The first official reunion of the Bush-Cheney Alumni Association kicked off in Washington, DC today. The “closed-door” event was supposed to be Bush and Cheney’s first joint appearance together since leaving office, but the former vice president had to skip the festivities because of recent health problems.
At the breakfast today (view a picture of the gathering here), Bush talked about his upcoming memoir, joking, “This is going to come as quite a shock to people up here that I can write a book, much less read one.” He also said that Cheney was “feeling well” and “has a fierce constitution,” and according to attendee Gary Karr, Bush “gave an eloquent defense of the freedom agenda.” Bush also explained why he — unlike Cheney — has been relatively quiet about the job President Obama is doing:
I have no desire to see myself on television. I don’t want to be a panel of formers instructing the currents on what to do. … I’m trying to regain a sense of anonymity. I didn’t like it when a certain former president — and it wasn’t 41 or 42 — made my life miserable.
As USA Today notes, Bush is mostly likely talking about Jimmy Carter, since Ronald Reagan “was ill during Bush’s first term and passed away in 2004,” and Gerald Ford “stayed low-key until his death in 2006.” In 2006, Carter said that although he had been “very careful not to criticize President Bush personally,” he felt that his administration had “quite often deliberately misled the American people about the danger in Iraq to begin with, the causes for going to war in Iraq, and they have also misled the American people about what is happening in Iraq since we invaded.” After that time, he became increasingly vocal, especially when it came to Cheney, saying he had “been a disaster for our country.” He also said that the Bush administration had been “the worst in history,” but later tried to walk back those remarks.
It’s interesting that Bush admits to being so disturbed by Carter, since his administration tried to play down the former president’s influence. Bush said that such criticisms were “just part of what happens when you’re president.” Officials called Carter “increasingly irrelevant” and openly mocked him.
Bush and Cheney did get to see each other face-to-face yesterday, for the first time since their time in office. They gave a few awkward greetings to the press before going into Cheney’s residence, “where they met for over an hour.” Watch it:
The Bush-Cheney Alumni Association launched a website last year, meant to be “a forum in which alumni can stay connected and help build a lasting legacy for President George W. Bush and the Bush-Cheney Administration.” That site has since been taken down and now tells readers, “We are currently building the new home of Bush-Cheney Alumni Association. Please visit again soon.”
During the speech, Bush said that he endorsed the high-profile role Cheney is taking: “I’m glad Cheney is out there.” He also said that criticism about his “swagger” was “fair.”