Former Sen. Alan Simpson had mourners gathered at George H.W. Bush’s funeral laughing as he regaled tales from the pair’s longtime friendship.
Simpson, 87, recalled how Bush would spend time with him even when he wasn’t the most popular politician at that time. During one “dark period,” the former Wyoming senator said Bush invited him to Camp David for the weekend.
“My life in Washington was rather tumultuous. I went from the A-social list to the Z and never came back to the A,” Simpson said before adding, “At that time, his popularity rating was 93 percent. Mine was .93 percent.”
But Bush didn’t care about whether it was politically expedient to associate with his friend.
“There were staff members who told me not to do this,” Simpson said Bush told him. “But Al, this is about friendship and loyalty.”
Simpson said Bush was someone “you would’ve wanted on your side,” as he “never hated anyone.”
“The most decent and honorable person I ever met was my friend George Bush – one of nature’s noblemen. His epitaph, perhaps just a single letter, the letter L for loyalty,” Simpson, who stands at about 6'5" said. “It courses through his blood: loyalty to his country, loyalty to his family, loyalty to his friends, loyalty to the institutions of government and always, always, always a friend to his friends.”
"The most decent and honorable person I ever met was my friend George Bush – one of nature’s noblemen."
Simpson praised Bush as a “class act, birth to death,” especially for his willingness to put what he thought was best for the country over partisan politics. He specifically recalled when Bush accepted a 1990 bipartisan budget deal that included a tax increase, despite his campaign pledge not to raise taxes.
Simpson said Bush would say, “When the really tough choices come, it’s the country, not me. It’s not about Democrats or Republicans. It’s for our country that I fought for.”
But he got those gathered at the funeral – including all of the presidents – to laugh when he said: “And he was a man of such great humility; those who travel the high road of humility in Washington, D.C., are not bothered by heavy traffic.”
Simpson had first been asked to give a eulogy for his friend in 2012 when Bush was hospitalized, The Washington Post reported. He said he cried while writing his speech so he wouldn’t cry when delivering it Wednesday.
Of his speech, he said Bush had one specific request.
“Relax,” Simpson deadpanned when he first took the podium. “George told me I only had 10 minutes. He was very direct about it; it wasn’t even funny.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.