Former President George W. Bush still doesn’t care what his critics think.
“Let ‘em continue to babble,” he said in an interview from Tanzania that aired Sunday on ABC. “I’m trying to think of the proper word — absurd psychobabble.”
Mr. Bush was referring to detractors who claim a focus on his work in Africa is intended to draw attention away from other perceived failures of his administration, such as the war in Iraq.
Mr. Bush said his father, President George H.W. Bush, is “great” — and that, like his son, doesn’t worry about public opinion.
“I think he’s a decent, honorable man who served with great distinction,” Mr. Bush told ABC. “Legacy is ultimately decided with time. And so to ask a president, you know, legacy is like, you know, what are your dreams. Eventually history will sort it out. I have no desire, nor did he, to kind of try to … in the court of public opinion to define something that may or may not be true over time.
“The only way I can really make news is either criticize the president, which I don’t want to do, criticize my own party or weigh in on a controversial issue,” he continued.
“And I’m off the stage. Unless I’m promoting something I strongly believe in, and I believe that what we’re doing in Africa is incredibly important and will continue to do so, so long as I’m ambulatory.”
Mr. Bush, in Africa to promote his presidential center’s health care initiatives, joined President Obama at a memorial in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, honoring the victims of the 1998 terrorist bombing at the U.S. Embassy. Both presidents bowed their heads in silence as a U.S. Marine placed a wreath at a large stone memorial on the grounds of the new U.S. Embassy.
While Mr. Bush has stayed out of the political fray since leaving office in 2009, he is scheduled to speak in Dallas this week at an event on immigration — an issue he wrestled with unsuccessfully during his second term in office.
“It’s very important to fix a broken system, to treat people with respect and have confidence in our capacity to assimilate people,” he said. “It’s a very difficult bill to pass because there’s a lot of moving parts and the legislative process can be ugly, but it looks like they’re making some progress.
“I was also frustrated we didn’t pass Social Security reform,” he continued. “I thought the plan I’d laid out on both was reasonable. But sometimes it takes time for some of these complex issues to evolve, and it looks like immigration has a chance to pass.”
Mr. Bush and Mr. Obama did have a few private moments in Africa, but the former president said they were relatively light.
“We just chatted about his trip. He’s at the end of the trip; I remember how tired I used to get,” Mr. Bush said.
“I asked him about his little girls, were they having a good time? He said, ‘You bet,’” Mr. Bush continued. “Because I remember bringing our daughters on some of these trips and how meaningful it was to be with them, but we didn’t sit around and hash out policy.”