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As the nation mourns the passing of former President George H.W. Bush, Americans have been reminded once again of what leadership can be.

The former president, who died last week at age 94, has been remembered not just for what his administration accomplished in his four years as president but also for being a decent and kind man who put the nation's interests ahead of his own.

Bush, a Republican, was president from 1989 until January 1983. The passage of time has doubtlessly softened remembrances of his presidency and what caused him to lose his bid for a second term.

What has endured, even through his post-presidency, is his service to the country from his days as a teenage fighter pilot in World War II through his election to Congress from Texas and his later service as ambassador to the United Nations and China, head of the CIA and chairman of the Republican National Committee. That was followed by his election to two terms as Ronald Reagan's vice president, then his own election as president.

No one ever questioned any personal motivation behind his policy decisions, grounded as they were in what he had learned from that string of resume-building roles in government.

Diplomacy was his long suit, perhaps best demonstrated as he presided over the end of the Cold War between the United States and the former Soviet Union.

His tenure as president came at a time of world-changing significance -- marked, too, by German unification in 1990 and that 100-day war to liberate Kuwait from Iraqi invaders in 1991. He proved to be the right man with the right skills for the time, at least in the international area.

Bush was the last of the World War II generation to serve as president, admittedly a man of a different era.

Everything about the man, from his war service to his post-presidency volunteerism, screamed service above self.

All of it stands in stark contrast to the leadership of the country now.

President Donald Trump, who didn't serve in his generation's war in Vietnam, had no government service of any kind in his resume when elected.

He wasn't prepared to be president and his tenure has proven it. He has been all about self, even advancing his personal business interests during his presidency.

And that doesn't even touch the growing evidence that Trump or his campaign may have broken the law or, in the president's case, committed some impeachable offense.

The last time the attention of the nation was drawn to such a leadership difference was when Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, died earlier this year.

McCain, like Bush, had been a Navy pilot whose plane was shot down in wartime. McCain first survived five and a half years as a prisoner of war before resuming a life of public service.

Sen. McCain had his critics. Yet, like President George H.W. Bush, the long-time senator and former presidential nominee was most remembered for his character, integrity, good humor and decency.

The passing of both the senator and the former president underscored the nation's loss of their kind of leadership.

The nation should mourn that void as well as the passing of two decent men who gave lifelong service to the country.

Commentary on 12/05/2018

Print Headline: A meaningful contrast

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