WASHINGTON — The faithful will flock to Dallas later this month for the official opening of the George W. Bush Presidential Center located on the grounds of Southern Methodist University, first lady Laura Bush’s alma mater. Among the attendees will be President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama, whose presence may surprise some but continues the tradition of sitting presidents honoring their predecessors.
After leaving office in the midst of an economic calamity, the worst recession since the Great depression, and with poll ratings in the 30s, Bush has almost disappeared from public life. He made some paid speeches but didn’t aggressively work the lecture circuit. He stayed out of politics so we don’t really know what he thinks of the Tea Party, or the efforts of his former campaign advisor, Karl Rove, to block and tackle Tea Party candidates in primaries.
Instead, Bush has turned to painting, following in the brush strokes of Presidents U.S. Grant and Dwight D. Eisenhower and Prime Minister Winston Churchill. This will not put him in the class of the man many consider one of the best ex-presidents, Jimmy Carter, who also dabbles in art but finds time to take on diplomatic, humanitarian, and peacekeeping missions around the world while supporting Habitat for Humanity and other charities at home.
Neither does it appear that Bush will follow the lead of President Herbert Hoover, the man who was at the helm when the Stock Market crashed and the Great Depression began in 1929. Like Bush, he left office with exceptionally low public approval ratings. But Hoover had already gained fame as the man who saved Belgium from starvation in World War I, and after his wilderness years during FDR’s terms, his advice was sought by President Harry S Truman after World War II.
No, George W. Bush is more likely to be content in his studio. He never fully grasped the extraordinarily complex office of the Presidency in such areas as the war with Iraq over weapons of mass destruction that did not exist or his deer-in-the-headlights reaction to the flawed economic and regulatory policies that brought about the Great Recession. Between the Stock Market collapse and home price collapse of 2008, it may turn out that more money was lost by more people than was lost in the Great Depression, and that is after accounting for population growth and inflation-adjusted dollars.
Now, he may have found his calling, because regardless of critic’s reviews, he most certainly is sure to be a better painter than he was a president.
U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.