President Trump sat quietly in the Washington Cathedral today as George H.W. Bush, the 41st President of the United States, was eulogized by his eldest son, former President George W. Bush, the biographer Jon Meacham and others. As they spoke, I wondered what was going through Trump's mind.
While there was no deliberate effort to draw comparisons between Trump, the master of self-promotion and deceit, and the late President Bush, those who spoke emphasized Bush 41's kindness, fairness, honesty, loyalty and faith, and told of how he cared for others without reservation.
They spoke of President Bush's bravery as a fighter pilot whose plane was shot down, sending him parachuting into the Pacific only to be rescued by a U.S. submarine. And how he committed his life to serving his nation and his fellow Americans, honoring the others aboard that downed fighter jet who had perished.
Spoken directly or not, the recitation of President Bush's life, his accomplishments, his character, his honor stood in stark contrast to what we know about Trump, now under federal investigation, who listened stoically mostly without expression.
What was he thinking when they spoke about President Bush's hope of creating a "kinder, gentler" nation and how that approach engendered great respect internationally for America?
What was he thinking, arms crossed, as they talked about Bush's desire for volunteers to be "a thousand points of light" across America, something that Trump mocked this past July.
Perhaps he considered that adopting just a little of Bush's humility and kind consideration of others might make him a better president.
Perhaps he was thinking that one day he, too, will be in a flag-draped casket at the foot of that same alter and wondered what friends, associates and other world leaders might say about him on that occasion.
In my mind, there was no starker contrast possible between good and evil than the comparisons of those two Presidents.
George Herbert Walker Bush, while he had his faults, was not obsessed with self-aggrandizement, felt no need to brag about the size of his crowds -- or anything else.
He honored the truth -- there were no daily tallies of his fabrications, as there are today with Donald Trump.
He never blustered and bragged and threatened.
He never undercut his own appointees or humiliated them.
He honored his wife of 73 years, never a hint of scandal.
He was a fair and honorable man, one whose public life was born of that brave moment in the Pacific.
He was not one who relied on deferments for bone spurs or anything else to avoid military service. He embraced it and honorably served his country both then and in his service in the United States Congress and as our President.
I hope President Trump was listening and paying attention, and that perhaps some of those words honoring President Bush registered with him and might give him pause.
But I doubt it.