President Declares Tuesday A National Day of Mourning
Friday, December 29, 2006
CRAWFORD, Tex., Dec. 28 -- President Bush declared a national day of mourning and ordered the federal government to close Tuesday to mark the death of Gerald R. Ford. Financial markets will be partially closed in observation of his passing as well.
Bush opted not to cut short a week-long stay at his ranch here to return for Saturday night's ceremony, when Ford's body will be brought to the Rotunda of the U.S. Capitol. But Bush and first lady Laura Bush will head immediately to the Capitol upon their return to Andrews Air Force Base on Monday to pay respects at the casket.
Bush will also deliver remarks at Ford's funeral service at the Washington National Cathedral on Tuesday, the White House announced. Spokesman Scott Stanzel said Vice President Cheney, a former Ford White House chief of staff, will speak Saturday at the Capitol ceremony.
Stanzel refused to be drawn into a discussion of whether the president considered abridging his time in Crawford.
The president "will look forward on Monday and Tuesday to honoring the life of President Ford," Stanzel said. He noted that Bush's participation will mirror his involvement in Ronald Reagan's funeral in June 2004 and added that the president offered the Ford family one of the executive jets normally used as Air Force One.
Bush will not be the only major political figure to miss the Saturday ceremony. Most of the Democratic leaders, who take over Congress next Thursday, will be absent. Incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) will not be at the Capitol on Saturday but will attend the cathedral service Tuesday, her office said. Incoming Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) and Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) are traveling in Latin America, along with Republican Sens. Judd Gregg (N.H.) and Robert F. Bennett (Utah), and are not due back until Tuesday evening, meaning they will miss all the Ford events.
House Majority Leader-elect Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) will be on hand to greet Ford's body on Saturday, as will most leading Republicans, including outgoing House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (Ill.), incoming House Minority Leader John A. Boehner (Ohio), incoming House Minority Whip Roy Blunt (Mo.) and incoming Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.), according to aides.
Bush has offered words of praise for Ford since his death on Tuesday, but the president had reason to be unhappy with sentiments expressed by the 38th president and published Thursday in The Washington Post. In an interview with The Post's Bob Woodward in 2004, Ford said Bush and his team "made a mistake" in how they justified the Iraq war and said he would not have ordered the 2003 invasion, which toppled Saddam Hussein and has led to more than 3 1/2 years of warfare.
Ford gave the interview on the condition that his remarks not be reported until after his death. The White House made no comment on the former president's criticism.
Layton reported from Washington.