Before the shouting started, there was one thing that everyone at Thursday night’s Republican presidential debate understood: There was a hero in the house.
Former President George Herbert Walker Bush and his wife, Barbara, both attended the event at the University of Houston. Bush, 91 and sitting in a wheelchair, was videoed on his way into the theater where the debate was held. He was later photographed surrounded by grinning students, most of whom were likely not even born during the Bush presidency that saw America regain its military might in the Gulf War while the Cold War ended and the Berlin Wall fall.
Bush’s entrance did not go unnoticed.
“… he was … met with a thunderous response following his entrance to the hall,” reported Chris Tognotti on Bustle. “It probably rung to the room as a slightly melancholy moment, given that Jeb was forced to drop out before making it to Super Tuesday, but it was clearly a joyful moment for the partisan crowd as well.”
The crowd was so loud for Bush’s arrival that during the pre-debate coverage on CNN, discussion stopped a moment and one host called the former president’s reception “astounding.”
Bush and his wife also received a moment in the spotlight just before the start of the debate when they were officially announced to the crowd. A standing ovation ensued as the crowd gathered in the 41st president’s former hometown gave him some of the loudest cheers of the night.
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During their introduction, Bush grabbed his wife’s hand. Just as though they were the evening’s winners, they held their grasped hands aloft as cheers rang throughout the theater.