With negotiations — and protests — underway over Bush’s presidential library, and analysts trying to predict what his legacy will be, I’ve been musing about a not-so-far-off time. Specifically, what will Bush do once he waves goodbye for the last time and leaves office in 2008?
I figure it’s pretty certain he won’t be sent on any goodwill ambassador missions like his dad and Clinton have been. I mean, where could he go? Disaster relief? Not after Katrina. International diplomacy? I don’t think so. Blue-ribbon commissions? I can envision plenty of snarky responses to that question, but not Bush sitting on one.
Humanitarian work? He just doesn’t strike me as the “establish a Habitat for Humanity” type. Donate to charity? Sure. Run a charity? No. Though he could prove me wrong there, especially if he consciously attempts to gild his legacy.
The welcome mat isn’t really going to be out at the RNC or the other usual partisan haunts. It’s not just disagreement on specific issues. Many of them are mad at him for losing Congress — and perhaps positioning them for even heavier losses in 2008. That kind of odor doesn’t go away quickly. Then there’s the whole thing about rampant incompetence. If he doesn’t pull something out of his hat, he’ll be a political pariah in his own party. Even the neocons will shun him, for setting their cause back 20 years or more.
Recent reports offer one clue: he wants his presidential library to have a conservative think tank associated with it. So maybe that’s how he’ll spend his time. Of course, that raises the snarky question of “will they actually be conservative, or will they use Bush’s definition of the term?” And “Bush” and “think tank” don’t really belong in the same sentence anyway. Expect his role to be more of frontman and funder rather than policy wonk.
With so many doors closed, and him not being a real elder statesmen type, I’m having a hard time envisioning him doing much more than going back to Texas and cocooning. Maybe doing some well-paid speeches to the faithful. Maybe organizing his papers. Maybe clearing a lot of brush down in Crawford. But mostly just kicking back and enjoying retirement.
I’m not trying to be mean here; for one thing, who cares if that’s all he does? There’s no requirement that ex-presidents be any more publicly involved than any other retiree. I think he’ll turn out to be a bit like Gerald Ford — although even Ford was more involved in (and credible on) public policy than I expect Bush to be.
Weigh in with your own opinions. Try to keep it thoughtful; the cheap shots are just too easy, and I think I used most of them already anyway.