Over at the National Review on Saturday, Kathryn Jean Lopez suggested a novel future for George W. Bush after he completes his disastrous tenure in the White House. The most unpopular President in modern times, Lopez insists, would "make an awesome high-school government teacher." But leaving aside for the moment his obvious aversion to academic study and the English language (as well as the U.S. Constitution), Bush has already made up his mind about his "post-service service." Upon leaving office, President Bush has said he plans to "replenish the ol' coffers."
Ignoring the inconvenient truth that many Republicans don't want the radioactive George Bush at their own national convention in Minneapolis, the NRO's Lopez would foist him instead on America's school children:
"A totally crazy Saturday-morning thought: Wouldn't George W. Bush make an awesome high-school government teacher? Wouldn't it be something if his post-presidential life would up being that kind of post-service service? How's that for a model? Who needs Harvard visiting chairs and high-end lectures? How about Crawford High? (Or wherever?) Reach out and touch the young before they are jaded, or break them of the cynicism pop culture and possibly their parents have passed down to them. Whatever you think of President Bush, he's a likable guy in love with his country with some history and experience to share."
Unfortunately for Lopez, President Bush has already decided that he will cash in, and not give back, when his days in the Oval Office are done.
In a series of interviews which appeared in Robert Draper's 2007 book Dead Certain, Bush confirmed that the banality - and venality - that defined his presidency will characterize his post-presidency as well:
First, Mr. Bush said, "I'll give some speeches, just to replenish the ol' coffers." With assets that have been estimated as high as nearly $21 million, Mr. Bush added, "I don't know what my dad gets - it's more than 50-75" thousand dollars a speech, and "Clinton's making a lot of money."
Then he said, "We'll have a nice place in Dallas," where he will be running what he called "a fantastic Freedom Institute" promoting democracy around the world. But he added, "I can just envision getting in the car, getting bored, going down to the ranch."
Some former presidents grow in status - and the people's esteem - only after they leave the White House. Jimmy Carter's failed term was redeemed in part by his charitable works and efforts for world peace. Bill Clinton's foundation and campaigns to battle AIDS, disease and natural disasters have made him perhaps the last globally respected American president. Even Richard Nixon's partial resurrection earned him elder statesman status.
But not President Bush. Already a small man, he will only decrease in stature as leaves the stage in Washington to "replenish the ol' coffers" and, apparently, just hang out. As Dubya put it last year, "Sixty-two is really young and yet I'll be through with my presidency."
When that time comes, Kathryn Jean Lopez has concluded, George W. Bush should bring the lessons of his failed presidency to school children. (Who knows - waterboarding kids for talking in class might even be legal in Texas.) But assuming she's not joking, in one sense she's surely right about his role in educating future generations. If nothing else, he would serve as a horrible example.