No one liked him as an enemy but you might like him as a friend.
While the media obsesses over grading President Barack Obama's first 100 days in office, few realize that former President George Bush is also observing a similar milestone, though in reverse. The latest polls give Obama high marks for effort; yet, one might also be inclined to give Bush at least a passing grade for good behavior. The fact is that, since leaving office, Bush has graciously faded into the background. He has repeatedly refused to criticize Obama publicly, even as Obama and members of his administration soak in the adulation at his expense.
You Say Goodbye, I Say Hello
It's no coincidence that the amount of love people showed incoming President Obama was almost in direct proportion to the amount of hate they showed outgoing President Bush. Yet, in his retirement, a new side of George W. Bush appears to be slowly emerging -- and it may actually be one that people could come to...well...like.
The Bush of this alternate universe first made his appearance on his last day in office. Bush welcomed Obama to the White House -- not with icy formality -- but with a few, genuinely friendly pats on the back. He then left the White House for the last time, not with a sour face, but with "a shrug and a smile." Throughout the inauguration ceremonies, Bush sat by quietly and never made even one of his famous faces as Obama spoke -- not even stick out his tongue.
Later in March, speaking before the business community in Calgary, Canada, Bush refused to criticize Obama and actually wished him well. Even as Republicans back home stumbled over themselves in an effort to justify their partisan posturing over Obama's stimulus package, Bush demurred.
"I want the president to succeed," he said. "I love my country a lot more than I love politics....he deserves my silence...."
Bringing it all Back Home
Since his retirement, Bush seems to have completely severed his Republican affiliations and partisanship, and now seems eager to live the life of the amiable, happy-go-lucky fellow he once was - before the dirty world of politics soiled his mind and desensitized his conscience.
At the Boao Forum in China recently, he again refused to bad-mouth Obama. "He was not my first choice, but now that this election was made, it speaks volumes about the United States of America," he said.
Even Vice President Joe Biden's recent assertion that he boldly chastised Bush to his face in a private meeting could not entice Bush out of his easy chair. As Biden's now-legendary account goes, when Bush described himself as "a leader," Biden claimed to have responded: "Mr. President, turn around and look behind you. No one is following."
That brought out the fighting spirit of former presidential adviser Karl Rove, who seems to be on a hair-trigger these days, lashing out at anything and everything related to the Obama White House. Rove called the conversation fictional and described Biden as a "serial exaggerator."
Other Bush aides agreed, including former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer and chief of staff Andy Card. The target of these assertions, however -- Bush himself -- remained curiously silent on the matter.
It's quite likely that, while others are popping their tops, Bush himself is simply popping open another cold one and kicking back at the ranch.
Therefore, in grading Bush's first 100 days since leaving office, I would give him an "A" for good conduct.