June 12th, 2009
02:53 PM ET
6 years ago

Bush makes parachute jump on 85th birthday, talks about issues

KENNEBUNKPORT, Maine (CNN) - Former President George H.W. Bush celebrated his 85th birthday Friday by doing what has become his tradition - making a parachute jump - and commenting on national affairs.

"This is great," the elder Bush said after landing near a church in Kennebunkport, Maine, the Bushes' summer home. "I'm glad to be alive and glad my family's all with me."

Bush made the tandem jump from 10,500 feet harnessed to a member of the U.S. Army parachute team. Jumping with him was Robin Meade, an anchor on CNN sister network HLN, also harnessed to a more experienced jumper.

Back on the ground, Bush was flanked by two of his sons - former president George W. Bush, who left office in January, and Jeb Bush, former governor of Florida.

The elder Bush said he intends to do another jump on his 90th birthday.

He made his first jump as a Navy pilot when his plane was shot down over the Pacific during World War II. He also made two jumps apiece on his 75th and 80th birthdays, and another in November 2007 at the reopening of his library at Texas A&M University.

Earlier in the day, Bush talked to Meade about U.S. Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor, whose Senate confirmation hearings start July 13.

Bush, who nominated Sotomayor for a U.S. District Court judgeship for the Southern District of New York in 1992, said she should receive a "fair hearing" as she seeks a seat on the nation's highest court.

Sotomayor is expected to win approval as the first Hispanic Supreme Court justice and the third woman to serve as a Supreme Court justice. She currently is a judge for the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Asked his opinion, Bush said: "I have a feeling she will be confirmed." "I'm going to leave that to others to analyze, but she should be given a fair hearing," he said. "She should be accorded every courtesy that goes with her record as a judge and her aspirations to be a Supreme Court justice."

Sotomayor has been criticized by some conservatives for her remarks on diversity, and a comment made in 2001 and paraphrased on other occasions that she "would hope that a wise Latina woman, with the richness of her experiences, would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn't lived that life."

Bush noted that someone had called Sotomayor a "racist." "Well, that's not right. I mean, it's not fair. It doesn't help the process to be out there name-calling. So let them decide whether they want to vote for her or not, and get on with it."

The former president was asked whether, as he becomes older, he is thinking more about his legacy.

"I think my view on legacy is let the historians figure out what I screwed up, and figure out what I got right.

"And I'm confident that, you know, we had a good administration and good people. And I think the same thing is true of our son. And you know, he had tough times and all, but he's doing it right. He's laying back there and he's not criticizing the president. And I'm very proud of him."

"I hope that we both have set examples for how you ought to conduct yourself when you've been president and then go out of office," Bush said. "Let the other guy do it, and support him when you can and be silent. Don't be out there criticizing all the time."

When the 41st president was asked about the nation's most pressing problems, he listed the economy, unemployment and health care.

"I think it will get better. I remain optimistic about our recovery and all of that," he said.

Bush acknowledged that his schedule is far less hectic these days, but he keeps busy with traveling - he plans trips to Germany and China this year - and humanitarian work with the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, which is part of the University of Texas.

He described his love of skydiving. "Just because you're old, that doesn't mean you can't do fun stuff. And you don't want to sit around drooling in the corner. And so it's a wonderful release.

"And you know, because I was president it sends a message all around. Go out and get something doing. Just 'cause … old guys can still have fun and still do stuff."


Filed under: George H.W. Bush
soundoff (280 Responses)
  1. lf

    Sir, You have served your time in the Oval Office, and I am proud you can do what you did at 85 yrs. of age. You still have a lot 'on the ball' and I would not chance a parachute jump for myself at any age.

    History will have a final word on every former President who has served.
    I think you did a great job while many may not agree with me, so be it!!

    I hope you can make you next jump when you are 90 yrs. of age!

    Thanks also for your service in WW2!

    June 12, 2009 08:01 pm at 8:01 pm |
  2. SouthSideEd

    Happy Birthday Mr. President! I think it is rather pathetic all of the negativity surrounding our former President. Democrats - take note of the fact that neither Bush Sr. or Bush Jr. are out criticizing President Obama. Please don't respond with nonsense that their is nothing to criticize! The fact is whether you like or dislike Sr. or Jr., they have acted with nothing but decency and respect to President Obama. It is unfortunate that so many other politicians (elected or displaced) can't act with such decency.

    June 12, 2009 08:04 pm at 8:04 pm |
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