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Hope's commitment to U.S. troops won him presidential praise

Bush orders flags to be flown at half-staff

Bob Hope and President Nixon trade quips during the comedian's visit to the White House in this September 20, 1969 file photo
Bob Hope and President Nixon trade quips during the comedian's visit to the White House in this September 20, 1969 file photo

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CNN's Charles Feldman has a look at the long and distinguished career of legendary actor Bob Hope. (July 28)
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- U.S. presidents past and present and a host of lawmakers paid tribute Monday to comedian and actor Bob Hope, a reflection both of Hope's talents as an entertainer and his unflagging support for U.S. troops in conflicts abroad.

The praise was effusive, coming from Democrats and Republicans, all of whom took note of Hope's tours where he entertained members of the U.S. armed forces.

Hope, 100, died Sunday at his California home, ending a remarkable career that began in vaudeville and flowered in all mediums.

President Bush set the tone, telling reporters that Hope was "a great citizen" and a "good man."

"Bob Hope served our nation when he went to battlefields to entertain thousands of troops from different generations," Bush said. He later issued a proclamation calling Hope one of the nation's "great treasures" and said flags at U.S. government buildings, installations and military posts around the world would be flown at half-staff on the day of Hope's interment.

Former presidents also weighed in with words of praise. Jimmy Carter cited Hope's "love, concern and selfless devotion for the men and women in the armed services." Gerald Ford said Hope would be missed by service members. "GI's around the world have been grateful for his untiring devotion."

Former first lady Nancy Reagan recalled that her husband referred to Hope as "one of our finest ambassadors for America and for freedom."

Said Mrs. Reagan: "He showed people around the world that American spirit and enthusiasm are unstoppable."

Hope was widely known as a Republican supporter since the 1960s, but he was never as overtly political as some entertainers today. Hope golfed with Presidents Nixon and Ford, and was a close Hollywood friend of the Reagans.

He poked fun at his long-standing appeal to White House audiences, once quipping that he had "performed for 12 presidents and entertained six."

His repeated trips to entertain troops during the Vietnam War -- a conflict which generated widespread criticism and protests at home -- also endeared him to U.S. leaders.

Lawmakers of all stripes hailed Hope's decades-long regard for American GI's.

Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-California, recalled Hope's tours during World War II.

"During the war, he traveled to camps around the world to provide a healthy and good-natured distraction for American GI's because he had the greatest respect and support for their service," Boxer said. "In turn, this country has the greatest respect for his service."

-- CNN Polling Director Keating Holland and Senior White House Correspondent John King contributed to this report.

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