George W. Bush, the former president of the United States, didn't have to work hard Monday night to make the crowd at the opening general session of the National Grocers Association's annual convention like him. That was a given. The crowd seemed to love him!
What WAS a surprise was that I liked him!
He was folksy and down-to-earth and charming, and he told some funny stories where he was the butt of the joke. How could you not like someone like that?
Of course, he promised not to talk politics, which meant he wouldn't be saying anything too partisan — so he came off as a very likeable guy who happened to have once been president of the United States.
He also said he wouldn't talk about what he thought of the job his successor as president is doing because he said he didn't like it when one of his predecessors criticized him, "and it wasn't Clinton or Dad," he added. (It was Jimmy Carter.)
And besides, he's not president anymore, so what harm could he do and why not like him?
He talked about the book he's writing. It'll be published in November and it will be called "Decision Points," recalling some of the decisions he had to make as president and presenting them to the reader so the reader would know what it felt like to be faced with those decisions. Sounded kind of defensive to me — Bush defending the decisions he made as president — but no, the point was to let the reader know what it felt like, he explained.
The book is also intended, he said, for historians so they will understand his thinking and be able to make their evaluations with all the facts, plus the perspective that time affords.
What Bush talked about were some of his basic principles: his belief that it's better for people to spend their own money rather than letting the government spend it for them; how the 9/11 attacks meant he had no choice but to go to war; and how there is an Almighty whose gift is freedom and that's what the U.S. should help other nations achieve by encouraging democracies. In explaining each principle, he talked about some of his decisions — and it still sounded kind of defensive.
But he was charming! And it's always interesting to see someone in person that you've seen so often on television. In fact, Bush told a story about going into a hardware store in Dallas — called Elliot's, coincidentally enough — and how a man walked up to him and asked, "Has anyone ever told you you look like George W. Bush?" And when Bush replied people often do, the man replied, "Too bad."
Maybe not. Bush said he's glad to be out of the bubble that was the presidency — that that was just one chapter in his life — and it sounded like he meant it. But he's likely to keep being out there, especially once the book comes out, defending his decisions but denying he's being defensive.