Heard on the Hill

These 10 Lines Had Dignitaries Laughing at Bush’s Funeral

Longtime friend Alan Simpson delivered a moving eulogy peppered with knee-slappers

Members of the public pay their respect at former President George H.W. Bush's casket in the Capitol Rotunda on Dec. 3. A day later, at Bush’s funeral at the National Cathedral, a longtime friend lightened the somber mood. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

“He placed great value on a good joke,” George W. Bush said Wednesday at his father’s funeral. “That’s why he asked [Alan] Simpson to speak.”

The elder Bush’s longtime friend, a Wyoming Republican, is known for his blunt speech and humorous style, whether during his time as a senator or in a series of high-profile public roles.

Since retiring from Congress in 1996, Simpson has explained the difference between “naked” and “nekkid,” compared Social Security to an especially prolific “milk cow,” and danced “Gangnam style” in support of debt reduction.

But during his eulogy for George H.W. Bush at the National Cathedral, he surpassed himself, delivering laugh line after laugh line.  

Watch: Simpson’s Energetic and Joyful Tribute to Bush at Funeral

Here are 10 of the best:

• “My life in Washington was rather tumultuous. I went from the A social list to the Z. And never came back to the A.” 

• “In one dark period I was feeling awful low and all my wounds were self-inflicted, all of them. And George called me early one morning — always early in the morning — country music playing in the background and he said, ‘Ah, I see that media is shooting you pretty full of holes.’ Actually, he said it a bit more pungently than that. And he said, ‘Why don’t we go up to Camp David?’”

• “At that time, his popularity rating was 93 percent. Mine was .93 percent. And so off we went. The media of course all gathered as we headed to Marine One and George said, ‘Now wave to your pals over there in the media, Al.’ And they didn't wave back.”

• “I said, ‘George, I am not unmindful as to what you are doing. You are propping up your old wounded duck pal. While you’re at the top of your game you reach out to me while I’m tangled in rich controversy and taking my lumps.’ And he said, ‘Yep.’”

• “Outside of the president’s box that one evening, there was a massive 6-foot vase with an extraordinary glaze. I hope you know the difference between a vase and a vaahse. 35 bucks.” 

• “Now George walked up to it and he said, ‘Al, wait, I think that’s Etruscan. I noticed that,’ he said, ‘This blue grayish glaze from that period, a clay that could only be found during that era.’ And I said, ‘No, no George, the patina there gives me the perception it was possibly older, perhaps of Greek origin with that particular horrible paste before firing.’ Of course, people gathered around mumbling about these expert observers. Barbara and Ann finally came by and said, ‘Get out of here.’”

• “One night the four of us went to see Michael Crawford singing the songs of Andrew Lloyd Webber. All four of us were singing as we went back to the White House: ‘Don’t cry for me Argentina.’ … A few days later he’s getting hammered by the press for some extraordinarily petty bit of trivia and suddenly he sings out, ‘Don’t cry for me Argentina.’ The press then wrote that he was finally losing his marbles.”

• “Those who travel the high road of humility in Washington, D.C., are not bothered by heavy traffic.” 

• “He had a very serious flaw known by all close to him. He loved a good joke. The richer the better, and he threw his head back and give that great laugh, but he never, ever could remember a punch line. And I mean never.”

• “You would have wanted him on your side. He never lost his sense of humor. Humor is the universal solvent against the abrasive elements of life. He never hated anyone. He knew what his mother and my mother always knew. Hatred corrodes the container it’s carried in.”


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