Buenos Aires — One US president talked softly, the other harangues. One built international coalitions, the other tears them up. One was a war hero, the other avoided battle.
One was called George H.W. Bush and the other, Donald Trump, is in the White House today.
Trump was among the first of present and past world leaders to praise the life of the 41st president, who died Friday in Houston at 94.
But even Trump’s gracious overnight statement highlighted an undeniable — and uncomfortable — contrast between the man being remembered and the man doing the eulogizing.
“Hope,” “humble,” “quiet,” “unflappable,” “inspired.” Words like these dotted the five paragraphs sent from Buenos Aires, where Trump was attending the G-20 summit.
They sounded foreign in Washington’s current, brutal political landscape — still more so in the White House.
Bush, who married his teenaged sweetheart, certainly lived a life far removed from the scandals that have dogged Trump, who notably stands accused of paying off a porn star to keep a lid on their secret tryst.
Bush was soft-spoken, steeped in etiquette and diplomatic niceties.
One was a war hero, the other avoided battle.
Trump is a zero-sum competitor, a self-described dealmaker whose transactions — from his New York real estate beginnings to the China trade war — depend on brinksmanship and often well-timed insults.
Where Bush, an experienced diplomat, was famous for putting together the enormous Desert Storm alliance to push Iraq out of Kuwait in 1991, Trump openly scorns multilateralism.
Even the 45th president himself would never claim to share Bush’s old-school manners, perhaps epitomized by the handwritten note that Bush left his election vanquisher Bill Clinton on inauguration day in 1993, wishing him “great happiness.”
So Bush’s passing immediately left some in Washington in a wistful mood.