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The Attorney General Who Served Under Bush


We're going to turn now to Dick Thornburgh. Of course he was attorney general under President George H.W. Bush and of course also once governor of Pennsylvania. Governor, thanks very much for being with us.

DICK THORNBURGH: Good morning. Thank you.

SIMON: What are your thoughts today about your friend?

THORNBURGH: Well, I reflect on a man who really exemplifies public service in this United States. George H.W. Bush was a model for anyone who aspired to or held that office and I think enriched the whole executive branch of government in a way that we hope will be restored during these years that we are struggling through now. But he was really a role model for all of us who served in his administration one way or another. And we're very proud and correspondingly very sad today to learn of his passing.

SIMON: Governor - Dick, if I may - I want to get you to talk about the Americans with Disabilities Act that was signed by President Bush because I know this is something that might get lost in the maelstrom of remembrance. But it's a very important and significant act.

THORNBURGH: It would be a great loss if people do not remember the important breakthrough the Americans with Disabilities Act represented. It was characterized by many as the most important civil rights legislation since the 1960s. And those of us who went through that struggle vote by vote to try to get - secure passage remember very well the day that President Bush signed the ADA.

A sunny South Lawn of the White House contained - some 3,000 people were there for the signing. And that one stroke of the pen enriched the rights of people with disabilities beyond what existed at any time before. So all of us remember that. And all of us are proud of the contribution that President Bush and his administration made.

SIMON: You avert a little bit to this in your first answer, and of course I need to draw you out. You are a famous and lifelong Republican. How do you think the legacy of President George H.W. Bush fits into the party, and do you care to draw a contrast with what America and the Republican Party are living through now?

THORNBURGH: Well, I think you experts will have to tell us precisely what all the changes that have taken place in the last two or three years mean. But it's clear that there are many Republican leaders who have opted for a slightly different direction that the party and the nation should take. I'm sorry because I think that the years when presidents Reagan and Bush served represent the best of Republican politics throughout the nation. And it would be a shame to see that pre-empted for the moment by (inaudible).

SIMON: That is Dick Thornburgh, former governor of Pennsylvania and of course attorney general under President George H.W. Bush. Governor, thanks so much for sharing your thoughts with us today.

THORNBURGH: You bet. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.