Reneging on pledge to give Obama his ‘silence,’ President Bush criticizes Obama’s health care plan.

After initially stating that he wanted President Obama to “succeed” and that he owed Obama his “silence,” President Bush yesterday decided to reverse course and criticize the President. The former President took aim at Obama’s desire to introduce a public health insurance option for Americans:

“There are a lot of ways to remedy the situation without nationalizing health care,” Mr. Bush said. “I worry about encouraging the government to replace the private sector when it comes to providing insurance for health care.”

Asked by the evening emcee at the 104th annual Manufacturer and Business Association meeting if he finds the new president’s policies “socialist,” Mr. Bush started then stopped.

“I hear a lot of those words, but it depends on…,” he said, breaking off. He later offered a more diplomatic assessment: “We’ll see.”

Former Gov. Howard Dean, a strong advocate of a public plan, responded to Bush’s criticisms this morning on NBC’s Today Show. “We’ve had a government system for 50 years,” Dean said. “The Republicans didn’t like it then — it’s called Medicare. Everybody over 65 is already in the government system. Let the people who are under 65 make a choice.” Watch it:

A new NBC/Wall Street Journal poll finds that 76 percent of respondents believe that it is “extremely” or “quite” important to “give people a choice of both a public plan administered by the federal government and a private plan for their health insurance.”