WASHINGTON — Former Vice President Dick Cheney and former Secretary of State James Baker, two of the late President George H.W. Bush's closest political allies, paid tribute to their friend on "Meet the Press" Sunday.
Bush, who presided over the nation during the end of the Cold War as America's 41st president, died on Friday at the age of 94.
"He kept his sense of humor and his spirit until the very end. What a beautiful, wonderful human being he was," said Baker, who visited Bush's bedside in his final hours.
"He will be well remembered by history, and well treated by history."
"I think that, no doubt, he will be remembered as our most-successful one-term president and, perhaps, one of the most successful presidents of all time," Baker said.
The patriarch of one of America's political dynasties, the elder Bush held a variety of positions at the top of government even before winning the presidency in 1988. He spent eight years as President Ronald Reagan's vice president, previously leading the CIA and the Republican National Committee. He also served a stint in the House of Representatives, representing his adopted home of Texas, as well as America's ambassador to the United Nations and China.
A World War II veteran, Bush's term in office was defined in no small part by his role in modern foreign policy.
He presided over the United States at the end of the Cold War, which brought an end to the tensions that dominated the second half of the Twentieth Century and reorganized modern Europe. He ordered troops into Panama to help depose dictator Manuel Noriega and into Iraq for the first Gulf War after dictator Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait. And his administration struck the landmark North American Free Trade Agreement with Mexico and Canada.
It was his role at the end of the Cold War that earned him praise from the country and the international community.
"His presidency, while it was only four years, was extraordinarily consequential," Baler said. "If you look at what happened in the world and the way he managed that — the way he managed the end of the Cold War so that it ended with a whimper, not with a bang, was really incredible."
New York Democratic Rep. Jerry Nadler agreed, telling "Meet the Press," that the falls of most empires usually come with "wars and cataclysms," and said that "a major share of that credit" for avoiding international calamity with the collapse of the Soviet Union "goes to George Bush."
Cheney, who served as Bush's Defense Secretary before later returning to government as President George W. Bush's vice president, recalled his former boss as a "remarkable man," noting how he gave him and the soliders under his command unmatched support.
Cheney went on to call his time working for Bush a "highlight of my career."