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Next for Bush: Fight AIDS or Fill the Coffers?

December 4, 2008

During the first of what promises to be many attempts to resurrect his moribund reputation, President Bush in an interview with ABC's Charles Gibson offered a tantalizing glimpse of his life after the White House. Bush spoke glowingly of being able to "go help people deal with malaria or AIDS" before quickly adding, "I'm not suggesting that's what I'm going to do." Of course, his hesitation at doing good should come as no surprise. After all, in September 2007, George W. Bush made crystal clear that he first planned to do well by replenishing "the ol' coffers."
Some ex-Presidents grow in stature after their departure from the White House. Others are diminished by it. In a disturbing New York Times profile in the fall of 2007, President George W. Bush left little doubt which will be his destiny after exiting the Oval Office.
In a series of interviews with author Robert Draper for the book Dead Certain, Bush confirmed that the banality - and venality - that defined his presidency will characterize his post-presidency as well:

First, Mr. Bush said, "I'll give some speeches, just to replenish the ol' coffers." With assets that have been estimated as high as nearly $21 million, Mr. Bush added, "I don't know what my dad gets - it's more than 50-75" thousand dollars a speech, and "Clinton's making a lot of money."
Then he said, "We'll have a nice place in Dallas," where he will be running what he called "a fantastic Freedom Institute" promoting democracy around the world. But he added, "I can just envision getting in the car, getting bored, going down to the ranch."

In his recent interviews with ABC's Gibson and his own sister on National Public Radio, George W. Bush presented himself as a leader in the global fight against AIDS, a title he suggested was central to his legacy. But as Draper revealed in his book, the scorn President Bush displayed towards the United Nations and the international institutions helping fight AIDS worldwide will continue into his retirement. As the Washington Post detailed last year:

He told Draper he could see himself shuttling between Dallas and Crawford. Noting that he ran into former president Bill Clinton at the United Nations last year, Bush added, "Six years from now, you're not going to see me hanging out in the lobby of the U.N."

All of which explains the lame duck President's refusal to commit to Charles Gibson that he will make combating AIDS the focus of his life after the White House. Fighting HIV/AIDS and malaria may be noble, Bush in essence told Gibson, just don't hold him to it (video here.):

GIBSON: You're only 62, though.
BUSH: Right.
GIBSON: Is there one more deal in you? Is there one more thing you really want to achieve?
BUSH: That's an interesting question. I'm confident -- look, first of all, you don't get to be President unless you're a "Type A" personality who's driven to do things. And I am confident I'll be driven to do something; I just can't tell you what it is yet.
Steve Hadley and I were sitting around -- he's the National Security Advisor -- sitting around; I said, wouldn't it be interesting for baby boomers not to retire in nice places, but to retire -- during their retirement, go help people deal with malaria or AIDS. In other words -- and I'm not suggesting that's what I'm going to do, but it is the kind of thing that intrigues me.

Back in July, Bush bath-water drinker and National Review columnist Kathyrn Jean Lopez seriously suggested a comically inapt post-presidential future for George W. Bush. "Wouldn't George W. Bush," she said, "make an awesome high-school government teacher?" Since waterboarding school children is illegal (probably even in Texas), don't expect to see President Bush at the front of a classroom any time soon. Ditto for using his retirement to "go help people deal with malaria or AIDS."
Instead, after he leaves Washington on January 20, perhaps George W. Bush can finally help "OB/GYNs [who] aren't able to practice their love with women all across this country."


Jon Perr
Jon Perr is a technology marketing consultant and product strategist who writes about American politics and public policy.

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