/ 16 January 2009

Bush eyes busy post-White House life

US President George Bush can see his post-White House life already, and it doesn’t involve lazy days soaking up the sun, dressed like a tourist, enjoying an idle spell after eight crazy years.

”I’m a Type A personality, you know,” he said one week before leaving office January 20 at noon. ”I just can’t envision myself, you know, the big straw hat and Hawaiian shirt sitting on some beach. Particularly since I quit drinking.”

Upon joining the three other living former US presidents in an elite sort of brotherhood, Bush will head back to his adoptive home state of Texas to set up his presidential library and museum, write a book, pursue his avid mountain biking passion, and set up an institute to promote democratic reforms.

But there’s no doubt that the sudden slowdown from hectic presidential schedule to civilian life will take some getting used to.

”I’m not sure what to expect. For the last eight years I’ve had a national security briefing every day but Sunday. And when you get a national security briefing, it is a reminder of the responsibilities of the job,” he said.

”The interesting thing about this job, by the way, is it’s one thing to deal with the expected, what you anticipate; the real challenge is to be in a position to deal with the unexpected,” he added at his final press conference.

Bush took issue with criticisms about his spending all or part of nearly 500 days of his presidency on holiday on his ranch near tiny Crawford, Texas, noting: ”You never escape the presidency.” But on Wednesday morning, waking up in Crawford after a flight aboard an Air Force 747 no longer called Air Force One, ”I suspect I’ll make Laura coffee and go get it for her.”

Most of the packing is done, aides report. Bush has found a new chief of staff, fellow Texan Michael Meece, who worked for him when the future president was Texas governor.

Bush and First Lady Laura Bush will divide their time between Crawford and their new home in one of the poshest parts of Dallas, Texas, where she bought a home in late 2008 without the president ever seeing it.

Bush’s Dallas-based institute will fight some of the big fights of his presidency: Support democratic reformers overseas, promote free trade, help impoverished African countries battle HIV/Aids and malaria.

It will also bolster Laura’s commitments to help women in Afghanistan and the Middle East and promote democracy in Myanmar.

The First Lady recently got a book contract for her memoirs, and while Bush himself isn’t that far along, he recently revealed that he woud like to write a book as well, aiming to explain some of the tough decisions of a presidency scarred by the September 11 terrorist attacks and the Iraq war.

But ”I’m getting off the stage. I believe there ought to be, you know, one person in the klieg lights at a time, and I’ve had my time in the klieg lights,” he said.

As for successor Barack Obama, ”he will feel the effects the minute he walks in the Oval Office”, Bush said of the pressure on a US president.

But the outgoing president has one close adviser who can surely guide him through the after-White House era: His father, former president George HW Bush.

”I don’t remember it being extraordinarily difficult,” the elder Bush said recently.

”I felt things I’d like to have done. But once you got back to Texas, it wasn’t difficult at all, you just start in a new life,” said the former president (84) who plans once again to parachute out of a plane. – AFP