Sen. Isakson Honors President George H.W. Bush on Senate Floor
Thursday, December 6th, 2018
U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., honored the life of President George H.W. Bush in a speech on the floor of the U.S. Senate on Tuesday. Bush, the 41st president of the United States, passed away at his home in Houston, Texas, on Dec. 1, at the age of 94.
In his remarks, Isakson highlighted his personal relationship with President Bush, including the numerous occasions that Bush campaigned for Isakson during his political career, and discussed the patriotism and strong character of the late president.
“We all know he has a resume equal to none. But we also know, those of us who knew him, that as a public servant he was a passionate, compassionate, get the job done, common sense, conservative leader who wanted to see not just the promises made, but the promises kept,” said Isakson. “George Herbert Walker Bush did everything he thought was the right thing to do, for the right reasons, even if the final decision was not good for him politically.”
Isakson joined with the Bush family, Vice President Mike Pence, cabinet members, justices of the Supreme Court and his Congressional colleagues to pay his final respects at the arrival ceremony at the U.S. Capitol Rotunda on Monday, Dec. 3, where Bush has been lying in state until 7:00 a.m. this morning. A memorial service was held at the Washington National Cathedral today.
A video of Isakson’s remarks can be found here. A transcript of Isakson’s remarks follows:
“Mr. President, I am honored to follow the senator from Texas [in making these remarks] and to have shared time with President Bush as he has, and I appreciate very much his service to this Senate and to this country.
“You know, the hardest thing they ever ask us to do in public office is eulogize someone’s funeral that you don’t even know. Because you’re a senator and everybody back home thinks that’s a good idea. Well, it’s the hardest thing for a senator to do.
“The easiest thing to do is to be asked to eulogize somebody you love and know, because you don’t have to look up things and read things and do a biography. But that, too, is also very hard because it’s hard to keep the tears back when you talk about the experiences you had with someone who’s gone on to a better place.
“That’s kind of the role I’m in today.
“George Herbert Walker Bush did so many things for me in my lifetime that I can’t begin to count them or recount them all for you.
“But I’m going to tell a few of the stories because you’ve all heard how many times he was at the [Central Intelligence Agency] (CIA), how many planes he shot down [in World War II], how many times he did whatever else he did. You’ve heard all of it.
“We all know he has a resume equal to none. But we also know, those of us who knew him, that as a public servant he was a passionate, compassionate, get the job done, common sense, conservative leader who wanted to see not just the promises made, but the promises kept.
“How did I meet George Herbert Walker Bush? I’ll tell you how I met him. He was [president] of the United States of America on Air Force One, …riding from St. Augustine, Fla., to Atlanta, Ga., to do a fundraiser for me when I was running for governor of Georgia. I knew him by reputation and by name obviously -- but I didn’t know him as a person.
“He said, ‘Why don’t you fly down to St. Augustine and meet me there, bring your family with you on the airplane? Let’s have some fun and get you elected governor of Georgia.’
“We had a ball. That was not hard. Winning the governorship was more difficult, but a lot easier to try when the president of the United States came out to put his name on the line for me.
“I really didn’t understand how he could risk for his career doing that, until I realized nobody cared who I was anyway. But he cared who I was because I was a potential governor, someone that was liked and admired and somebody he wanted to help and work for.
“So my family and I piled Air Force One, flew into Atlanta, went to the Waverly Hotel, raised three-quarters of a million dollars in a fundraiser and it was over in a flash of an eye.
“But I can still smell the room and recognize the lights that were on the banners we had and the speech he made that night, because he was an overpoweringly impressive guy.
“When he stood there and made a speech, and Lee Greenwood followed him with how great it was to be an American, you knew you were among royalty and a special person.
“He wanted me to work for him in his [‘92] presidential campaign and I said, ‘Mr. [President], I will be more than happy to do that,’ and I did.
“Now, I didn’t run it. I was not the top dog by any stretch. Paul Coverdell, the United States Senator here was his [Georgia] campaign manager.
“Fred Cooper was his financier and the one who helped raised the money. They did a lot of help in getting him elected, but we did help him get elected when he won that race.
“And 1989 when he was sworn in, he started out on a journey as president of the United States after he had already been CIA director, congressman, ambassador to the United Nations, and vice president; after he had already been every other thing you could be.
“But now he was taking on the prize job of them all, the presidency of the United States of America.
“I polled well as I was running for governor. In fact, halfway through his first term, halfway through it, when they did a poll, I was doing pretty good. I wasn’t winning, but doing pretty good, and everybody attributed it not to me but to the fact that the president came down and helped me.
“And he was doing real well, too. In fact, if you’ll remember George Herbert Walker Bush in 1991 had an 89 percent favorable rating.
“When he lost two years later, he was down in the high 30s. What happened? How could this guy who was so great, gracious and wonderful, fall so fast?
“I’ve answered that question many times because I’ve wanted to try and rationalize it myself. I watched that fall when I saw George H.W. Bush do what he thought was right, even though what he did might be [politically] wrong for him.
“And I want to explain that. The speech he made in New Orleans to get the nomination in 1988, he used a simple little line. He talked about a foundation. He talked about the [Points of Light] Foundation... He talked about helping others who didn’t have as much as they should have. He talked about giving a little back to your country. He made his speech the equivalent to John Kennedy’s Peace Corps speech or to great speeches made by other presidents.
“He was a caring man.
“He also made the speech where he said, ‘Read my lips: no [new] taxes.’ Now I have never seen or heard anyone who took credit for giving him that statement. Because that statement probably led to his most difficult time in his reelection campaign.
“But at the time he made it, he made it because George Bush knew he might have to do that. And he wasn’t going to continue the race for president without saying, ‘Look, I don’t want to raise your taxes, but it’s something we think might happen.’
“And it did happen and it cost him the election. But he did what was right for the country, although it may not have been right for George H.W. Bush.
“But he was that kind of guy. He always did what was best for the people and what was best for the country.
“If you listen to many of the stories about the Iraqi War when we first sent troops in, George Bush was the first one to do that. I remember riding home from my office in Atlanta thinking when the news broke that the president was about to do a press conference.
“When I turned the radio on, he was making the announcement that he was going to send troops into Iraq from Kuwait and go after Saddam Hussein and make him give up his weapons of mass destruction.
“We still have troops in Iraq today. We have troops in Afghanistan today. We’re fighting the ultimate war between good and evil, of terrorism versus the American way and peace and prosperity. That was a war engaged by George Bush, not because he liked war but because he loved peace.
“Not because he wanted to fight but because he wanted to demonstrate through strength that we could negotiate a settlement through diplomacy far easier and with less damage.
“George Herbert Walker Bush did everything he thought was the right thing to do, for the right reasons, even if the final decision was not good for him politically.
“You can ask no more of an American politician. You can ask a politician anything you want, but no more of them than to do what is right regardless of the consequences.
“I know I love Mark Twain’s quote, ‘When you are confronted with a difficult decision, do what’s right. You’ll surprise a few, but you’ll amaze the rest.’
“George Herbert Walker Bush was an amazing man. Someone whose life will always indelibly be in my heart and my memory. For all the things he did for me and my children, grandchildren and all the things he has done for you and all of us as Americans.
“To his son, 43, he was a great chip off the ol’ block. He’s probably as good as his dad but nobody will ever be nicer than his dad.
“George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush and the entire Bush family, I send my sympathy and support during this time of trial. I thank you for the sacrifice you’ve made for our country and for your family.
“And I will always pledge to be as close as I can, I’ll never make it, but I’ll do as much as I can to try to be as good as George H.W. Bush was.
“I hope when I die and the papers report on that, if there is any, that they’ll be as kind to me as they’ve been to George H.W. Bush, because what they’ve done with him is tell the truth.
“Not talk about any failures where there may have been a few, but his victories. They’ve talked about his passions, they’ve talked about his love, and most of all they’ve talked about this great country, the United States of America. It is today great and will always be, because of men like George Herbert Walker Bush.
“May God bless his soul, and thank him for the service he has brought to our great country.”