CINCINNATI – America would be better off if it followed George Bush's example, U.S. Sen. Rob Portman says.
Portman told WCPO he lost a mentor and friend and America lost a true statesman and exemplary politician when former the former president passed away at age 94 on Friday.
Sitting for an interview at WCPO Saturday, the senator from Terrace Park described Bush 41 as a man who loved his country and was particularly fond of Cincinnati - from Skyline Chili to cowboy hats made at Batsakes.
Portman said Bush’s legacy will be his ability to remain civil in times of strife and exercise international diplomacy with dignity. Portman worked for both Bush presidents during his political career. He said the elder Bush had remained a mentor to him.
Bush showed him politics should be about people, Portman said.
"It's not just about policy for him. It's about people. What's this guy really like? What's this woman really like,” Portman said.
Portman talked about the picture he tweeted showing him with Bush during his last visit in Kennebunkport, Maine, in September. Portman had worn a cap from Bush’s 1988 presidential for the occasion.
“He has a good sense of humor, so I showed up with my Bush '88 hat. It was ancient and falling apart, but he got a kick out of that,” Portman said. “And I was able to give him one of his old campaign hats. He's just a wonderful guy. He makes you feel good. He makes you feel good."
I have cherished my visits with GHWB and Mrs. B since they left office. Here we are a few months ago with his famous companion, Sully, when I surprised him with a BUSH ‘88 hat. We all mourn the loss of a great man. pic.twitter.com/io5MQmfv0W
— Rob Portman (@senrobportman) December 1, 2018
Portman said he got the news of Bush's passing late Friday night in a text message from a friend. Later, he said, he was comforted as he watched “the outpouring of respect and love for him for all quarters.
“It has just been so wonderful,” Portman said. “It’s extraordinary in this age that somebody who’s been in politics pretty much his whole career is so beloved. It’s a throwback to an earlier era, and hopefully we can reflect on that. Why is it today we can’t have that kind of civil politics where we reach across the aisle and get things done? Have conviction and principles but treat each other not as political enemies but as opponents we respect and can work together with?
“I think that’s hopefully what will come out of next two days, that we’ll think about what makes George Bush such a beloved figure.”
Portman tweeted several times in the previous few hours about his admiration for Bush and former first lady Barbara Bush, who died last April. Portman also released this statement:
“George H.W. Bush did it all. He was a war hero, a Congressman, an ambassador, Vice President, and President during one of the most momentous periods in our country's history. An early boss and mentor, President Bush was one of the most decent and honorable men I’ve ever known, and a model that I have tried to follow in my years in public service. It was honor to have worked for him when he was president and to have had his continued advice and counsel over the years. At the close of this truly great American life, let us honor his legacy by following his example of patriotism, public service, and bipartisan problem-solving. Jane and I send our condolences to the entire Bush family and we join them in mourning this extraordinary public servant and American hero.”