The RNC announced that Senator and 2008 Republican nominee John McCain was going to speak at the convention, along with a slew of powerful Republican women including former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice; Governor Nikki Haley of of South Carolina; and Governor Susana Martinez of New Mexico. (Also worth nothing these three women are, respectively, African-American, South Asian-American, and Latina American.) The quiet flipside of the announcement was the non-announcement of the non-speaker, former President George W. Bush.
Although President Bush left office only four years ago, he has been a political ghost — both in the sense of “being ghost,” i.e., absent; and haunting the Republican legacy. During the 2008 Republican National Convention, he spoke remotely, by video. I did a search to see if that would be the case again. But no. The last sitting Republican President of the United States will be utterly absent. According to his spokesperson, “he’s still enjoying his time off the political stage and respectfully declined the invitation to go to Tampa.” He also told the Hoover Institute: “I’m a supporter of Mitt Romney. I hope he does well. But he can do well without me.”
Perhaps better without him, it almost goes without saying. When President George W. Bush exited office, his approval rating was 34%, and disapproval 61%. (One wonders about the five percent of people straddling the fence…)
I can’t help but think of the moment on that freezing cold Inauguration day when the crowd began singing the chorus “Na na na na, na na na na, hey hey, goodbye.” I was there on the lawn and, not knowing who had started the chant, watched Marine One lift the newly-former President up into the air and away. He hasn’t been back in the public eye for more than a flash since.