WASHINGTON -- In an interview set to air this Sunday, former President George W. Bush said he was done with politics and that he is uninterested in campaigning or raising money for political candidates.
The 43rd president, who has been sparing in his public appearances since leaving the White House, took questions from C-Span this past Monday at a Southern Methodist University forum. Asked whether he was "through with politics," Bush replied: "Yeah."
I don't want to go out and campaign for candidates. I don't want to be viewed as a perpetual money-raiser. I don't want to be on these talk shows giving my opinion, second-guessing the current president. I think it's bad for the country, frankly, to have a former president criticize his successor. It's tough enough to president as it is without a former president undermining the current president. Plus, I don't want to do that. In other words, in spite of the fact that I'm now on TV, I don't want to be on TV ... I tell people that one of the interesting sacrifices, I don't think you sacrifice to run for president, but to the extent you do is you lose your anonymity. I like the idea of trying to regain anonymity to a certain extent. And being out of the press, at least in this stage of the post-presidency is something that makes me very comfortable and its somewhat liberating, frankly.
Next to his help with Haiti's reconstruction efforts, Bush's detachment from political life has been the defining feature of his post-presidency. In that regard -- like many others -- he is different than his predecessor, Bill Clinton, who remained an active presence in government, albeit in advocacy for his wife or in the field of global philanthropy.
Still, it's easy to wonder whether Republicans would actually want Bush fundraising or campaigning on their behalf. During the 2008 presidential race, Bush's shadow caused Sen. John McCain's campaign plenty of discomfort and gave satirists a trove of material.
The former president's image has gradually improved since then. But lawmakers in his own party still criticize his time in office, using the debt compiled during that tenure as a contrast to emphasize their own fiscal conservatism.