tv U.S. Senate Senators Lamar Alexander R-TN John Cornyn R-TX Remember... CSPAN December 5, 2018 4:30am-5:02am EST
he lived to be 94 and was active and vibrant almost to the end. i think a number of us have had the opportunity to serve as governor with both of his sons and to know them as friends and as leaders of our country. so the legacy of their dad lives on through the children that he and barbara helped to raise. but we miss his personality, we miss his warmth and good humor. we miss his affection, and we miss his leadership. and i hope that our colleagues, certainly me, i hope that we can learn from the example and learn again over and over again from the example that he set. do the right thing. do the right thing even when it's not easy. with that, tennessee. a senator: thank you, mr. president. the presiding officer: the senator from tennessee. mr. alexander: i'm delighted to
hear the senator from delaware, my friend discuss some aspects of republic's time -- of president bush's time there, that others will remember, including his amendments to the clean air act on which the senator from delaware and i have worked. in june of 1992, president george herbert walker bush and his wife barbara were walking across the south lawn on a hot sunny day to make a major announcement about school choice, and barbara turned to the president and said, george, you've got on the wrong pants. and the president of the united states turned around, walked back in the white house, changed his suit into the proper suit, and came back out and made an announcement. one of the biggest of his time as president to ask the congress to provide a half billion dollars to states and cities like milwaukee and wisconsin who wanted to give low-income families choices of better schools for their children.
before that, i can recall a 3:00 p.m. or so meeting on january 17, 1991. the meeting was about educational assessment, a very dull subject. and the president had called it in the cabinet room. governor carper will remember educational assessment from his days as governor. and the meeting went on and on, and the president got up and left and came back after about ten minutes. the rest of us thought very little about it. it turned out later we found out that he was calling gorbachev in the soviet union to let him know in advance that the united states was about to start bombing baghdad about 5:30 that afternoon u.s. time. and he had constructed and put on the public schedule that meeting on educational assessment so that the world wouldn't know what was about to happen.
a few weeks later we were having lunch and he was mulling over the prospect of putting a million american military men and women on the ground in the middle east in the first gulf war. he had a special feeling of that because of his background as a combat pilot in world war ii. and he knew what it meant to risk even one american life in that exercise. all of us have been having memories and stories we could tell about the president, but i want to talk about three aspects of his service very briefly. one is gentleman. two is well prepared. and three is pioneer, pioneer especially in education. i've suggested to jon meacham, the extraordinary biographer of president george h.w. bush that a better title for his book
might be "the last gentleman." now saying that to an author is kind of like saying you ought to rename your baby something else. that's not a very prudent thing to say. and i hope it's not true that he is the last gentleman. but his temperament and conduct while he won and while he lost in war and in peace, with adversaries and friends reminds us that you can be tough, but you can win the presidency, that you can be a combat pilot in a world war, and you can still treat others with respect, which he unfailingly did. i was thinking that last night as we stoot -- stood outside on the steps and watched the casket being brought up, a beautiful evening, the sunset looking out over the library of congress, looking out over the supreme court, i was thinking that with all the rancor we sometimes have
here as we work out difficult problems, we're pretty lucky to live in this country. we're pretty lucky to have this form of government we have. and we're extraordinarily fortunate that we can produce men and women like george h.w. bush who bring out the best in us, which leads me to my second point, what i think of when i think of our former president, and those are the words well prepared. now we've had lots of different kinds of presidents of the united states with varying backgrounds, and many have been successful, and it's hard, it's hard to say exactly what will make a president successful. i actually think temperament has more to do with it than anything else. what we had in president george h.w. bush may have been the best prepared president in our history. a congressman, a candidate for the senate, head of his national
political party, the first ambassador in effect to japan, head of the united nations, vice president of the united states, head of the central intelligence agency. if you're going to put somebody through a training course, a boot camp in order to be president of the united states, that's what you would do. you would take someone with extraordinary intellect, someone who might have graduated in three years phi beta kappa from yale, extraordinary courage, someone who fly combat, the youngest aviator in world war, you put them through that boot camp and you say now you're the president of the united states. and i thought how fortunate we were that he happened to be the one who came along then, because the things that he accomplished in his four years or the things that he presided over were the things that he led us to do as a country weren't that easy, weren't that easy. take the disintegration of the soviet union. that's a very dangerous
situation. they have a lot of nuclear weapons in the soviet union. and a history of antagonism toward much of europe and the united states. but president bush, because of his temperament and his skill and the extraordinary team he had around him, presided over that in a way that allowed mr. gorbachev and the soviet union to really come apart. it could have easily gone another direction. or the reunification of germany. you can be sure that france was skeptical about the reunification of germany. wouldn't you be as well if you had been involved in two world war ii's in that century with germany? margaret thatcher was opposed to the reunification of germany quietly, according to vice president quail -- vice president quayle who should know
about such things. our president had to be adept enough to preside over the reuniindication of germany and the disintegration of the soviet union at the same time. balancing the budget, that wasn't popular within the republican party. when you look at the portraits of the presidents of the white house, you often think of what did that president do that went beyond his base, that his original supporters might not have agreed with but that put the country first. you look at nixon, you think china. you look at reagan, you think the berlin wall. and you look at george bush, and you think a number of things, but one of the things he did was balance the budget in a way that most republicans didn't like. he paid a price for it when he ran for reelection. but the country and president clinton during the 1990's benefited greatly from that
fact. and then as senator carper pointed out, he led the amendments of the clean air act. i was in east tennessee these last few weeks. we like the fact that you could see the great smoky mountains, and they are not the great smoggy mountains anymore. and the reason that's true is because of the clean air act, more than anything else, which is required coal plants when they operate to put, to put pollution control equipment on them. they can still operate. there's nothing to keep a coal plant from operating in this country as long as you put pollution control equipment for mercury, nitrogen and sulfur on it, and then they can be perfectly clean. that doesn't include carbon. but carbon you can't see it. we like to see, like we like to see the mountains. and decisions that were made that had to do with exhaust from trucks and cars. so america is healthier, cleaner, and we can attract businesses to our state now that
we're, now that our air is clean, because before that, that was a problem. and the americans for disabilities act, that was a difficult law to pass and a difficult law for many parts of our country to accept. and, frankly, pay for. but think of the lives that it has changed. no one could have passed that who went well prepared for the presidency. so as i think of president bush, i think first of a gentleman. second, well prepared. and then finally, pioneer in education. most of the time when we think of this president bush, we think of his skills in foreign policy because they were considerable and the challenges were great. for example, i didn't mention the gulf war a moment ago. well, i did in a couple of cases, but i didn't mention the fact of putting a million troops on the ground, getting the rest of the world to pay for most of
the war, and then deciding not to go into baghdad and get mired down there. those are decisions that a skilled, well-prepared man would do. he was also a pioneer in education. that is where i'd like to talk about. in 1989, president george h.w. bush assembled all the nation's governors in shiferl -- charlottesville to talk about education. terry branstad, the current ambassador to china was then the chairman of the governors. and out of that summit came national education goals that every child by the year 2000 would learn math, science, history, and geography in a proficient way. then with america 2000 in the last two years of his term, i was education secretary then, he launched america 2000. that was to help states and
communities reach goals, national education goals state by state, community by community. so we had nebraska 2000, and nashville 2000 as democrats and republicans sought to do that. the importance of it was that president george herbert walker bush understood that to have lasting reform in education, it has to be owned by the state. it has to be owned by the community. we saw that on the recent exercise of common core standards. it was developed by the governors. it was moving through the country state by state by state, and then when the federal government mandated it in effect, there was a great rebellion because there wasn't anybody buying it. the same with teacher evaluation. i led a fight to evaluate tennessee teachers. that was the hardest fight i was
ever involved in. but we did it. and thousands of teachers went up the career ladder. when you order it in washington, they don't buy into it and president bush understood that. so with his national education goals, his volunteer in national standards, his volunteer in national tests, they were all voluntary. they were not imposed from washington, d.c. he created an environment in america 2000 where states, cities, and communities could adopt them and they were lasting. most of the -- most of the steps that states, including my state of tennessee, have taken to make schools better in the last 30 years were either started by or encouraged by george h. w. bush since the national governor's summit in 1989, and that includes charter schools. in 1991 and 1992, president bush
encouraged every community to create start from scratch schools, he called them. and many did. he created new american schools development corporation with the help of deputy education secretary david kearns, raised about $70 million and gave grants to that. my last act as education secretary for president bush was to try one these new charter schools at the minnesota democratic labor party created, there were only ten at the time. that was 1992. those start from scratch schools suggested by president george h.w. bush are about 5,000 or about 5% of all the public schools in america. and then school choice. i began with a story of his walking across the south lawn to nouns the g.i. bill for kids to give money for states an
districts for school -- and districts for schools. they didn't appropriate the money for school choice, but his advocacy, his persistent advocacy using the bully pulpit gave us school choice, charity schools, all of that and the difference was that he insisted that we not have a national school board in the process. his successors all tended to have washington views, president george w. bush and president obama and president clinton, they were eager to see results. they thought let washington order texas, tennessee, and wisconsin to do it. but, unfortunately, that back fires. it backfired on common core, it backfired on teacher evaluation. when we stepped back and used
evaluations, we got a more lasting result. so he was well prepared, he was a gentleman, he was a pioneer in education. some people suggest he may be the most effective one-term president in our history. he could well be if you add it all up, the gulf war, handled like it was, the reunification of germany, the successful disintegration of the soviet union, the clean air laws, the americans for disabilities act, pioneering in education with america 2000, balancing, the budget. that's a lot to do in four years. maybe james k. pope is the only one i can think of who gave him a good run for his money in terms of that accolade. i wish -- i remember when the gulf war was over and president bush came to speak to the congress, and i will close with this. that was the first time i had a chance to sit and listen to a
presidential address as a member of the cabinet. i remember thinking after that wonderful victory so well done, a millimeter men on the ground -- a million men on the ground and women, very few casualties, the rest of the world paid for most of the war, we avoided going into baghdad, a very successful operation. the president's approval rating was at 91%. i remember thinking i wish he would say, now that we have won the war, let's turn our attention to home and apply the same sort of energy to america 2000 and make america 2000 his entire domestic program. perhaps it would have been difficult for bill clinton to defeat him that year if that had been his domestic agenda. no one will ever know. but what we do know is he was a gentleman, he was as well prepared as any president in history for the job. he served at a time when we needed that preparation because
the challenges were immense. he was a pioneer in education and he may have been the most successful one-term president in history, a man who put the country first and whom we all admire, george h.w. bush. thank you, mr. president, i yield the floor. mr. cornyn: mr. president. the presiding officer: the senator from texas. mr. cornyn: mr. president, i join my friend, the senator from tennessee, in saying a few words about the service of george herbert walker bush. i would note the difference between him and me though is he, having served as education secretary and worked here under howard baker and then having had a chance to work with and watch and listen to george herbert walker bush firsthand has the advantage over me. i certainly know the bush family
and president bush 41 from my experience in texas. they were the dominant family in influence and politics in texas, certainly during the time i grew up in politics, but i appreciate the comments the senator from tennessee has made. he and i had a conversation about what our side of the aisle needs to do more in the area of supporting public education, which is, i think, probably at the top of the list of most people's concerns, and certainly when you look at what happened in the mid-term elections, particularly in the suburbs, and you talk to people about what motivated them one way or the other, education had to be high up on that list and we simply need to try to find a way to work together to come up with creative ways we can demonstrate our support for public education and i think our constituents
will respond very well to that. the other is, and certainly the senator from tennessee is the chairman of the health, education, labor and pensions committee and a lot of the legislation that emanates from this body, and that is another area that, frankly, an area we did not do as good a job, explaining what we were for and what we could do to bring premiums down and make health care more successful. i appreciate the senator from tennessee's contributions and about his comments about this great man. i think it's important to say not just a great man, but a good man, george herbert walker bush. we know to his family he was a loving an care father, grandfather, and great grandfather. to his country he was a devoted public servant who fought to defend our freedom and led our nation at the end of the cold war and at the fall of the
berlin wall. every time i think about the fall of the berlin wall in 1989, i think about my dad who was a b-17 pilot in world war ii. he was shot down on his 26th bombing mission over nazi germany. he was stationed in molsworth, england, and he and his fellow crew would fly their bombing missions from england, in this case molsworth air force base across the english channel, and drop their bombs in germany to bring an end to the terrible war. unfortunately, my dad died before the berlin wall came down, and i really -- that's one of my regrets is that he was unable to see what ultimately happened as a result of that terrible war in world war ii, a war that, according to one
expert who i read one of his books recently, he calculated that 39 million people died in world war ii. it's a shocking number, but we need to be reminded of what the horrible wages of war can be. 20 million people died in the soviet union alone. i know that staggers our imagination, but we need to remember our history or in the words of a wiseman, we are going to be condemned to relive it. but certainly george herbert walker bush's contribution to ending the cold war and bringing down the berlin wall are one of his most notable achievements. he serve his country first as a war hero. he actually enlisted in the navy after the attack at pearl harbor. he, like a lot of other young men, decided this was the time to come to the aid of their
country. after nearly losing his life, after being shot down but then being saved by rescuing forces, he came back home, and like so many of the greatest generation, he went to work and raised a family. in my dad's case, he too was part of that greatest generation. fortunately he got out of that prisoner of war camp and came back and met my mother and married and had a family and continued his education, and like so much of the greatest generation, made enormous contributions to this country in the post-world war ii era that we are benefiting from even today. we also know that george herbert walker bush represented his fellow americans starting as a congressman in houston, texas, and then he moved on to be director of the central intelligence agency. he was vice president, he was president. it's been said that george herbert walker bush was the best
prepared person ever to have served as president by virtue of his experience and his resume, and i think there's a lot of truth to that. alluding to the time in the navy, you could say he was an anchor for our country during tumultuous times, steady and strong. and while he was a fierce defender of his principles and ideals, he was sometimes seen as a quiet soldier. some people even commented i know, they said he's too nice a person to be president. i think that's a misconception. he was, it is true, both a good man and a great leader, but i think he showed us you could be both. not all great leaders are good men. we are all flawed, of course, but he showed that you could be both a good man and a great leader. president bush carried the lessons he learned in the navy
with him. specifically we heard from the vice president he yesterday at the ceremony in the rotunda. he was talking about a concept known to navy pilots with the acronym cavu, which stands for ceiling and visibility unlimited. i know this only because the vice president talked about it yesterday and president bush mentioned it on his 80th birthday and he said it summed up his attitude about his life perfectly. he said, you see, this is where my life is now. thanks to my family and friends my life is ceiling and visibility unlimited, or cavu. and through all he did his compassion, his love of country and basic humanity and strong optimism shown through, which made him such an attractive political figure and one reason for his tremendous success because people liked him and
they believed in him. they believed he was doing what he did for the right reasons. after long and tough campaign for his second term for president, a campaign which he lost, he left a letter to the newly elected president bill clinton. there has been some social media circulating this letter, but i think it's worth noting because it's a snapshot into his character and the type of man he was. he wrote to president clinton, your success now is our country's success. i am rooting hard for you. it takes a big man to say that to your competitor after a tough losing campaign, but, again, this is a window into the character of a good and great man. just like everything else he did, it was gracious and sincere. this letter conveyed the same sense of, it's not about me, it's about the country.
in a word, it's about patriotism, a word that embodies president bush so well. he was the type of man who makes us look at our own lives and ask, what more can i do for my country, for my country men and women we all love? after graduating from college, he went to mid-land, texas, kind of an improbable place to go in those days, but he wanted to get involved in the oil business. he later after his successes in midland texas, in the permian basin which continues to be one of the greatest reserves of oil and gas in the united states, he went on to houston and grew his business and ultimately, as i said earlier, ran for congress. even though texas was an adopted home for him, texans loved and embraced him. as we did the entire bush
family. we were privileged to have president bush as one of our own. he once said, i'm a texan and an american. what more could a man ask for? i don't think anyone could have said it better. throughout his time in public service and even afterwards, he could have moved anywhere in the world, but he chose to live his life in texas and in the warm embrace of the state and the people he loved. president bush felt a kindred spirit at texas a&m university choosing it first to bear his legacy through his presidential library and later to be his and barbara bush's final resting place. president bush, i think, identified with the university's unique culture, including its incultation values and the
emphasis it places on hard work and public service. president bush taught us all that there's nothing more powerful in life than the power of a good example and he challenged all of us and he still does by the standards he set for himself. joined by my colleague from texas, senator cruz today we introduced a resolution recognizing the nearly 30 years of public service president bush devoted to our state and our nation. president bush is in the nation's capital one last time where many have and will continue to have the opportunity to pay their respects and give their thanks for his extraordinary life. president bush once wrote in a letter to his mother, quote, tell the truth. don't blame people. be strong. do your best.
try hard. forgive. stay the course. president bush never chose the easy road to sacrifice doing what he thought was just and right. in the words of scripture, he for the the good fight. he finished the race. and he kept the faith. in his book all the best he writes that he wanted a plain gravestone like the ones in arlington cemetery with his navy number on the back and also he requested that a quotation be placed there as well. he loved barbara very much. this is the man he was. i know he has gone on to join the love of his life, barbara, and their daughter robin, a truly honorable and gracious man has gone home to god.