The Presidency

Elder Bush Still Jumping In; A Big Defeat For Bush 43; Courting the College Crowd in Iowa


PHOTO OP: 5:53 p.m., November 8, San Antonio


Elder Bush Still Jumping In
America's former presidents represent a tremendous resource for the nation that has been largely wasted over the years. But that's changing, thanks in part to active ex-presidents such as Jimmy Carter, with his focus on international peacemaking, Bill Clinton, with his global work for humanitarian causes, and George H. W. Bush, with his charitable projects. Less visible, the ex-presidents' libraries and museums also represent a form of engagement in civic affairs, in terms of both important historical exhibits and policy forums.

All this was on Bush's mind last week as he prepared for the reopening of his presidential museum in College Station, Texas. In a telephone interview, he emphasized the importance of the presidential library system as a repository of history. "All do a good job in terms of education," Bush says. His museum has recently been renovated with interactive features such as video monitors where people can get answers to their questions about his life and times. There are also replicas of the White House Situation Room, the president's study at Camp David, and the Oval Office.

Bush, 83, is still active in fundraising for cancer research and various charities. But he leaves politics and policy to his son. More broadly, he doesn't think a former president should inject himself into current political discourse. "A guy ought to finish his job and then go home," he says.

Turning less serious, I asked him if there is another parachute jump in his future. In recent years, he has made flashy exits from airplanes to mark his bailout from a disabled torpedo bomber in the Pacific during World War II. While some of his pals and wife, Barbara, wonder if he's too old, he proudly says he plans to make another jump for his 85th birthday on June 12, 2009.

A Big Defeat For Bush 43
The elder Bush had many quarrels with Congress, and his son is headed down that same road. The current president absorbed a big setback last week when the Senate, on a 79-to-14 vote, and the House, 361 to 54, overrode his veto of a popular $23 billion water-projects bill. It was the first override of the Bush presidency, and it could be a harbinger of further defeats as Congress reasserts itself and the White House's influence diminishes. Administration officials say Bush was trying to shield taxpayers from overspending, but most legislators—Democrat and Republican—say their home states need the improvements. It's clear that, as the lawmakers focus more on the next election, all politics is again becoming local.

Courting the College Crowd in Iowa
In the world of the presidential wannabes, Sen. Hillary Clinton's strategists are counting on a quirk in the new timing of the Iowa caucuses to help her win that state's first-in-the-nation contest for the Democratic presidential nomination. It turns out that many out-of-state college students will still be home for the holidays when the caucuses are held on January 3, and those young people are considered important potential constituencies for Sen. Barack Obama and John Edwards, Clinton's main rivals. If the kids don't show up at the caucuses or don't return to Iowa to help Obama and Edwards get out the vote, it will probably hurt their underdog candidacies. And in a race as close as Iowa appears to be, it could easily put Clinton over the top because she is expected to draw a strong turnout among Democratic activists who have attended the caucuses before, older voters, and women—and she doesn't need the student vote as much as her rivals do.

PHOTO OP: 5:53 p.m., November 8, San Antonio
As onlookers shout, "Go Matt Go!" and President Bush watches, Marine Lance Cpl. Matt Bradford of Winchester, Ky., who lost his legs and eyesight while serving in Iraq, climbs a rock wall at the Center for the Intrepid at the Brooke Army Medical Center. The state-of-the-art physical rehabilitation facility opened in January.