It seems as if every time I see a headline saying that such and such person will not be attending either the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte or the RNC shindig in Tampa, it’s bad news for somebody. Every prominent name who decides to take a pass on the President’s big party is just another embarrassment to him. On the Republican side, problems flare up if somebody fails to get an invitation to the big dance.
But now we get news of a notable no-show which may actually prove to be a positive story and set a good example for all.
Former President George W. Bush will not attend the Republican convention next month in Tampa, POLITICO has learned.
“President Bush was grateful for the invitation to the Republican National Convention,” Bush spokesman Freddy Ford wrote in an e-mail. “He supports Governor Romney and wants him to succeed. President Bush is confident that Mitt Romney will be a great President. But he’s still enjoying his time off the political stage and respectfully declined the invitation to go to Tampa.”
Asked if the former president had been invited to only attend or whether he was also asked to speak, Ford said the conversation didn’t get that far and the former president declined “before details were discussed.”
The younger Bush is sticking to his original plan, and one which dates back to an old tradition which more presidents might do well to emulate. With his time on the big stage done, he’s retired to a private life, engaging in charitable work and generally staying out of the way of history for the time being. This is an ideal time for former presidents to work on their memoirs to help historians understand and frame their time in office and the actions they took. (Or failed to take.) Also, when Americans have spent eight years looking to you as the leader of the free world, it complicates the job of the next person if you keep hanging around at the party too long. (And this applies no matter whether you feel the new Oval Office occupant is an upgrade or a downgrade.)
Other past presidents have handled this in a variety of ways. Bush’s father also stayed pretty much off the front pages rather than trying to continue the battle with Clinton, though he did show up in support of his son at critical times as one might expect. Reagan never really got in the way Bush 41 and, at least to my observations, seemed genuinely glad to be done with the job and get back to his ranch.
Clinton was quite a bit different, though to his credit he didn’t seem to leap out and get in W’s face very much, at least during the first term. But he also managed to turn the “job” of ex-president into one of the most lucrative positions going with multiple book deals, six figure speaking fees around the country and some very high profile foundations which kept his face on televisions around the world.
Jimmy Carter is possibly the most meddlesome of still living presidents, seeking to be a senior statesman on nearly every issue which comes down the pike. While I personally find that bothersome at times, I will admit that he also got out there and did some helpful work as well, such as Habitat for Humanity and other non-government community projects.
Bush 43 seems to be handling is place in the world in a way that I can only describe as admirable. It makes me wonder what our current President will do with his legacy once he packs his bags and heads for the private sector. Will his ego cause him to to keep circling the limelight, or will he too go back to Chicago and lead a private life?