Despite Mandela funeral absence, George H.W. Bush 'very sharp … doing great'

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Paul Bedard,Washington Secrets,Bill Clinton,Nelson Mandela,Twitter

You can ignore those murmurings about the health of former President George H.W. Bush, who was the sole living U.S. president to miss former South African President Nelson Mandela’s funeral.

Turns out that the wheelchair bound Bush is just fine, but not up for the long flight half a world away.

In fact, he’s already in the holiday spirit. “President and Mrs. Bush just hosted their annual office Christmas party today in Houston, so they're really doing great,” spokesman Jim McGrath told Secrets late Wednesday.

Bush decided to make his absence a reason to get on Twitter, typing his first tweet about the world leader. “Barbara and I wish we could have joined the U.S. delegation honoring President Mandela today. He, and his countrymen, are in our prayers,” he tweeted.

“He's giving it a shot,” McGrath said of Bush using Twitter. “He has heard about it for some time, and regretted not being able to make the brutally long flight to South Africa -- so it was the confluence of two events.”

And he joked that the limitations on Twitter suit the 89-year-old fine. “While he's still very sharp, the president has also described himself as a man of fewer words these days. It seems like a good fit for now.”

Former President Bill Clinton cheered Bush on, tweeting: “Congratulations on joining Twitter, Mr. President! Easier than skydiving!”

Paul Bedard, the Washington Examiner's "Washington Secrets" columnist, can be contacted at