tv U.S. Senate Sen. Rob Portman R-OH Remembers President George H.W. Bush CSPAN December 5, 2018 2:39am-3:03am EST
the senate was in session to his area lawmakers share their thoughts on the 41st president. we take a look at some of their speeches from the senate floor. mr. president, today i want to talk about the loss of a great american. i want to talk about george h.w. bush. i was just watching on c-span coverage of what was going on in the rotunda right now and there
were hundreds of people crowded around the casket, paying tribute to this great man. they'll be there all night. friends of mine from ohio are here in town who never met him but knew of him and are inspired by him. we're all inspired by him. george bush did it all. he was a war hero, youngest naval pilot at age 18, shot down over the pacific. he was the last president, by the way, to serve in combat. he was also a member of the united states congress and proud of that. prior to that, a successful business leader in texas. he was an ambassador to the united nations. he was c.i.a. director. he was envoy to china, the first one. he was vice president of the united states, and he was president, of course, during one of the most momentous times in our nation's history. what a life. in his absence our country is losing a lifelong patriot, a
guiding voice, and really the embodiment of the very best of america. for me, president bush was also my mentor. i was very blessed early in my career to have been able to work for him. he brought me into his white house when i was a young man trying to figure out my way in life, and i would not be in this crazy business of politics but for him. not just because he gave me opportunities to work for him but because he showed me that you could do this work of public service and politics with honor and dignity and respect. he showed that nice guys can finish first. he showed that his approach, kinder and gentler, as he would call it in 1988, was something
that indeed you could achieve here, even in the halls of congress. so i have a special reason to be so grateful. also so sad about his departure because i relied on him for advice and counsel, and he rarely give it proactively. but when asked, he always had the wisdom of years and the judgment that so many of us will miss so badly. he took a chance on me as a young lawyer from cincinnati, ohio, to come into his white house as associate counsel to the president. he then took a chance on me to join his legislative affairs team to be director of the white house office of legislative affairs. to be frank, i was not particularly qualified for either job. i had only worked on the hill briefly as an intern. i was not nearly as distinguished as the other members of the legal team who had been mostly supreme court
clerks. but it made me work all the harder to try to earn his respect. he didn't just give me a job. he taught me about being a leader, a public servant, being a better husband and father. he showed me what servant leadership meant, what it looked like in practice. and i try to work every day to live up to that example. one of the most decent and honorable people i've ever met, politics or otherwise. he saw himself as a servant. that's what motivated him. he saw him satisfies a public certificate -- he saw himself as a public servant. that sense of service, duty, and patriotism was why years later after a successful business career he decided to put it on the line, run for the united states congress. by the way, i've noticed this week there's been a lot of
discussion about all of his successes, and there are so many. but one thing people might forget is that he was also resilient. he had setbacks in his life. certainly the death of his beloved daughter robin at the young age was one. but he ran for the senate race in texas and lost. he didn't give up. he was resilient, he was tough. when he was asked to serve as u.n. ambassador, he took up that task because of his devotion to service. when he was asked to chair the republican national committee during a particularly tough time for the republican party -- not a task most people wanted to take -- he took it on. when he was asked to become the first envoy to china -- again a big challenge -- he knew it was the right thing to do for the country. and, of course, at the c.i.a., he stepped into a difficult
situation. morale was low and he turned things around. when he was appointed as c.i.a. director, there had been a lot of hearings here on capitol hill. they were called the church hearings. the c.i.a. was under fire, big time. and morale was low. it was a difficult period. he stepped in precisely because of that. and during his tenure at the central intelligence agency, he made the c.i.a. stronger, he built a special bond with the employees, he put some reforms in place that were important. widely credited by everyone as having restored a sense of pride in that important agency. i'd heard that repeatedly. and when i got elected to congress in 1994 -- by the way with the help of president
george h.w. bush and barbara bush, both of whom came to speak and helped out on the campaign by just lending their good names. barbara bush even did a radio ad for me that i think is probably the reason i won. she was probably the most popular person in america at the time. but when i got elected, i looked at the c.i.a. complex in northern virginia -- then called langley; it is still in langley, virginia. i had not heard from everyone. and i had heard from so many about their respect for him, career people. people who had worked there for years had proposed naming the c.i.a. after him and proposed legislation after him in 1999. today that headquarters has been renamed under that legislation, the george bush center for intelligence. i remember being at the ceremony when him when the naming was changed and just the love and respect that he had from the
people at that agency. i remember him telling stories, including stories about why he took the job and how much he respected the people there and the work they did and how in many respects they were on the front lines for all of us. i remember stories being told about him including one i will never forget, which is that directors for years had gone into the c.i.a. and then taken their own private elevator up to their office, which makes sense. it's a big job. george bush wouldn't take that private elevator. he insisted on going on the employee elevator every morning. why? as he said to me later, because i wanted to hear what's going on, hear from the employees, hear from the officers. but i think it was more than that. i think it was because he wanted them to know he was part of the team. that was his approach to everything he did. vintage george bush. he did it with grace and dignity, bringing people together, working in a
bipartisan manner, stood for what he thought was right, but he understood that other people had other points of view and respected that. he carved out an interesting role as vice president of the united states, unprecedented in terms of his ability to work with the president, work with the cabinet, work with foreign leaders. ronald reagan was there, of course, during autism intense international politics when -- during a time of intense international politics when the cold war was coming to an end. as george bush said during president reagan's funeral, he learned more from ronald reagan than inhe had encounter in you will after his years of public service but he also served ronald reagan well. as president, then george bush was responsible for taking this end of the cold war and being sure that it worked well, not just for us but for so many millions of people around the world. he led our country through some
great change there, not just the end of the cold war but the berlin wall came down. i was working for him at thest, and i -- at the time, and i remember the excitement about it and the sense that he should give a boastful speech and talk about how america had finally prevailed. he was hesitant to do that. he didn't want to spike the football in the end zone. instead, what he wanted to do is ensure that transition was handled properly. the reunification of germany was a very controversial issue. he knew it would be in the interest of the world to reunilateral nigh east and west germany, but he did it carefully, diplomatically, with respect. he knew that mikhail gorbachev was in a tough position and so he handled the fall of the wall and, more importantly, the transition in eastern europe and central europe -- again -- with
diplomacy and with respect for gorbachev and the people, the millions of people who were affected. of all the major events in which he played a role as commander in chief, i think that in some respects was the most important one. if you go to eastern europe or western europe today or central europe, all of them have a positive view of george bush and the role he played and america played during that time period. maybe the most well-known role he played as commander in chief was desert storm. there he showcased his abilities not just as a president but a president who had served in combat himself. he understood the need to bring people together. in this case, other countries. to ensure a successful result. think about this. over 40 countries were involved in desert storm. hundreds of thousands of troops, all to stop the aggression of
saddam hussein in the middle east. he knew saddam hussein had to be stopped. it was within his moral fiber that he couldn't sit back and watch one country move into a smaller country, take over in this case the country of kuwait. so he knew there had to be decision by america to lead this incredible coalition of countries all around the middle east and the world. but he also knew that he had to get the american people behind him. i remember at that point i was director of the white house office of legislative affairs. our job was to ensure that we could support the president up here on the hill. a lot of people were giving hadn't advice not to seek approval from congress for that conflict. the fear was that congress would say no. there was a lot of pushback. and the consensus was it had to be done. but george bush believed that it was important to involve congress, for two reasons. one, he believed in the
institutions of our democracy. he believed congress played an important role. second and maybe even more important to him, as a world war ii vet, he wanted to get the american people behind it. he didn't want to repeat what he viewed as some of the mistakes in previously conflicts, vietnam in particular where the american people were not with our troops. so he wanted us to go to congress to seek that approval, and it was a fight. i was up here on this very floor, the united states senate, trying to persuade people to do the right thing to ensure that saddam hussein could be removed from kuwait, people could have a chance in that country to find our own -- their own destiny. that vote was won by three votes, three votes if three members of the senate had voted the other way, we would not have received that approval. it was close. but as i look back on it, i must say george h.w. bush did the
right thing. of course, we won the vote which makes that easier, but the point is he insisted that we get the american people hyped that conflict, and it -- behind that conflict, and it ended up being not just a relatively popular military fight, which was successful, but one where the american people understood, because of the debate that happened here on the floors of congress, the house and the senate, what the stakes were. he never chose to do things just because they were easy. the easy thing would have been just to go ahead without seeking the approval of congress. he made his decisions on what he thought was the right thing to do, and that's the kind of man he was. there has been a lot of talk this week about his thousand points of light proposal. the thousand points of light foundation continues today, incredibly good work all over the country, people volunteering to help fellow citizens. he believed that everybody had a
responsibility and an opportunity to be part of the change that moves our country forward to a better and brighter future, and that's what points of light was about. that resonated with so many americans and continues to spur action and encourage cooperation, and people give up their time, their service. i do think, though, it's just as important to have some bright guiding light as it is to have the thousand points of light, and that's what he provided. he was the guiding light, as an example for all the rest of us. throughout his incredible life, he didn't just tell us what it meant to lead, to serve others, or to be guided by what is right. in fact, that was not his style. it was certainly not to lecture. he didn't consider himself a great philosopher. he led by example. he showed us.
and, again, i will be forever grateful for that. he was also a person who put a lot of value on people and on relationships. he believed, quite simply, that building and strengthening relationships was incredibly important to building trust, which meant people could come together to solve problems. it meant that you could achieve consensus more importantly. he put that to work here in the congress, being his liaison to congress was relatively easy because he had so many friends. even though he had only been here for a couple of terms, he had so many friends among democrats and republicans. relationship building was important to him. it was also important to him to be able to deepen the ties between nations, to create a stronger, safer, more prosperous world. if you think about it, whether it was gosh gosh who -- gorbachev who we talked about earlier who was his friend to the end or whether it was his
grandma from canada. i know tomorrow there are a number of heads of state who will be at the funeral. this helped us as a country by having those relationships and building those relationships with trust to be able to build a safer, less volatile world. he is known for writing these handwritten notes, and a lot of attention has been paid recently to the class and humility he displayed in the note that he left for incoming president bill clinton the day he assumed office where he wished him well. but it goes beyond that. he was personable and respected everyone. a lot of his friends were democrats. one example that i thought was striking was ohio congressman. i am from ohio. i knew of this congressman. a pretty liberal guy, a democrat. he was ashley from toledo.
he and barbara bush just before his term ended invited two couples over to the white house. lud ashley, democrat from toledo, and his wife were at that dinner. just another example of george bush reaching out, being a people person first. that aspect earned him a lot of goodwill on capitol hill across political parties. i have been in the habit since the 1990's of going up to maine to kennebunkport in the summer to visit president bush. sometimes with members of my family, sometimes alone, with friends. it's always a great visit. it's always an opportunity to talk about people, again, focusing on people. his questions to me were sometimes about policy and what was going on, but often it was about what do you think of that senator or that u.s. representative? what's he like? what's she like?
tell me about them. he was curious. and until the end, he was curious. i was with him in september of this year for our last visit. and although he wasn't speaking as much, he was curious as ever and asking questions. and of course, willing to give me a little advice, all of which i treasured. a few years ago, back in 2015, you may remember president bush had a health scare. he had fallen and broken a bone in his neck. he was in tough shape. i was headed up there for a visit. i had made plans to visit him before his injury had occurred, but once that happened, i thought i better do something a little different, a little special this time, so i got a baseball, and i wrote george h.w. bush, america's first baseman. i asked a couple of my
colleagues if they would be willing to sign it. folks, when people found out this baseball was going to george h.w. bush, everybody wanted to sign it. i got a get well card that was about this big, the biggest one i could find, and asked a couple colleagues if they would be willing to sign it. folks, everybody wanted to sign it. by the end of that process, we had about 95 signatures on that baseball and on that get well card. and why? because everybody wanted to be part of sending this message to the beloved former president. he loved it when i handed him the baseball. and of course he was very curious to see who had signed it. one of his questions to me, which was typical george bush, was to say did so and so sign it? and the names he recited were of some more partisan democrats here on the floor. one, as i recall, was whether harry reid had signed it. and sure enough, he had,
proudly. that made george bush so happy. his eyes shown. he smiled. and he knew that those messages of encouragement to him were heartfelt, and they were. finally, it's impossible to talk about george h.w. bush without talking about barbara pierce bush. they were a partnership. and what an example. for all of us. 73 years together. a true people. they put family first always. that has been a great lesson to my wife jane and me and our family to watch how they navigated this crazy political world we're in, and yet kept their family strong and together, and to this day, you saw the family yesterday, every one of those children and
grandchildren and now great grandchildren coming, loves and respects their grandparents, great grandparents. that unconditional support and love that george and barbara bush had for one another in a very equal relationship. barbara bush was feisty and opinionated, and george bush respected that and respected and loved her. but those relationships between family is what gave him so much strength, in my view, as much as anything. for him, it was always about family as the foundation. he was also a man of deep faith. he didn't wear it on his sleeve. but he believes. he believed that he was going to rejoin barbara, and to him, that was a blessing. he also believed that he was going to see his daughter robin who they lost way too soon.
that was a blessing. as we mourn the death of president george h.w. bush, we can find comfort in knowing that he has been returned to those beloved family members. jane and i send our condolences to the entire bush family and to his many, many close friends. at the close of this truly great american life, this guiding light, let us honor his legacy by following his example of patriotism, public service, and civility. goconsent to vitiate the quorum call. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. cruz: mr. president, i rise today to honor the life and legacy of president george herbert walker bush. this week american hearts are heavy as we bid farewel