Obit George HW Bush (copy)

Former President George H.W. Bush, and his wife, former first lady Barbara Bush

It is always proper to reflect at the end of the year, by remembering the heroes and the events that were singularly outstanding. The funerals of Senator John McCain and President George H. W. Bush highlighted their values, many of which are being tossed aside today.

Vice President Biden eulogized McCain as a hero whose character, courage, honor, integrity, and even his understated optimism were integral to his being. “He loved basic values: fairness, honesty, dignity, respect, giving hate no safe harbor, leaving no one behind and understanding Americans were part of something much bigger than ourselves.”

In the Senate, Biden said McCain saw friendships and worthy opponents and was not into using party membership as a tripwire to shun another human being, let alone representatives of voting citizens. President Obama added in his remarks that “when John spoke of virtues like service and valor, they weren’t just words to him, it was a truth that he had lived and for which he was prepared to die.” McCain’s commitment to human rights, to the rule of law, and to the dignity of every human being, was part of his core.

At his now-famous 2008 town hall meeting, McCain tried to allay fear—he said Obama “is a decent person and a person you do not have to be scared of as President of the United States,” and politely scolded a woman who repeated the Republican trope about birtherism by saying, “No ma’am, he’s a decent family man, citizen, and I just happen to disagree with him on fundamental issues.”

President Bush was another Navy combat aviator whose experiences led him to commit himself to public service. From the rigors of combat in the Pacific, to the House of Representatives, ambassador to the UN, director of the CIA, and as vice president, Bush was the quintessential public servant.

At the funeral, historian Jon Meacham described Bush as “America’s last great soldier-statesman, a 20th-century founding father. He governed with virtues that most closely resemble those of Washington and of Adams, of TR and of FDR, of Truman and of Eisenhower, of men who believed in causes larger than themselves.” Former Canadian Prime Minister Mulroney said of Bush that “every single head of government in the world knew that they were dealing with a gentleman, a genuine leader, one who was distinguished, resolute, and brave.”

Bush’s son, George W., concluded with the same themes: “He showed me what it means to be a president who serves with integrity, leads with courage, and acts with love in his heart for the citizens of our country.” Bush added that historians will say his father was “a diplomat of unmatched skill, a Commander in Chief of formidable accomplishment, and a gentleman who executed the duties of his office with dignity and honor.”

In today’s America there is little room for optimism as we mourn men of character like Senator McCain and President Bush. With these funerals and eulogies behind us, we see more clearly than ever that in President Trump’s world, rawness, crudeness, and shunning are more acceptable. We knew that before the government shutdown, before the Mueller investigation, before the Trump charity was shuttered, before the Defense Secretary resigned in protest, decrying America’s walking away from its allies, friends, and those who thought America would protect them. We knew that before tweets substituted for knowledgeable position papers. We even see it at the local level where the Culpeper Republicans censured two elected state senators for working in a bipartisan manner. Bipartisanship has become evil. The thrust of politics has become the maintenance of ideological purity, ignoring the needs and wishes of We The People.

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David Reuther is a retired Foreign Service Officer who served in Asia and the Middle East and now lives in Culpeper.