George Bush brushes off criticism of presidency

Former US leader says he is comfortable with his legacy as he revels in painting portraits of Scottish terriers

Former president George Bush: “I’m comfortable with what I did,” he said. “I’m comfortable with who I am.” Photograph: Doug Mills/The New York Times

Former president George Bush: “I’m comfortable with what I did,” he said. “I’m comfortable with who I am.” Photograph: Doug Mills/The New York Times

 


Former US president George W Bush, one of the most controversial presidents of the modern age, has said he is comfortable with his legacy and revealed his new hobby: painting portraits of Scottish terriers.

In an interview with the Dallas Morning News , kick-starting two weeks of publicity to mark the opening of the George W Bush Presidential Centre think tank and his presidential library, Mr Bush brushed off criticism of his stewardship of the economy and his decision to embark on wars in Afghanistan and Iraq during his eight years in the White House.

“I’m comfortable with what I did,” he said. “I’m comfortable with who I am.”

Bush pointed out that the invasion of Iraq a decade ago was supported by Republicans and Democrats and that his predecessor, Bill Clinton, had also advocated a change to the Saddam Hussein regime.

“It’s easy to forget what life was like when the decision was made,” he said in the interview published on Sunday night.


‘Finger-pointing’
The former president said that he wasn’t interested in “finger-pointing” or “self-pity” and that he would be judged differently when his decisions were subject to a balanced appraisal.

“My only point,” he said, “is that when there’s an objective analysis of our fiscal record, people will say, ‘Well, that’s different than I thought.’”

He described his administration’s bailout of Wall Street financial companies as a “painful decision” but that it was required to break the country’s “psychological gridlock” after the financial meltdown.

His tax cuts were the “most sustaining” and “fairest” way to boost economic growth, he said.


The unexpected


Bush, who left office in January 2009, said that his presidency was shaped by the unexpected, such as the September 2001 attacks and Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

“Much of my presidency was defined by things that you didn’t necessarily want to have happen,” said the former president, who has avoided the political limelight since leaving office.

He listed the failure to change social security and immigration laws as regrets of his presidential terms.

The 66-year-old former president now likes to cycle his mountain bike, play golf and attend Texas Rangers baseball games.

Bush, who became a grandfather on Saturday with the birth of a girl to his daughter Jenna, revealed some of his paintings and said that he took “great delight in busting stereotypes”.

“People are surprised,” he said. “Of course, some people are surprised I can even read.”

He chose the hobby after reading Painting as a Pastime by one of his heroes, Winston Churchill. His paintings include pictures of his late Scottish terrier Barney, his ranch in Crawford, Texas and self-portraits in his bathroom.

He didn’t know why he spent time on these activities.

“You’ll have to call all the people who’ve written these books about me, who claim they know me, the psychobabblers,” he said.

One of the most unpopular US presidents, Bush’s presidency was viewed as below average or poor by 45 per cent of people polled by Gallup in February. Only Richard Nixon fared worse.

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