CHICAGO – In a rare public appearance, former President George W. Bush reflected on his presidency, his life out of the spotlight, poked fun at himself and plugged his coming book while speaking at a conference for a finance trade association in Chicago on Thursday.
He told of taking his Scottish terrier, Barney, for a walk around his Texas neighborhood for the first time since leaving office.
“I was out of the presidency for two weeks and I had a plastic bag on my hand,” Bush said, drawing laughter and applause from the crowd attending the Commercial Finance Association convention. “In the old days there’d be a guy with a plastic bag on his hand, following.”
Bush, whose memoir “Decision Points,” is set for release Nov. 9, joked, “I have written a book. This will come as quite a shock to some. They didn’t think I could read, much less write.”
He said the book is the only reason he’ll be back in the spotlight soon. Since leaving office, Bush has been relatively quiet in the public arena.
“I have zero desire, just so you know, to be in the limelight,” Bush said. “I don’t think it’s good for the country to have a former president criticize his successor. You’re not going to see me giving my opinions in the public arena, until I start selling my book. I’m going to emerge then submerge.”
Bush said he believed the coming elections will mean a loss of congressional support for President Barack Obama.
“The odds are, from a historical perspective, that the president is going to lose (congressional) seats. The question is how many.”
Bush said he signed off on the bailout of major financial institutions because his economic advisers recommended he take action before the economy suffered even more.
“I did not want to be a president overseeing a depression greater than the Great Depression,” he said.
Of his legacy, Bush said he “would like to be remembered as a guy who had a set of priorities and was willing to live by those priorities.”
“In terms of accomplishments, my biggest accomplishment is that I kept the country safe amid a real danger,” he said.
The former president said his greatest failure in office was not passing Social Security reform.