The dignity of George W. Bush

If the attacks bother former President George W. Bush, you’d never know it. Friends and former advisers who have spent time with him recently report that he’s “more relaxed than they’ve seen him in years” and “truly at peace” with life as a “former.” Events showcasing the warmth between Bush and Clinton shine a spotlight on Bush’s comfort with membership in the ex-president’s club. In fact, recent news coverage of Bush’s public events depicts an openness and generosity, especially toward those who disagree with him, that was often obscured by the office.

In two public speeches this week, Bush repeatedly refused to criticize President Obama on national security and on his management of the economy. He reiterated a pledge he made in March to maintain his silence, saying that “it is essential that he [Obama] be helped in office.” This comes from a place of deep respect for the office he once held, but also from genuine goodwill toward President Obama. “I love my country a lot more than I love politics,” Bush added. There are few public signs of that goodwill or respect being reciprocated from Obama, but that’s not likely to alter Bush’s conduct.