tv MSNBC Live MSNBC December 1, 2018 4:00am-4:30am PST
jon meacham, thank you both for joining us over the past several hours and stay tund for continuing coverage of the life and legacy of george h.w. bush. good morning, everyone. it is 7:00 here in the east. 4:00 a.m. out west. america's 41st president, george herbert walker bush has died. over this next hour, his defining moments in the oval office, chaperoning the fall of the berlin wall and soviet union. swift victory in the gulf war and one big promise that he could not keep. to his post presidency a further life of public service through his foundation plus the heroism in his early years.
the pub luck servant, the statesman, the family man, this morning president george h.w. bush remembered. >> prudence, humility and a lifetime devoted to public service, the country is mourning george h.w. bush. he passed away last night at age 94. his values and ideals now being honored across the political spectrum. the 41st president helped end four decades of cold war. his popularity soured after a coalition victory in iraq and a weak economy but he entered the
white house with one of the most impressive resumes of any u.s. president. lester holt has more on the life, career and legacy of president george h.w. bush. >> i come before you and assume the presidency at a moment rich with promise. >> reporter: for george bush, becoming president was the capstone of a lifetime of public service that would also include being the father of a president. in fact, the bush family has been among the most prominent in american political history. but while george h.w. bush grew up in wealth and privilege and went to the best schools, he also learned the importance of serving his country. a navy pilot during world war ii, he was shot down over the pacific and rescued by a passing submarine. the moment incredibly captured
on camera. he returned home, married his sweet heart, barbara pierce and started a family. moving to texas in 1948 to get into the oil business. they suffered the loss of daughter robin to leukemia, but raised five children. in 1964, the year he turned 40, bush got into politics running for senate. >> i certainly hope and i'll bet you do too, that our children can grow up knowing what freedom really is. >> he lost but later won a house seat and ran for senate again in 1970. this time with help from president nixon. >> and george bush in my opinion is the best man for america. >> when he lost again, nixon appointed him ambassador to the u.n. >> i consider myself a very lucky guy. >> but his next job was chairman of the republican party during water gate. >> you try being chairman of the republican party during the
water gate day, you're talking about a ghastly assignment. >> bush escaped water gate unscathed and nixon's successor made him his envoy to china. just a year later an evening bigger azyme sissignment. >> cia, i loved. one year only but i loved defending the culture at a time when everybody was down on it. >> when ford lost to jimmy carter bush left the cia. what he did next was run for president. >> i do pledge a new candor. >> reporter: bush lost the nomination to ronald reagan in 1980 and his political career seemed over until this stunning announcement. >> george bush be nominated for vice president. >> reporter: for eight years bush was reagan's loyal vice president surviving questions about his role in the i ran
contrascandal. >> i am here today to announce my candidacy for president of the united states. >> reporter: bush emerged from reagan's shadow. >> i want a kinder and gentler nation. >> reporter: and made a promise he would later break. >> read my lips, no new taxes. >> reporter: george bush defeated democrat and became president of the united states. >> so help me god. >> reporter: the bush years saw epic events on the world stage. the square massacre, the fall of the berlin wall, and the collapse of a soviet union itself. >> by the grace of god, america won the cold war. >> reporter: but his president's defining moment was saddam
hussein's invasion of kuwait. >> this will not stand the aggression against kuwait. >> reporter: backed by an international coalition bush launched operation desert storm and drove iraqi forces out. >> aggression is defeated. the war is over. >> reporter: but saddam hussein remained in power informal bush's son toppled him 12 years later. >> i thought he would fall of his own weight when the war ended and i thought they'd throw him out of there and they didn't. >> reporter: bush's post war popular t popularity soared and then sank closer to home. in 1992 he lost to bill clinton becoming a one-term president. >> i gave service to this country. and now i'm perfectly content to let history be the judge. >> george bush enjoyed an active
retirement full of grandchildren, fishing, even sky diving. and he saw his eldest son become president, but he kept his advice to a minimum and his son charted his own course. bush was no stranger to partisan politics but he aspired to a higher ideal as when he teamed up with bill clinton on global relief efforts. >> you can be political opponents and still work together for something more important than your own political future. >> reporter: a former president for decades, he saw a granddaughter jenna bush hager become a "today" show correspondent. >> aging is all right. better than the alternative. >> reporter: he saw republicans turning a away from the bush establishment. rejecting son's jeb's bid for the candy.
and he survived his wife barbara bush and welcomed an outpouring of affection for her. theirs was the longest marriage in presidential history. george bush was admired as a man of dedecency. and that was lester holt reporting. the other former u.s. presidents are paying tribute to 41 in a statement bush's son and the 43rd president of these united states, george w. bush called his father a man of the highest character and the best dad a son or daughter could ask for. very few americans will ever be able to quote, match president bush's record of service to the united states and the joy he took every day from it and
president obama said america's lost a patriot and his legacy of service may never be matched and president obama met with bush 41 at his home in houston just this past tuesday. bush's spokes person tweeting that night about a private and pleasant visit between the two. joining me now from houston, the texas city president george h.w. bush died. a very somber good morning to you in houston. what can you tell us about a city that is clearly in mourning? >> reporter: yeah, good morning. the former president's death will be felt so acutely here in houston, the city where he'd lived since leaving the white house back in the spring of 1993. he was a big ags trostros fan, really reembraced the town where his political career started back in the 1960s. his congressional seat is now being held or will be held for
the time since he held it by a democrat starting in this new congress. part of the seismic shift in our politics since george h.w. bush was our president. the city of houston will get a good chance to say good-bye to the former president as will the rest of the country. the official funeral plans have not been released down to the particular detailed level, but here's what we know. he will lie in state in the u.s. capitol and there will be a service for him in washington, d.c. but then he'll come back to texas and there will be a funeral here in houston at st. martin's church. that's the same church where the former first lady barbara bush was honored when she passed away. this then the former president will go to texas a&m university, that's where his presidential library is. he'll be laid to rest there beside his beloved life. 73 years married. they will lay side by side after what will be essentially a week long opportunity for the nation
to remember and to thank the 41st president of the united states. >> garrett, he had certainly been in failing health of late so he -- despite his love of the astros that you talk about there, he had not been out and about that much recently. do you know the last time houstonians were able to see him or, you know, bestow their best wishes upon him? it really had been a while because of his failing health particularly since the passing of his beloved wife back in april. >> reporter: the former president had been very much out of the public eye recently. some remarked on the fact that he had not been to the astros playoff games this year as another sign of his failing health but he did go cast his vote in person early for the midterm elections and november 1st there's a photo of him in his wheelchair with a service dog that he got after barbara bush had passed away to help him
and also to keep his spirits up out doing his civic duty. wholly appropriate last public outing or at least last public photograph of this president so known and so proud of doing his duty as just a public concept out casting his ballot here in early november, but again, very much out of the public eye over the last several months particularly over the last mopts of his life. >> you make that note of that very poignant photo of the president casting his vote also with his very dear friend jim baker by his side. that was something that that would be the last public picture of our 41st president. president trump honoring the former president while in argentina. whenever i was with him i saw his absolute joy for life and true pride in his family. his accomplishmentes were great
from beginning to end. he will be missed by all. a bit earlier the president and the first lady issued a statement praising bush's authenticity disarming wit and unwaivering commitment to faith, family and country. joining me now, andy card who served as chief of staff but served as assistant to the president and deputy chief of staff for george h.w. bush. andy, with a welcome to you, i will have to extend my apologies for your loss. this must be a very difficult day for you given your closeness with the bush family. how are you feeling today and i'd love to get your most fond recollections of our 41st president. >> president bush was a remarkable man. he truly was one of the most impressive individuals i met in my entire service in government. i consider him like a dad. he was just phenomenal in how good he was. he's probably the finest example of the personification of public
service and what it means to be a good citizen, not only in the united states, but a citizen for the world. and it was his leadership style and his ability to listen and learn and then make tough decisions and inspire people to implement those decisions that compelled me to say, i love this person. and i watched his love for his wife and his family. i watched his love even for his enemies and i watched him build a relationship that would always lead to something that was better. he took things and made them better. so was he a saint? no. but was he headed in the right direction? absolutely yes. he was a great friend and i will miss him. but most of all i will -- i'm grateful for the spark that he lit that caused so many other people to join public service and the students at the bush school at texas a&m are his living legacy. those that graduate from the
bush school are being implicated to public service and that will continue for generations. you know, as you served as assistant to the president, deputy chief of staff for the years 1989 to '92, when you think about bush 41's day-to-day engagement, at what level did he get involved in things and can you compare that to other presidents notably his son with whom you worked as well? >> well, president bush as president learned that the toughest decisions are made by the president and the president has more information than most other people including other former presidents and so he was always respectful of the president that was in office. when i was serving as chief of staff to george w. bush, president bush would call but he
would call as a father rather than a former president. he would say i know he's got more information that i will have and i will respect the decision he makes. so he never tried to guide me to guide the president except as a conscience. do the right thing and he would -- he just understood the burdens of the presidency. he had empathy for every president who served after him and he valued the relationship that he had with ronald reagan so he was a wonderful example to witness and i did find that serving in the white house as chief of staff, i benefitted by having a friend called george h.w. bush who had the understanding of what george w. bush was going through when he was in the oval office. >> are you perhaps specifically referring to the war in iraq because you were there for operation desert storm and the like with bush 41 and the gulf war and then of course bush 43 in the iraq war. did you get a sense of how the
elder bush thought about iraq and comparing the two experiences? >> absolutely. it even started before that. i remember talking to president george h.w. bu george w. bush the day before he became the president. he was getting ready to receive the instructions on how to work with the military to introduce a code that would start a nuclear war. and i was -- i remember being in that same position watching george h.w. bush get those instructions and i told the president that the toughest decision that you'll have to make will be the one that will be to send young men and women into harm's way that will make sacrifices that you wouldn't want on anybody. and i watched him make those unbelievely difficult decisions and i told george h.w. bush about it. it's not a game, it's not a
theory, it's a reality and i was struck how when president bush made the decision to go into panama and this was the first president bush. i was there after he had been briefed and he was sitting at his desk. he looked up and said out loud that he was making a decision that would cause young men to die and sure enough, some people did die when we captured nor yeah ga a iega and removed him from panama. president bush met with limb and it was a remarkable experience to see him and say that their son was a hero and that he couldn't have done his job without people like his son. and it was very teary but it was also very moving and i made sure that george w. bush understood the personal impact of making these decisions of putting people in harm's way.
>> bush 41 certainly chaperoned the country, the world to a degree through the unraveling of communism. the end of the cold war, but what was he most concerned about as he handled all of that? >> he was -- first of all, he was very understanding of the challenges that people like cole would have to go through a. he said we shouldn't be dancing on the wall. we have tough issues to work on and we have relationship to build and he wanted to reach out and make sure that things would go smoothly. i thought it was a remarkable display of the understanding of diplomacy and he managed the end of the cold war in such a way that it never became a hot war. and that was pretty remarkable and there were great dividends that came because of the wonderful leadership that
president bush gave the entire world during that challenging time of the berlin wall coming down when many of us did want to dance on the wall and celebrate and he said we have to remember that we can't do anything that would precipitate an insult that would result in escalation to a hot war. and so i was a witness to him being the ultimate diplomat, if you will, and he -- he's a leader with empathy and concern and he was cautious but decisive when he had to be. >> of course bush 41, he lost in 1992 to bill clinton after a 90% approval rating during that first gulf war. did you ever think that would happen and when it did did you think it was because he had to go back on the great line that he gave during his campaign when he said read my lips, no new taxes and he ended up having to raise taxes. do you think that was the catalyst for the loss? >> i do believe that contributed
to his inability to win re-election. we also had ha mia mini recessi going. i deal feel the president deserved encourage mott to make the decision he made to accept tax increases knowing that there would be tremendous fiscal discipline that would be imposed in congress. so for ten years, the discipline he put in place because of that pledge ruled in the savings of literally trillions of dollars for american taxpayers and how we spent our money in government and it was a legacy that benefitted bill clinton during his entire presidency and even into george w. bush's early presidency. >> again, profoundly sad day for you, but thank you for speaking with us about george h.w. bush. very much appreciate the insights. >> what a great man. >> indeed. president trump and the
first lady also issuing that statement on the death of george h.w. bush while in argentina for the g20 summit. peter, what did they say? >> reporter: well, we are hearing from president trump early on this day. actually it's noetdable the president will be meeting with president of china as we remember george h.w. bush who served as an early envoy to china. posting what was a gracious statement on twitter referring to george h.w. bush for leading a long, successful and beautiful life. and the white house posted a statement on behalf of the first lady and president trump where they said among other things, disarming wit and unwaivering commitment to be in his words a
thousand points of light illuminating the greatness, hope and opportunity of america to the world. that was particularly striking, those words because president trump has not always been so kind to president george h.w. bush's hope for a kinder gentler nation. you'll remember the president was very critical of george h.w. bush during a political rally attacking his points of light. the nonprofit which was points of light that helped raise money for volunteerism. the president saying points of light what the hell is that, saying i don't know what that means. george h.w. bush, they didn't have a personal relationship these two men. a book about a year ago quoted him as describing president trump as a blow hard saying i don't know him but i know he's a blow hard and i don't like him. what is striking about this is just sort of the difference we have witnessed in our politics these days. president george h.w. bush
becoming president just 30 years ago but it feels like a millennia ago. there was a tradition that presidents, those living including the current president would all gather together but that tradition has ended in the trump era. the last gathering of living presidents did not include president trump. just last year in college station, texas, of course the home state of george h.w. bush as the living past presidents raised money for hurricane harvey relief. melania trump went in place of her husband to help celebrate the rife of barbara bush when she passed in april of this year. of course the white house has lowered the flag there above the white house to half staff. so it will be a closing day at the g20 where much of the focus obviously back in america will be focused on the legacy of one of president trump's predecessors. >> well, peter, i will say i'm
very glad that many of us do understand what the points of light rhetoric meant for george h.w. bush. that would include, you my friend. thank you for joining us on this somber saturday. andrea mitchell, good morning to you. >> good morning. >> before i get to your personal recollections because i know that you knew our 41st president and the rest of his family quite well, i'm curious as we hear the tributes pouring in for this president, what stands out most to you? >> humility, service, and dedication. the fact that he was probably the best prepared president we've had that i can recall. his naval service from a young age of 18, the youngest naval aviator in world war ii in the american forces. he was that first envoy.
cia director, a member of congress, all of those different posts the head of the republican party. so he had service at the u.n. and in diplomacy and in intelligence community, i think the cia was his favorite post and the cia building named after him certainly a high honor. but just his humility and his dedication to service and the fact that he was willing to take those hard decisions that andy just spoke of earlier, the raising tax decision foremost as well as some of the other hard decisions that he took against his political self-interest and his political base and not going to baghdad. at the time controversial decision with many, but it proved to be the wisest decision of all. >> you know, andrea, we read a portion of president obama's
statement just a short while ago and he noted that he met with our 41st president just tuesday this week in houston. that would make him certainly one of his last visitors. what more can you tell us about that visit and its significance? >> it was certainly an important and very touching tribute to the ailing former president by another former president, one of the youngest, but also it was forged by the presence of obama in houston participating in a 25th anniversary event at rice university at the baker irns institute for james baker and that says something very important about one of his closest allies and longest friend and former secretary of state, treasury secretary in the reagan years and long time campaign manager, so the fact that james baker was part of that -- that visit as well in
houston says a great deal. the loyalty of those who worked and were friends, you know, james baker and george bush were young men, tennis partners in houston together. it was together that they forged into politics. elective politics was never successful for jim baker so he was always the side man or the advisor or the wise counselor at the state department for george h.w. bush. but to have that kind of friendship and also the friendship that i think of with brent and i'm thinking so much of him, the former air force general who served so ably and was the international security advisor and closest friend, coauthor who had his own residence then in retirement to be close to his friend during the summer months. so that is another close relationship. he himself has been ailing and is now one of those that i think of who's so much more mourning
the loss of his good friend. >> and i just want to know from you, a memory that you have of president bush, andrea, that you're always going to carry with you. >> there's so many. there's the aerobic golf matches. we would have to catch up to him. he was such a great athlete. he surmounted it jumping out of a plane at age 90 only four years ago but how he was suffering some of the effects of that parkinson's syndrome. but if i can be personal for a home, i was at a dinner that he was hosting for the queen of england and this was 1991. and it was a very big deal for me. i was not used to believe me going to anything like this and i was going with my future
husband and i was introduced on the receiving line by the president of the united states to her majesty, the queen of england as barbara and i know that his wife later told him of the error and it was -- it did not matter to me. i was just thrilled to be there, but he thought i might have been embarrassed by that. and the very next morning before i left for my job on capitol hill there was a delivery from the white house with a note from the president of the dwrieunite states, a handwritten note and a small gift, one of those silver trinkets that they hand out and it was his apologies. it must have been the wine, how beautiful you looked or whatever and he then wroetd and it was so george bush of connecticut, not george bush of texas. he wrote, will you forgive