WASHINGTON — Nevada joined the nation in mourning the loss of George H.W. Bush, a president who developed deep friendships and ties in the state and gave an emotional boost to a Southern Nevada charitable organization that helps adults with intellectual disabilities.
Las Vegas businessman Sig Rogich, a Bush confidant and former U.S. ambassador to Iceland, developed a strong bond with the president over a lifetime of Air Force One travel, martinis and golf that helped benefit Nevada.
“We developed a friendship, and we never lost it,” Rogich told the Las Vegas Review-Journal in a telephone interview.
Rogich was part of the “Tuesday Team,” a group of advertising consultants for the Reagan-Bush presidential campaign, and later the Bush-Quayle campaign that developed TV ads attacking Democratic rival Michael Dukakis’ record on crime and punishment and one showing Dukakis riding in a tank.
Rogich recalled first seeing a news segment showing Dukakis in the tank on TV while he was hosting a party at his Washington, D.C., apartment. Late that night, he said, he wrote a commercial and took it to the campaign’s creative director, Jim Weller, the next day.
Later, Rogich said, he looked at the polling numbers and expressed that maybe the campaign shouldn’t run the ad.
“I thought we could win on our own without it,” he said. “I wanted the president to take office on a high note.”
Fan of the state
After the election, Rogich brought Bush to Nevada.
“He loved the state,” Rogich said. “He came several times as president.”
On one occasion, Rogich took him to Opportunity Village, a not-for-profit charity in Las Vegas that assists adults with mental disabilities through vocational training, employment and other programs.
Opportunity Village made the campaign buttons for the Reagan-Bush campaign and the Bush-Quayle campaign.
He was met by entertainer Wayne Newton, said Linda Smith, Opportunity Village vice president of philanthropy and associate executive director.
Bush tied up Las Vegas traffic for hours, staying longer at the facility than planned and meeting with everyone, including those who were intellectually incapable of knowing who the president was or the importance of his position.
“He was absolutely wonderful,” Smith said.
That visit in the early 1990s, Rogich said, gave the charity another significant boost. Bush was so taken by the mission and the operation that he helped secure support from a significant donor.
“He helped us that day,” Rogich said.
And he was helpful on other matters in Nevada.
“The president took a lot of pride in the fact that he was helpful here in our state,” Rogich said.
During his term in office, Bush signed into law the Truckee-Carson-Pyramid Lake Settlement Act, a bill by Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., that settled a long-standing dispute over water apportionment from the Truckee and Carson rivers.
The law ended a century of conflicting demands, provided certainty of water supply for municipal and agricultural users, enhanced conservation efforts for threatened and endangered species in Pyramid Lake and improved wetlands in the Lahontan Valley.
‘An American patriot’
Reid was one of the multiple public officials from both sides of the aisle who spoke with fond memories of the late president.
Although from different parties and with different political philosophies, Reid said Bush “was one of the most qualified people ever elected president, and above all, he was among the most decent.”
“He was kind, generous and determined to do the right thing for his country,” Reid said in a statement.
Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., called Bush an “American patriot.” Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., said the late president was pragmatic but also a “man of principle.”
Gov. Brian Sandoval, R-Reno, wrote on Twitter: “I am deeply saddened by the passing of former President George H.W. Bush. He was a great man who gave much to his country. Lauralyn and I send our prayers to his family. May he rest in peace.”
President Donald Trump designated today a national day of mourning for Bush.
A memorial service at the National Cathedral will be held before the body is sent to a funeral in Texas.
Prior to the services, the president’s body will lie in state under the Capitol Rotunda.
Trump said he would send Air Force One to Texas to bring the president’s body to Washington. Trump said it is “a special tribute that he deserves very much.”
Rogich said he traveled “five, six, seven thousand miles on Air Force One” with President Bush to foreign countries and every U.S. state. Rogich said Bush had a sense of decorum.
“I never saw him less than presidential,” he said.
He also liked jokes and gags.
“We shared a good martini on occasion,” Rogich recalled. “And we always shared a lot of laughs.”
Bush would also come to Vegas, while he was in the White House and after, to visit friends and to relax.
“We did see some shows and we did play some golf,” Rogich recalled.
They played Shadow Creek Golf Course, Spanish Trail Country Club and others.
When the energy secretary came to an administration meeting to complain about Rogich’s advocacy against the Yucca Mountain Nuclear Waste Repository, the tiff between the two was relayed to Bush.
“He just told me to stick to my guns, or something like that,” Rogich recalled.
“I love him,” Rogich said. “He had a great sense of humor and a deep passion.”
The Cold War ended during Bush’s presidency. The Berlin Wall came down. Bush, a World War II bomber pilot, was commander in chief during the Gulf War, leading an international coalition with great support by the American people.
Bush’s popularity topped 91 percent after the war, before a declining economy and third-party candidate H. Ross Perot helped Democrat Bill Clinton defeat the Republican incumbent in the 1992 presidential election.
As he left the White House, Bush left a handwritten note to Clinton in the Oval Office, humble and heartening words of support for the new president.
“I will never forget the handwritten letters he wrote me when I did something he deemed worthy of a few generous words,” Reid recalled. “He was known throughout his career for sending these types of personalized notes to people, and I will always cherish the ones he sent to me.”
George H.W. Bush in Nye County
Republican George H.W. Bush carried 65 percent of the Nye County vote in the 1988 presidential election, defeating Democrat Michael Dukakis, who won 31 percent.
Bush carried nearly 59 percent of the Nevada vote in 1988.
Bush won 34 percent of the Nye County vote in 1992, narrowly defeating Democrat Bill Clinton at 32 percent and Ross Perot of the Reform Party at 31 percent.
Clinton won Nevada in 1992 with about 37.3 percent of the vote to 34.7 percent for Bush and about 26.2 percent for Perot.
George H.W. Bush in Esmeralda County
Bush carried 69 percent of the Esmeralda County vote in the 1988 presidential election, defeating Democrat Michael Dukakis, who won 26 percent.
Bush won 37.8 percent of the Esmeralda County vote in 1992, narrowly defeating Ross Perot of the Reform Party at 37.7 percent and Democrat Bill Clinton at 20 percent.
NATIONAL DAY OF MORNING
President Donald J. Trump has proclaimed today, Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2018, as a National Day of Mourning in remembrance of former President George H.W. Bush.
The U.S. government is closed today along with financial markets such as the New York Stock Exchange and Nasdaq.
“Out of respect for the 41st President of the United States and to honor his vast contributions to our country during his lifetime, and consistent with the Presidential Proclamation, the United States Postal Service will suspend regular mail deliveries, retail services and administrative office activity on Dec. 5,” the U.S. Postal Service said in statement.
“We will provide limited package delivery service on that day to ensure that our network remains fluid and we do not experience any impacts to our package delivery operations that might negatively affect our customers or business partners during the remainder of our busy holiday season,” the statement added.