Bush's pastor jokes about service dog Sully's popularity
The Rev. Russell Levenson of St. Martin's Episcopal Church in Houston spoke at former President George H.W. Bush's state funeral on Wednesday, following an emotional eulogy from former President George W. Bush.
Levenson drew some laughs from the audience when he began by mentioning how the 41st president's wife Barbara, who died earlier this year, would note that his sermons would go on just a bit too long.
Levenson also discussed Bush's final days, noting that former Secretary of State James Baker, Bush's longtime friend, was by his side at the very end. (George W. Bush, in his tribute minutes earlier, said that Baker sneaked his father Grey Goose vodka and steaks from Morton's when he was in the hospital.)
Also getting a hat tip from the pulpit: Sully, the service dog with the former president in his final months. The dog, said Levenson, seemingly "has gotten more press than the president in recent days."
"Mr. President, mission complete," Levenson said, in reference to Bush's stint as a military aviator. "Welcome to your eternal home, where ceiling and visibility are unlimited and life goes on forever."
Goodnight, and thanks for reading. Ceremonies celebrating Bush's life continue tomorrow.
Tonight, the former president will lie in repose at St. Martin's Episcopal Church in Houston.
Tomorrow's events will include a second funeral service at St. Martin's scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. ET.
Bush's remains will then be transported by funeral train to Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas, where he will be laid to rest on the grounds of his presidential library located on the campus.
Bush's plane touches down in Houston
The blue and white government plane carrying former President George H.W. Bush's casket and members of his family landed in Texas just after 6 p.m. on Wednesday as the events commemorating his life and legacy continue.
Friends and family, after deplaning, gathered on the tarmac at Ellington Airport to watch the military honor guard escort the casket from the aircraft to a hearse bearing the presidential seal.
Bush's remains will be transported to St. Martin's Episcopal Church for the next phase of the ceremony, which will include a second funeral service Thursday in the state where he launched his political career.
During that service, Bush's grandson, Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush, and former Secretary of State James Baker will eulogize the former president.
Following that ceremony, Bush's remains will be transported by funeral train to Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas. The former president will then be laid to rest on the grounds of the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum, near his wife, Barbara, and their daughter Robin, who died of leukemia in 1953 at age 3.
View from left wing of plane carrying Bush home
The presidential plane, dubbed "Special Air Mission 41," conducted a special low-flying tribute flight over the George H.W. Presidential Library Center and the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas.
Bush and Dole: A political rivalry for the ages. And then that final salute.
The scene inside the Capitol this week was arresting: 95-year-old Bob Dole, confined for years to a wheelchair, rising with assistance to offer one final standing salute to George H.W. Bush.
The history behind it made it even more poignant. Born only 11 months apart, but into dramatically different circumstances, the two men forged one of the preeminent rivalries of modern American politics, fueled by shared ambition and shaped by fateful twists and bitter confrontations, with Bush ultimately capturing the prize that always eluded Dole.
They both came to Washington around the same time, but from very different places.
'41' mowed into the Aggie baseball field at Texas A&M
When "Special Air Mission 41," the government craft carrying the body of former President George H.W. Bush, conducts a flyover 2,000 feet above Texas A&M in College Station, family members on the plane might be able to see another tribute visible down below.
The number '41' — Bush was the 41st president of the United States — has been mowed into the outfield at Olsen Field, home of Aggie baseball. Holly Kasperbauer, the assistant director of the Public Service Leadership Program at the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M, tweeted pictures of the tribute on Wednesday.
Nick McKenna, assistant athletic field maintenance manager for Texas A&M Athletics, said in a tweet that the Aggie field staff added "a little something extra to the outfield today in the hopes of providing a special touch to tomorrow's events."
Those Thursday events, part of his funeral services in Texas, include a 21-fighter flyover in missing man formation, which the Navy called "unprecedented" in size.
Former aide to George H.W. Bush: 'I'm glad' Trump came to the funeral
Joe Watkins, an MSNBC analyst and White House aide to former President George H.W. Bush, said Wednesday that he was "glad" President Donald Trump attended Bush's state funeral service.
Watkins called Bush's funeral "incredible," adding that "people were crying all around me because it was so moving."
"It was funny and it was moving at the same time," Watkins said. "I mean whether it was Jon Meacham or former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney or Alan Simpson the former senator from Wyoming, who was hilarious but also just so on point, or George W. Bush, the former president who moved so many of us to tears."
On Trump, Watkins said it was "a big step for him to be" in attendance, though he added that he thought Trump "had to be there."
"But I'm glad he was there and I’m glad that he said what he said beforehand and that he was consistent with the spirit of the moment, which was about honoring the memory of George Herbert Walker Bush," Watkins said.
Exiting cathedral, Sessions chats with former Senate colleagues. Will he run for his old seat?
Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions spoke with former Senate colleagues, including Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., as he exited the cathedral. NBC News asked if he plans to run for his old Alabama Senate seat — which he’s been said to be considering — in 2020.
“I haven’t cleared my brain on that,” he said. He added that he doesn’t yet have a timeline for making a decision. Democrat Doug Jones won a special election last year after Sessions left the seat open to become Trump’s attorney general.
But Sessions, who earned Trump's wrath for recusing himself from oversight of special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe, was ousted by the president just a day after last month’s midterm elections. Alabama is a heavily Republican state, and the GOP has a good shot at reclaiming the seat in 2020.
Bush departs Washington for the final time
The former president's casket, accompanied by family, is aboard "Special Air Mission 41," en route to Texas.
The government plane will conduct a "tribute flight" honoring George H.W. Bush over his interment site at the George Bush Presidential Library in College Station, Texas, later this afternoon, according to a news release from Texas A&M University.
The library is located on the university's campus.
ICYMI: George W. Bush continues sweet tradition with Michelle Obama
Bush was caught on video passing a cough drop to the former first lady during John McCain's funeral service in September — and appeared to slip her something sweet ahead of his father's ceremony today, too.
What's next following Bush's state funeral
With the former president's state funeral service in Washington, D.C., concluded, Bush's casket, accompanied by his family, will now board a government plane and head toward Houston, where ceremonial events and remembrances will continue through Thursday.
Thursday morning, another funeral service will be held at St. Martin's Episcopal Church, where Bush's grandson, Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush, and former Secretary of State James Baker will eulogize the former president.
Bush told CNN that his grandfather's funeral was an opportunity for the nation to "put politics aside."
Following that service, Bush's remains will be transported by funeral train to Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas. Bush will be laid to rest on the grounds of the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum, near his wife, Barbara, and their daughter Robin, who died of leukemia in 1953 at age 3.
Card: Bush's funeral marked 'disappearance' of tribalism that has 'captured America'
Andrew Card, who served as secretary of transportation under George H.W. Bush and later as former President George W. Bush's chief of staff, told NBC News that Bush's funeral was reflective of his decency and respect for others.
"I found this to be very moving, it was emotional, it was wonderful to see the world coming together to do this," Card said, adding "We saw the former presidents, we saw the president of the United States, this was not a political event, this wasn't a partisan event, this was a celebration of a life well lived and a country served extremely well."
The ceremony marked a "disappearance" of tribalism that has "captured America for so long," Card continued.
"He respected individuals who served, even when he didn't agree with what they had to say," Card said.