- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 17, 2009

COLLEGE STATION, Texas | A day after telling supporters in San Francisco that he was cleaning up a mess left for him by former President George W. Bush, President Obama came to his predecessor’s adopted home state Friday to honor his father, former President George H.W. Bush, for his public service.

Mr. Obama arrived deep in enemy political territory to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Mr. Bush’s inaugural address and call to action that led to the creation of the Points of Light Institute, the nation’s largest volunteer-management and civic organization.

The president lauded the 41st commander-in-chief, who is now 85 years old, for being a leader “who promoted the ethic of service long before it was fashionable,” and for choosing a life of service over “a life of comfort and privilege.”

And Mr. Obama urged the young people in the crowd of more than 2,000 inside Texas A&M;’s Rudder Auditorium to press forward in serving others even if it does not seem to make a difference. The president, who was born more than a decade after Mr. Bush fought as a Navy pilot in World War II, cited Mr. Bush’s wartime sacrifices to hammer home the point.

“If President Bush could fly 58 combat missions when he was younger than many of you here today, and keep on fighting even after he was shot down and nearly captured by the enemy, then surely you can keep going when your service project gets a little tough,” Mr. Obama said at the campus that’s home to Mr. Bush’s presidential library.

Mr. Obama said his own work in promoting volunteerism was building on the efforts of the first President Bush, as well as former Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.

That was his only remark about the second President Bush, who Mr. Obama used as a punching bag in his run for the White House. One day earlier, Mr. Obama slammed the second Bush administration in New Orleans for its response to Hurricane Katrina and then flew to San Francisco for a fundraiser, where he said part of the reason his first year in office has been so challenging is that he is “cleaning up somebody else’s mess.”

The remark did not go unnoticed by members of the former Bush administration, who have watched Mr. Obama routinely blame the ongoing economic crisis and other problems on the man he followed into the White House. Some of them have spoken out publicly, though Mr. Bush and his father have remained silent.

“It’s his standard line, so I guess nothing surprises me sometimes,” said Dana Perino, who served as press secretary for the Bush White House from 2007 through the end of his term.

But the 41st president is notoriously protective of his son’s legacy and has often bristled in the past at harsh criticisms.

In an interview with CBS Radio prior to the event, Mr. Bush said that during his son’s time in office critics “just hammered him mercilessly and I think obscenely a lot of the time.”

He singled out MSNBC personalities Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow for their criticism of the second President Bush, calling them “sick puppies.”

“The way they treat my son and anyone who’s opposed to their point of view is just horrible,” the elder Bush said.

But he also said that the intense political sniping has “moved to a new president” with attacks that “sometimes cross the lines of civility.”

“People ought to be civil,” he said. “I worry about yelling at people and this yelling mentality that seems to accompany presidents.”

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