Three years after leaving office, George W. Bush is still “politically toxic,” Maggie Haberman and Alexander Burns declared in Politico. Republican candidates are not courting his endorsement, and Bush has no plans to make one, according to a spokesman.
But other Bushes have been very active this election cycle, as Evan McMorris-Santoro noted at Talking Points Memo: “The presidential campaign trail has had no shortage of Bushes lately. Barbara Bush has recorded robocalls for Mitt Romney; former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush has handed Romney a highly sought-after endorsement; President George H.W. Bush jumped in for Romney last week as well,” he wrote.
The nation’s 43rd president seems to prefer hiding out in his Preston Hollow home and giving paid speeches to playing a more active role in politics. Haberman and Burns tracked down several former advisers and friends who say Bush has chosen this life.
“Indeed, while many in the Republican Party may be eager to turn the page on Bush, former aides to the 43rd president say that’s a two-way phenomenon: Bush, too, has happily moved on from politics as a profession,” they wrote.
Former Utah Governor Mike Leavitt said Bush made a conscious choice to leave the limelight behind as he left the presidency. Leavitt said Bush told him, “Lots of people leave office and feel a need to continue to wield political influence — I won’t.” Former Bush adviser Mark McKinnon said Bush is “at peace” with his current life. “George W. Bush has never needed the mirror of politics to reflect who he is,” he said.
Other Republicans did not mince words over Bush’s legacy: “The GOP feels he hollowed out the GOP brand, eroding the GOP’s core strength on spending restraint. No longer could the GOP claim to be the adult in the family, managing the family budget responsibly,” an unnamed insider said.
Romney, who was officially endorsed by George H.W. Bush last week, had an awkward moment when reporters asked him about Bush 43:
This week, Bush junior was the elephant in the room for reporters who attended the Texas event at which George H.W. Bush and his wife Barbara officially threw their support to Romney. Asked if he had visited with Bush while he was traveling through the Lone Star State, Romney said he had not, but that the two men speak “from time to time.”
But a more revealing moment came as the trio exited the room. “Has he endorsed you?” H.W. Bush asked Romney, who replied, “Uh, no, no.”
“We’ll talk about that,” Barbara Bush said.
It was an awkward conversation fragment. Yet even four years after he left office, Bush remains politically toxic, and his foreign policy is still being debated as pieces of it survive in the Obama administration. As for domestic policy, Obama has been running against the Bush record long since the former president left office, creating a delicate situation for his GOP rivals.