Yesterday former President George W. Bush returned, briefly, to the national stage. He was campaigning for his brother, Jeb Bush, who is hanging on for dear life and hoping to make a good showing in the South Carolina Republican primary.
According to press reports, the former President gave a short speech that endorsed his brother and described some of the qualities, like integrity and judgment and character, that he believes are needed in a good President — implicitly drawing a contrast with the blustery bombast of Donald Trump, without mentioning Trump or any other Republican candidate by name. “W” also recounted some memories from his former campaigns in South Carolina and added some of his trademark self-deprecating humor.
It was a bit jarring to see news reports of George W. Bush at the podium. I hadn’t seen him for a while, and of course he looked older, and thinner. Since he left office seven years ago, former President Bush has consciously avoided the public eye and maintained a pretty consistent non-partisan, apolitical tone. His speech yesterday sounds like more of what we’ve come to expect from him in his post-presidential years. He was there to support and help his brother, but he did it without attacking other candidates by name or, for that matter, mentioning President Obama or criticizing the Obama administration.
George W. Bush remains a figure to be mocked and reviled among some on the left side of the political spectrum; seven years later, he’s still blamed by many, inside the Obama administration and out, for virtually all of our current problems. Now Donald Trump has joined in, by repeating the debunked conspiratorial theories that the Bush administration lied about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq to maneuver us into an unnecessary war and ignored clear intelligence that America would be attacked on 9/11.
Through it all, former President Bush has publicly remained above the fray, no doubt believing that, having served in the nation’s highest office, former Presidents shouldn’t engage in rancorous partisan politics or bash their successor on talk shows. It’s an old school approach that speaks of personal humility and properly recognizes the dignity of the presidency. His ego obviously doesn’t compel him to stay in the media spotlight. Instead, he’s taken to painting, he’s written a book about his Dad, former President George H.W. Bush, and he’s focused on charitable and humanitarian efforts.
Yesterday, George W. Bush listed some of the qualities we want in our President. I think the former President’s personal conduct since he left office illustrates those qualities — and draws a pretty sharp contrast with the vulgar, egotistical, limelight-loving loudmouth who currently is leading in the polls.