George W. Bush returns to spotlight with library dedication

Former president George W. Bush. Credit: Reuters
Former president George W. Bush.
Credit: Reuters

Former President George W. Bush returns briefly to the U.S. political stage with the dedication of his presidential library on Thursday, an event that will offer Americans a fresh look at his eight storm-tossed years in the White House.

Bush will be joined by his successor, President Barack Obama and all living predecessors, including his father, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter for the ceremony at the 23-acre complex on the campus of Southern Methodist University in Dallas. 

The former president has seen his image rebound from the 33 percent approval rating he had when he left office in early 2009 after two eventful terms at the White House that began with the September 11, 2001, attacks and wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and ended with the 2008 financial crisis.

A Washington Post-ABC poll this week put his approval rating at 47 percent, basically equal to that of Obama, who has struggled to bring the economy back to strong growth.

Bush, 66, has resolutely avoided getting involved in politics since leaving the White House, preferring to build his library and museum, get involved in charitable projects and relax with golf and mountain biking. He has even taken up painting.

Though he would have preferred that Republican Mitt Romney defeat Obama in last November’s presidential election, he stayed completely out of the campaign and has avoided commenting on Obama’s performance as president out of respect for the office.

Last week’s Boston Marathon bombings was a sharp reminder of the threat of terrorism that Bush confronted throughout his tenure, and one that Obama has shared.

Obama, at a Democratic fundraiser soon after he arrived in Dallas on Wednesday night, said he was looking forward to attending the Bush library dedication and that he would project a bipartisan spirit.

“One thing I will insist upon is whatever our political differences, President Bush loves his country and loves its people and…was concerned about all people in America, not just those who voted Republican. I think that’s true about him and I think that’s true about most of us,” Obama said.

Bush has shown no indication of self-doubt about some of the decisions he made as president in a series of interviews he has conducted in the run-up to his library dedication.

Bush told ABC News that those who wonder if he has sleepless nights about his presidential decisions should not worry.

“No, sleeping pretty well,” Bush said. “It’s nice of ‘em that can be concerned about my sleeping habits, but … I’m rested. I know I’m rested.”

The museum exhibits cover major points of Bush’s presidency and offer visitors an opportunity to decide how they would have responded to those challenges.

A central feature of the museum concerns the September 11 attacks on the United States.



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