Barbara Bush, former first lady and mother to former President George W. Bush and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush –– died April 17 at the age of 92. News of her passing came just two days after the Bush family announced she had elected to forego any further attempts at prolonging her life and opted for “comfort care.”
Bush’s legacy quickly became the subject of intense media scrutiny. Although the Bush family history is well-documented, thanks in large part to her sons’ own political careers, the spotlight intensified on Barbara and her status as a matriarchal icon.
President Donald Trump acknowledged the former first lady’s death and tweeted out a picture of Barbara Bush’s portrait with a floral display.
Today, my thoughts and prayers are with the entire Bush family. In memory of First Lady Barbara Bush, there is a remembrance display located at her portrait in the Center Hall of the @WhiteHouse. pic.twitter.com/AuJ3RLZyax
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 21, 2018
Former President Bill Clinton tweeted out a remembrance on both his behalf and that of his wife, former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.
Barbara Bush was a remarkable woman. She had grit & grace, brains & beauty. She was fierce & feisty in support of her family & friends, her country & her causes. She showed us what an honest, vibrant, full life looks like. Hillary and I mourn her passing and bless her memory.
— Bill Clinton (@BillClinton) April 17, 2018
Former President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama did the same by posting a statement in which they referred to Bush as “an example of the humility and decency that reflects the very best of the American spirit.”
Our statement on the passing of Former First Lady Barbara Bush: pic.twitter.com/MhTVYCL9Nj
— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) April 18, 2018
The Washington Post published a story outlining the Bush family — and, in particular, Barbara’s — perseverance after the death of her three-year-old daughter Robin from leukemia in the 1960s. Its headline: “Barbara Bush had already faced a death more painful than her own.”
Bush spoke candidly about the unexpected nature of Robin’s death and how it made her marriage with her husband grow stronger.
One cartoonist also drew a depiction of Bush reuniting with her long-lost daughter at the gates of Heaven. Bush’s granddaughter Jenna Bush Hager shared the photo with her followers on Facebook.
CNN’s John Crawley and Jamie Gangel remembered Bush as “a fierce defender of her husband and an astute adviser,” even though she had a less active role in her husband’s policies than Nancy Reagan or Hillary Clinton did with theirs.
They also spoke of Bush’s defiance of conservative values at times, noting that “Barbara Bush promoted women’s rights, and her strong personal views sometimes surfaced publicly and raised eyebrows — especially when they clashed with Republican Party politics.”
Not all the coverage focused on the positives, though. Vox ran a story about a professor at California State University, Fresno who referred to Bush on Twitter as a racist, particularly in response to how she felt Bush treated Anita Hill when she accused then-Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment.
“Barbara Bush was a generous and smart and amazing racist who, along with her husband, raised a war criminal,” Randa Jarrar tweeted. “F— outta here with your nice words.”
Just like anyone involved in politics, Barbara Bush received both praise and condemnation from her supporters and detractors. However, her contributions toward education and her family’s political campaigns cannot go unnoticed.
No matter your political inclinations, her death marks a significant loss in one of the most prominent political dynasties in recent memory.