24 April 2019
US President Donald Trump and his predecessors in the office attend the state funeral for former President George H.W. Bush on Dec. 5. Photo: Reuters
US President Donald Trump and his predecessors in the office attend the state funeral for former President George H.W. Bush on Dec. 5. Photo: Reuters

The final achievement of George H.W. Bush

Former US President George H. W. Bush died on Nov. 30 at the age of 94. The entire country was in grief.

The 41st president of the United States was held in high regard by the international community during his lifetime mainly because he acted like a “normal” president during his term in office.

He also demonstrated extraordinary leadership during his presidency and guided his country through turbulent times, which witnessed historic events such as the disintegration of the former Soviet Union, the reunification of Germany, Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait, and the subsequent Operation Desert Storm which defeated the Iraqi invaders.

In our opinion, he made one final achievement after his death, which is, to have turned the “abnormal” President Donald Trump into a normal one, at least for the time being.

On the day when Bush’s passing was announced, Trump was in Buenos Aires attending the G20 summit.

After learning the news, Trump immediately extended his condolences to the Bush family, and canceled a scheduled press conference in an apparent attempt to avoid diverting the attention of his fellow Americans from mourning their great former president.

Then, at the state funeral for George H. W. Bush, Trump chose not to deliver any eulogy and kept a low profile throughout the entire ceremony. 

The American people and perhaps the rest of the world must have felt relief and should at least give Trump, who hardly seems to care about presidential decorum, some credit for behaving properly – even nobly – at the funeral and for not causing any trouble for the Bush family.

Like we said, the late George Bush Senior was highly respected during his lifetime because he was a “normal” US president.

In contrast, Trump has come across as “abnormal” ever since he took office.

In our view, the upside of Trump being an “abnormal” president is that he doesn’t have to follow the old, well-beaten track of his predecessors and can therefore come up with outside-the-box ideas, such as meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Singapore back in June.

Nevertheless, the downside is that by behaving so abnormally, Trump has made a lot of enemies, both foreign and domestic. And as a result, he may end up finding himself hamstrung when pressing ahead with his domestic and foreign policy initiatives.

In fact, the Democrats’ success in regaining control of the House of Representatives and the constant diplomatic spats between Washington and its traditional allies have been, to a certain extent, caused by Trump’s abnormal way of doing things.

Now that George Bush Senior is resting in peace, it remains to be seen whether Trump can continue to behave like a “normal” president in the coming days.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Dec 7

Translation by Alan Lee with additional reporting

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Hong Kong Economic Journal

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