Bob Dole reveals that he initially planned a much simpler tribute to former President George H.W. Bush

By Maria Pasquini
January 31, 2019 01:37 PM
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Bob Dole touched hearts around the world with the incredibly moving way he chose to honor his former opponent George H.W. Bush at the former president’s funeral last year — but he originally had a much simpler tribute in mind.

During the emotional scene, Dole was helped out of his wheelchair with assistance from an aide, lifted into standing position and steadied at the casket’s side before paying his respects to Bush, who died in December at age 94, with a salute to his fellow World War II veteran.

However, while the former senator always planned on publicly honoring Bush that day, the decision to salute the former commander in chief was spur-of-the-moment.

“I wanted to pay my respects, so I wanted to stand up and maybe bow my head. But when I got on my feet, it’s almost like my subconscious was moving my left arm, ” the 95-year-old politician, who lost a fierce battle to Bush for the 1988 Republican presidential nomination, told Today host Savannah Guthrie during an interview that aired on Thursday.

“I didn’t go there with the intent to salute, but I did,” he added.

Washington DC In Mourning For Late President George H.W. Bush
Bob Dole
| Credit: Drew Angerer/Getty

Although the pair had moments of contention throughout their careers, they grew to become “close friends.”

“You know, George Bush and I were close friends. We also had some rather tough races against one another. But he was my friend and he did a great job as president. And so did his son,” Dole remarked.

His wife Elizabeth Dole — who served as Labor Secretary during the late president Bush’s time in office — added, “I was so proud of Bob for doing that because I think it lifted people’s spirits.”

The moment was also greatly appreciated by Bush’s family.

“Just incredible. Thank you Senator Dole,” Bush’s son Jeb Bush tweeted last year.

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Following Bush’s death, Dole reflected on their decades-long friendship.

“I believe there are certain qualities that veterans have, and when Bush was president, I think about three-fourths of Congress were veterans and we would stick together and work together across the aisle,” Dole told CNN. “And President Bush was a bipartisan president. So we got quite a lot done.”

Bush is the first president to lie in state since the death of Gerald Ford in 2006. Including Bush, only 32 people have ever lain in state in the Rotunda, including Sen. John McCain last year.