- The Washington Times - Monday, January 1, 2007

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Bush and first lady Laura Bush briefly paid their respects today to Gerald R. Ford, joining thousands of ordinary Americans in saying goodbye to the former president.

At midafternoon on a rainy, overcast day, the first couple stood at Ford’s flag-draped casket and bowed their heads. Their stay at the U.S. Capitol lasted just a few minutes. Afterward, the Bush motorcade took the president to Blair House, across the street from the White House, where the Bushes visited former first lady Betty Ford for a half-hour and then walked back to the Executive Mansion.

Vice President Dick Cheney and his wife, Lynne, visited Mrs. Ford at Blair House just a few minutes later.

Bush, who had been vacationing until Monday at his ranch in Crawford, Texas, had saluted Ford in a statement from there last week after the former president died. Bush also devoted his weekly Saturday radio address to the fallen leader.

Bush and his wife visited the Capitol on the third day of mourning there for Ford, who died at 93. Two of Ford’s children stood in the Rotunda Monday, greeting people who came to pay last respects to their father.

Just a few moments later, Bush’s father, former President George H.W. Bush, and his wife, Barbara, came, stood by the casket and bowed their heads, and left.

Michael Gerald Ford shook 8-year-old Christopher Witkowski’s hand and gave him a blue remembrance card. “My father would have wanted you to have this,” he told Christopher, from Alexandria, Va. Ford’s sister, Susan Ford Bales, stood nearby, greeting others who had come to pay their respects.

Before the Bushes went to the Hill, Rep. Nancy Pelosi, who this week becomes the first woman speaker of the House, paid her respects. And former President Clinton and his wife, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, were to visit as well.

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