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Bush: Comfortable with 64

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Well, he is in his sixth decade. And he is retired. Sort of. Former President George W. Bush, now 64, is the cover story on the upcoming issue of AARP Magazine, and he comes off as a reasonable but still spirited man who insists that he has no use for the limelight. Mr. Bush does not seem to fear aging, and his memory of eight years in office is still very fresh.

The complete story appears on Nov. 15 at www.aarp.org. For now, some excerpts from the interview:

On Reinvention

“It’s a word that doesn’t fit into my vocabulary. Reinvention means you’re kind of recreating somebody. Well, I’m the same person, in terms of values. My priorities haven’t changed.”

“I’m in a transition period from presidency to active citizenry. I want to go 100 mph again—well, maybe not 100. Maybe 80. I want to live out principles that became a part of my life in my ‘40s, ‘50s and ‘60s.”

“I feel a sense of obligation to our troops and their families because of the decisions that I made. So I am involved with veterans.”

On Staying Mum About the Current Political Debate

“I really think it’s important for presidents to exit the stage gracefully. ‘Statesman’ gives the impression that every time a major issue comes up, I’ll be popping off. And that’s not what’s going to happen.”

“Hopefully I’m sending a signal that will help set a tone. In other words, I think that not criticizing my successor is a statement unto itself, in terms of trying to create an environment that people are able to have a meaningful discussion or debate without trash talk.”

On Regrets from His Time in Office

“The decisions I made are done. And history will judge whether or not they were correct… so I’m comfortable that I made the best decisions I possibly could.”

“We had an opportunity to reform Social Security in a way that would have protected people’s benefits and created a solvent system. Younger workers would be confident that the money they were putting into the system would be available to them when they retired. It was a missed opportunity. I regret that.”

“I regret not finding Osama Bin Laden. I regret the fact that Saddam didn’t have weapons of mass destruction that we thought. I don’t regret removing him from power.”

“Oftentimes history judges you on the decisions you make. They don’t judge you on what would have happened in the absence of a decision. I believe the world would have been a lot worse off if Saddam would be in power today.”

On Risk-Taking

“It’s important to take risks. I’m talking about living life to the fullest … Part of life is seizing the moment.”

“The key thing about life is to be true to a set of beliefs. And to be genuine. What mattered to me was that I didn’t compromise my soul in order to try to achieve a kind of popularity.”

On the Media and His Controversial Reputation

“In terms of what people think about me, the truth of the matter is, I guess I care to a certain extent, but not enough to go out in the public and plead for some kind of new understanding of me. I served. And now it’s time for the new man to serve. I have zero desire to be in the limelight.”

“There was plenty of trash talk during my presidency. A lot. And I did not engage in it. But a lot of the reason why the debate is acrimonious is because of the 24/7 news cycles, blogs and people being able to just throw something out there in order to get attention.”

On his Relationship with wife Laura Bush

“I meant it when I said she was the greatest First Lady ever. Because she viewed the presidency and the First Lady as an opportunity to improve people’s lives. It wasn’t a burden. She put her heart and soul into the experience, just like I did. So we had a shared experience. That makes a good marriage better.”

“In many ways our marriage is great because she has made it great.”

“It’s interesting that we spend less time with each other now than we did during the Presidency.”

“She’s busy and I’m busy which makes our marriage not only interesting but exciting. It’s exciting for me to see her busy and out there enjoying what she’s doing. But we always make time for each other.”

On Becoming a Grandparent

“I’m a little disappointed it hasn’t happened yet. But the more disappointment I show, the less likely it is things are going to happen on the time table I want.”

On Retirement and Advice to Boomers

“You never retire. At least I don’t retire. I’m active.”

“I’m just beginning to live the next chapter of my life. It’s the introductory pages. In other words, politics … is not the end of my life.”

“My advice to seniors—and I consider myself one—is to first and foremost take care of your body. Secondly find something where you could say ‘I’m helping somebody else.’ And it may be just helping raise a grandkid. Or teaching a child to read.”

“One of the things I learned as president is that your life is just not going to unfold the way you want it to, there will be surprises, challenges, and therefore the question is how you deal with the unexpected.”

On his New Book

“I hope my friends read it and say, ‘Now I understand.’ I hope my detractors read it and say, ‘Well, I better understand.’”

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