President Bush is calling Ronald Reagan's death "a sad hour in the life of America." The president spoke to reporters in Paris shortly after telephoning former first lady Nancy Reagan with condolences.
Bush was awakened with the news of the former president's passing by Chief of Staff Andrew Card at the U.S. ambassador's residence. Appearing before mikes and cameras just after midnight Paris time, Bush said Reagan "leaves behind a nation he restored and a world he helped save."
He said Reagan's leadership helped end an "era of division and self-doubt" at home and "an era of fear and tyranny" in the Cold War. "Now," said Bush, "in laying our leader to rest, we say thank you." Bush has ordered flags at federal facilities lowered to half-staff for 30 days.
He's scheduled to speak at D-Day observances in Normandy in the morning, then fly to Georgia to host the annual G-Eight summit. Officials say he'll keep to that schedule for now, but will likely attend a memorial service for Reagan when plans are set.
Bush's father, former President George Bush remembers his predecessor as a principled leader with a knack for maintaining friendships with political opponents. Speaking outside his seaside home in Maine, the elder Bush said it was hard not to become a friend of Reagan.
The first President Bush started out battling Reagan for the Republican presidential nomination in 1980. After Bush lost, he ended up as Reagan's vice president for eight years, staying by his side as Reagan took a firm stance with the Soviet Union.
Bush remembered Reagan for his kindness and his sense of humor and his ability to fight battles without creating enemies.