A Good Life Out of Office

George W. Bush seems to be enjoying his retirement. In a recent interview with the Hoover Institution’s Peter Robinson, Bush even went so far as to say that his post-presidential life is “awesome.” We were delighted to hear it, for several reasons.

Although we had some complaints with Bush’s brand of “compassionate conservatism,” often finding it a bit too compassionate and insufficiently conservative, we also admired many of the difficult decisions he made during the tumultuous time he was in office. Nor do we do blame him for the economic crisis that occurred during the last days of his administration, which we attribute to the ill-advised subprime lending policies that he repeatedly if unsuccessfully tried to reform.

Bush never deserved the white-hot hatred that he somehow inspired in his most fervid critics, so we’re also happy to contemplate that his current contentment is no doubt driving them crazy. The hard-core Bush-haters were already frustrated by their inability to damn his detention camps, drone strikes, unwinnable wars, deficits, and even his management of the economy without having to make excuses for Obama’s policies, so knowing that Bush isn’t miserable and self-loathing will be especially hard for them to bear.

The low-key and classy post-presidency of Bush hasn’t given his critics any fresh reasons for their hatred. He hasn’t been a meddlesome pest such as Jimmy Carter, nor does he seem to have Bill Clinton’s constant craving for attention, and his rare public appearances have been gracious and appropriately apolitical. Obama will no doubt continue to blame the current difficulties on his successor, but Bush’s gentlemanly and charitable behavior has been making the effort difficult and perhaps even counter-productive.

Mostly, though, we’re glad to know that it’s still possible for a person to embark on a career in public service and come out of it a happy man. Given the viciousness of contemporary American politics, with both sides ever eager to savage their political opponents, it is hard to see why the country’s most able men and women would ever want to be involved. If someone so maliciously maligned, so aggressively detested as George W. Bush can somehow find satisfaction in a career of public service, there might be some hope left.

— Bud Norman

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