we have decided we're going to have a big press conference, i look noord forward to, we made progress with many nations. we were going to have a great press conference. out of respect for president bush, we have cancelled it here
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and we'll have it back in washington at some time in the near future, sometime after the funeral service. >> do you regret comments about the bush family in the past? >> thank you very much. >> president trump there and angela merkel paying tribute to george h.w. bu george h.w. bush. you remember the arrival of president trump in the 2016 campaign. you heard angela merkel talk about his role in the reunification of germany. when we come back, president bush left a lasting legacy in the united states and around the world. a closer look how he shaped the new world order next. >> i am pleased to announce that at midnight tonight, eastern standard time, exactly 100 hours since ground operations commenced and six weeks since the start of operation desert
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welcome back to cnn's special coverage of the incredible life of america's 41st president, george h.r. bush, who passed away here in houston at the age of 94.
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>> from the end of the cold war to the war in the persian gulf. for a practical approach to foreign policy. david miller who served under both democratic and republican administrations. cnn's jill dougherty who covered the white house for cnn. and cnn global affairs analyst susan glasser who in the moment is writing a biography of james baker. you call president bush a president of a different age, even maybe from a different gal laxy. >> in the end, it comes down to character. let me tell you a quick story. i'm a young intelligence analyst covering lebanon. phone ring, white house sit room, hold. next thing i hear, i know you're busy. i read one of your memos on lebanon. i've got a lot of questions.
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15 minutes later, i'm off the phone, thinking to myself this guy knows what he doesn't know and he's in a hurry to find out. it's curiosity and humility. those two things are m.i.a. these days. it's a sad time but it's a reminder of what character and the leadership and presidency is all about. >> in the cable business, we often focus on what a president does. as you work on the baker buyography, one of the things many people don't understand is what didn't happen as a result of his presidency. everyone's wondering what's going to happen in the world. and nothing happened. that's part of the legacy, isn't it? >> well, that's right. >> the world changed completely. nothing bad happened. >> george h.w. bush did not want to spike the football. that was his phrase. at the end of the cold war. he understood very much the cost of the peaceful break you-up of
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soviet union was so much more important than american triumphantism. also, he was a huge believer in actual diplomacy, in working with allies and partners to bring that to a soft landing. since i was looking at president trump, it's not that he's unbush, which he is, but in many ways the anti-bush when it comes to foreign policy and unilateralism. this is not something that guided america through the end of the cold war. >> jill, to that point, president h.w. bush did not dance -- spike the football, as susan puts it. also, he didn't try to embarrass gorbachev as this was happening. as gorbachev was allowing the soviet union to splinter. and then bush had to deal with the rather unpredictable boris
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yetten. >> his understanding of how difficult it was for gorbachev was crucial. no triumphantism. that was very important. december 25th, 1991, gorbachev sits -- steps down from the presidency, the end of the soviet union. i was standing at the front lawn doing a live shot on that very day, and thinking why was george bush able to manage that? he had personally extraordinarily great experience. and he also created an amazing national security team. he knew the structure of government. and these people coming together were able to manage what was the biggest threat, the end of the soviet union, and the reunification of germany.
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that i think is an enormous accomplishment. >> dana, join the conversation from houston. >> i'm just listening to jill. i remember when i first came to cnn, you were a white house correspondent and you had covered the 41st president. also you had this unique perspective. in the fact you were moscow bureau chief, you were a russian expert, you speak russian. from that perspective, talk about how the 41st president managed this in a way that, you know, it didn't have to turn out this way. it could have turned out, as john was eluding to, very, very different, perhaps very bloody end of the cold war. >> right. well, i think, you know, bush had the experience also as cia director. and so he knew intimately what the soviet union had. the disposition of its weapons. how it could fall apart. so, again, structurally, he knew
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the facts. and then also his death diplomacy, you know, toward the end, he actually let gorbachev know that some of the harder comments he made about russia and the soviet union were not what he wanted to do. he wanted cooperation. he wanted to make this. i think that understanding that gorbachev had and the respect those two men had right at the end for each other was crucial. i was looking what putin today said. he called -- he mentioned the political wisdom of george bush, the balanced decisions and also the constructive dialogue. i think what putin's saying there is, you respected us. if there's one thing that motivates putin right now to be very trunkuland, it's the sense of not being respected. as someone put it, dance on top of the berlin wall and rub it
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in. so that diplomacy, the personal nature and then the knowledge was very important. >> fascinating. jill dougherty, susan glasser, aaron david miller, thank you. we'll be right back. alright, i brought in ensure max protein...
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...to give you the protein you need with less of the sugar you don't. [grunting noise] i'll take that. 30 grams of protein and 1 gram of sugar. ensure max protein. in two great flavors. thank you for being with us. you're watching special coverage
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of the life and death of president george h.w. bush. i'm john king in washington. >> i'm dana bash in houston. >> the 41st president died late last night at the age of 94, just months after his wife's passing. he's being remembered as a humble man with a young heart, an accomplished politician on many levels. from congressman to vice president to president. >> and president trump just spoke about the passing of george h.w. bush at the g-20 summit in argentina going on right now. >> mr. president, have you spoke to president george h.w. bush? >> yes, i have and jeb also. i expressed my deepest sympathies. he was a wonderful man. >> president trump went on to say he led a full life and a very exemplary life. former presidents are

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