Washington (AFP) – Nearly five years after he left the White House for good, George W. Bush says he has no problem with history taking its time to judge the impact of his presidency.
“I really don’t miss the spotlight,” said Bush, 67, on Jay Leno’s late-night talk show Tuesday on NBC television. “It’s hard for some to believe, but I think eight years in the spotlight is enough.”
“I’m also very comfortable with the fact that it’s going to take a while for history to judge whether the decisions I made are consequential or not,” he added. “I’ve read some biographies of [founding president George] Washington. My attitude is that if they’re still writing about the first guy, the 43rd guy doesn’t need to worry about it.”
Now living in Dallas with wife Laura, Bush said he’s enthusiastically taken up painting — “there’s a Rembrandt trapped in this body” — and showed off canvases he’d made of his dog and cat.
He said he’d been inspired to do so by Britain’s prime minister during World War II, Winston Churchill, who historians say embraced painting as a way to manage depression.
Bush, whose presidency was framed by the 9/11 attacks and war in Afghanistan and Iraq, said the United States ought to sustain a long-term military presence in Afghanistan, just as it has in South Korea.
“I don’t know how big the footprint needs to be, but I do know if we leave too early, women and young girls will suffer a lot. Then the question is, does it matter to our conscience — and I think it should,” he said.
On the looming 2016 race for the White House, Bush said his brother, former Florida governor Jeb Bush, 60, “should run for president if he wants to. He’d be a great president.”
But he refrained from commenting on President Barack Obama’s performance. “I don’t think it’s good for the country to have a former president criticize his successor,” he said, prompting cheers and applause from the studio audience.
Bush, a Republican, was president for two terms, the maximum allowed under the Constitution, until Democrat Obama’s inauguration in January 2009.