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tv   U.S. Senate Sen. Rob Portman R-OH Remembers President George H.W. Bush  CSPAN  December 8, 2018 4:01pm-4:25pm EST

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[indiscernible] >> several senators remembered that the life of george h.w. bush this week as his remains were lying in state at the u.s. capitol. among those speaking on the senate floor were rob portman, dick durbin, amy klobuchar, and lamarr alexander. portman: today i want to
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talk about the loss of a great american. george h w bush. the rotunda right now there are hundreds of people crowded around his casket paying tribute to this great man. they will be here all day. all night. friends of mine from ohio are here in town who never met him but knew of him and were inspired by him. we are 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 to serve and can't -- and more time -- in war time. he was a representative. he was the head of the cia.
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he was vice president. and he was the president that one of the most momentous times and our country's history. what a life. he was 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. i would not be in this crazy business of politics if not for him. not just because he gave me opportunities to work for him, but he does 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.
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that his approach, kinder and gentler as he would call if the 1988, was something that indeed you could achieve here even in the halls of congress. i have a special reason to be so grateful. also so sad about his departure. i relied on him for his advice and counsel. he gave its proactively. when asked, he always had the wisdom of years and the judgment that so many of us will miss so badly. a took a chance on me as 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. i was not particularly qualified for either job.
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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. it just made me work all the harder to earn his trust and respect. he didn't just give me a job. he taught me about being a leader, a public servant, a better husband and father. he showed me what servant leadership meant. what it looked like in practice. i try to work every day to live up to that example. one of the most decent and honorable people i have ever met. in politics or otherwise. he saw himself as a servant. that is what motivated him. he saw himself as a public server when he signed up to be a young pilot flying dangerous missions.
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later, after a successful business career, he decided to put is on the line. run for the united states congress. i have noticed this week there has been a lot of discussion about all of his successes, and there are so many. people might forget that he was also resilient. he had setbacks in his life. certainly the death of his beloved daughter robin at a young age was one. but he ran for the senate twice in state of texas and lost. he did not give up. he bounced back. tough. when he was asked to serve as u.n.n ambassador, -- ambassador, he took up that task with service.
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the he was asked to become first envoy to china, he knew it was the right thing to do for the country. and at the cia, he stepped into a difficult situation. morale was low -- low. he turns things around. there had been some hearings here on capitol hill. the cia was under fire. morale was low. it was a difficult. . he made the cia stronger. he built a special bond with the employees. he put them some reforms that were important. widely accredited by everyone as restoring a sense of pride in that agency.
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i got elected to congress george with the help of bush and barbara bush, both of whom came to speak in campaign for me. even did a radio ad for me that i think is probably the reason i want. -- i won. she was probably the most popular person in america at the time. when i got elected, i went to langley. it was not named after anyone. so much about people's respect in the agency for him. namingsed the idea of the cia after hem and proposed legislation to do that in 1999. headquarters has been
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renamed under that legislation the george bush center for intelligence. i remember being at the ceremony with him when the naming was changed. the love and respect that he had from the people at that agency. i remember him telling stories about why he took the job and how much he respected the people there and the work they did. how in many respects they were on the front lines for all of us. i remember being told stories about him. directors for years had taken their own private elevators up to their offices. that makes sense. it's a big job. he would not take that private elevator. he insisted on taking the employee elevator. he told me he wanted to hear what was going on. hear from the employees. the officers. i think it was more than that. he wanted them to know he was
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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. doing what was right. he carved out an interesting role as vice president. terms ofnted in his working with the president,, foreign leaders. time of intense international politics, when the cold war was coming to an end. bush said at reagan's funeral that he learned more from ronald reagan than anyone he had encountered in all of his years in public service. he also served ronald reagan well. george bush was responsible for taking the end and being sure
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that it worked well. not just for us, but for somebody millions of people around the world. he led our country through some great change. the berlin wall came down. i was working for him at the time and i remember the excitement about it. the sense that he should give a boastful speech can talk about how. america had finally prevailed. he was hesitant to do that. he did not want to spike the football in the end zone. instead, he wanted to work that transition properly. germany wasation of a controversial issue. he did it carefully. diplomatically. with respect. he knew that gorbachev was in a
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tough position. so he handled the fall of the wall and the transition in europe with diplomacy and respect for gorbachev in the millions of people who were affected. major events in which he played a role as commander-in-chief, i think that was the most important one. today, allo europe of them have a positive view of george bush and the role he played in that time. . maybe the most well known role he played during commander-in-chief was desert storm. there he showcased his abilities not just as a president but as one who had served in combat himself. he understood the need to bring people together.
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over 40 countries were involved in desert storm. hundreds of thousands of troops. all to stop the aggression of saddam hussein. he knew hussein had to be stopped. it wasn't with us his moral fiber that he could not sit back and watch one country move into a smaller country. be aew there had to decision by america to lead this incredible coalition of countries. he also knew he had to get the american people behind him. thehat point, i was director of the white house office of legislative affairs. a lot of people were giving him advice not to seek approval from congress for that conflict. the fear was that congress would say no. there was a lot of pushback.
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the consensus was it had to be done. tobelieved it was important involve congress. he believed in the institutions of our democracy. he believed congress played an important role. as a world war ii vet, he wanted to get the american people behind us. theid not want to repeat mistakes of earlier conflicts such as vietnam when the american people were not with our troops. he wanted to go to congress to seek that approval. it was a fight. i was on this very floor trying to persuade people to do the right thing. would be that hussein removed from kuwait so people would have a chance in that country to find their own destiny. that vote was won by three
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votes. it was close. but as i look back on it, i must did the right we won the vote. he insisted that we get the american people behind that conflict. just ad up being not fight whichopular was successful, but one where the american people understood, because of the debate that happened here on the floor of congress, what the stakes were. he never chose to do things just because they were easy. the easy thing would have been to just go ahead and not seek the approval of congress. there has been a lot of talk this week about his thousand points of light proposal.
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the foundation continues today. incredibly good work all over the country. he believes that everybody had a responsibility and opportunity to be part of the change that moves our country forward. that is what points of light was about. it resonated with so many americans. and continues to spur action and cooperation. i do think it is just as important to have some bright guiding lights. that is what he provided. he was the guiding light. an example for all the rest of us. throughout this incredible life, he did not just tell us what it meant to lead, to serve others, or to be guided by what is right. that was not his style. lecture.
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and he did not consider himself some great philosopher. he led by example. he showed us. i will be forever grateful for that. he also puts a lot of value on people and relationships. he believes that building and strengthening relationships was incredibly important. he put that to work here in the congress. being his lies on to congress was relatively easy because he had some a friends. among democrats and republicans. relationship building was important to him. it was also important to be able to deepen the ties between nations. whether it was gorbachev, who
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was his friends to the end, or mulroney from canada. i know tomorrow there will be a number of heads of state who will be there at the funeral. this helped us as a country. building those relationships of trust. building a safer and less volatile world. was known for writing handwritten notes. a lot of attention has been paid to the class he showed when he bill clinton. to he was personable and respected everyone. a lot of his friends were democrats. one of the examples i found striking was the ohio congressman from toledo.
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their relationship transcended politics. they were good friends. just before his term as president and the, him and barbara bush invited democrats over for dinner. another example of george bush reaching out and being a people person first. that aspect or him a lot of goodwill on capitol hill across political parties. i have been in the habit of going up to maine to visit him. some time members of my family. sometimes alone. it is always a great visit. a great opportunity to talk about people. focusing on people.
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he would tell me to tell him about people. he was curious. i was with him in september of this year for our last visit. although he was not speaking as he was curious as ever. and asking questions. and willing to give me a little bit of advice. in 2015, he had a health scare. he broke 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. once it happened, i thought i had to do something special. and i wrote,seball
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h.w. bush, america's first baseman." and i asked some people to sign it. when they found out it was going to him, they all want to design and -- sign it. by the end of the process, we had about 95 signatures on that baseball and a goodwill -- get well card. everybody wanted to be part of sending this message to the beloved former president. he loved it. he was very curious to see who had signed it. questions was did so and so sign it?
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the names he recited were of some more partisan democrats here on the floor. he asked if harry reid had signed it. and he had. proudly. that made him so happy. he smiled. he knew that those messages of encouragement to him more heartfelt. finally, it is impossible to talk about george h.w. bush without talking about barbara bush. they were a partnership. what an example for all of us. 73 years together. a true team. they put family first. always. that is been a lesson to me and my family.
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to watch how they navigated this crazy political world we are in and yet kept their family strong and together. you saw the family yesterday. everyone of those children and respectsdren loves and their grandparents. that unconditional love that they had for one another in a very equal relationship. barbara bush was feisty, opinionated. he respected that. he loved her. those relationships between about thee foundation. he was also a man of deep faith. believed that he was going to rejoin barbara.
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to him that was a blessing. he also believes that he was going to see his daughter robin who they lost way too soon. that was a blessing. as we mourn his death, we can that hefort in knowing has been returned to those beloved family members. and i send our condolences to the entire bush family and to his many close friends. truly great of this american life, this guiding light, let us honor his legacy by following his example of patriotism, public service, and vility.ty -- ci >>


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