Just what should Ex-Presidents do with all their spare time?


November 23, 2013 by gregrabidoux2013

GW Leno painting

Thanks Dubya. Looks like me except I probably need more chin. Yeah, more chin.

So, what should our ex-presidents do once they leave the White House for good? Well, once we make sure that they haven’t taken anything that wasn’t really theirs to take (yes, that has happened on occasion) just what should these folks do with all their newfound “downtime?”

Well, just the other day one of our former presidents, G.W. Bush showed up on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. This was an “event” if, for no other reason than Dubya sightings have been rare since he and Laura left swampy DC in January 1993 for their ranch in Crawford, Texas. It’s also intriguing to see presidents have a chance to return to their own former comic-tormentors and give them a little “what-for” payback.

G.W. appeared relaxed (why not, the economy is Obama’s problem now), teased Leno about getting put out to pasture (this is Leno’s last season as host of The Tonight Show) and maybe, best of all, presented Jay with an original Dubya painting of well, Jay. Oversized chin and all.

GW and Leno

Who knew I had all this art stuff in me? Not me.

Seems Dubya has been spending a Texas-sized share of his downtime pursuing his new passion in life-painting. His painting personal trainer apparently told Dubya “That I see a Rembrandt in you.” Well, maybe not a Rembrandt but some cats, a portrait of Jay Leno and ahem, a nude self-portrait. Gee, Dubya, did ya have to?

But what type of life after the White House may just depend on those factors that all of us face at some point-advanced age, health and whether we have any naughty addictions. George Washington (1789-1797) welcomed the chance to live a farmer’s life and personally headed up his plantation at Mount Vernon. He didn’t enjoy it for too long, sadly, the original (and still best) G.W. died only two years after leaving office in 1799.

John F. Kennedy who was assassinated on this day (November 22nd) 50 years ago in Dallas, never got to enjoy his post-White House life. Would he have spent it as a Hyannisport, yachting millionaire with nary a care in the world? Author? Perhaps Ambassador to Ireland like Papa Joe? We’ll never know.


No scandal here. JFK loved yachting.

And what of JFK’s veep, Lyndon Baines Johnson (1963-1969)? He retreated a beaten man in the escalation of the Vietnam War to his ranch in Stonewall, Texas. Packing on weight and returning to smoking, a habit he quit in 1955, only accelerated his downward spiral. He died of a massive heart attack in 1973 at the still youthful age of 63, only 4 years after serving as President.

LBJ’s successor, Richard Nixon, disgraced himself while in office and tendered his resignation in the midst of the Watergate scandal in August of 1974. Tricky Dickey spent the rest of his life in overdrive trying to refurbish his tarnished legacy. He authored nine books, racked up a ton of frequent flyer miles overseas playing elder statesman and sat down with David Frost to “openly” discuss politics. While many concede Nixon’s intellect and foreign policy prowess, his legacy is set in “Watergate” stone. Trust me, I lived at The Watergate, nice place, good location across from the yes, Kennedy Center but it will always be known for the fateful break-in, erased tapes and bungled cover-up, Sorry, Dick.


Victory is mine. Watergate will never live this one down. Try and raise your rates now, suckers.

Gerald Ford (1974-1977) the man perhaps best known for playing football for Michigan and pardoning Richard Nixon for “any and all crimes he may have committed while in office,” enjoyed relatively good health in his years away from politics and his SNL comic-tormentor, Chevy Chase. He died at age 93.

Perhaps, Jimmy Carter (1977-1981) has set the bar the highest in what we have come to expect of our former presidents. He founded The Carter Center, a mediation and conflict resolution center in his home state of Georgia while overseeing controversial and contested elections around the globe, intervening in sensitive diplomatic negotiations and authoring books and giving lectures on religion and faith. His image has actually improved as a leader and achiever away from 1600 Penn. Ave.

The former Hollywood actor, radio announcer and man who succeeded Jimmy Carter, Ronald “Dutch” Reagan, while not as feverishly energetic as Carter, seemed to strike a balance between politics, life on his Bel Air home and of course, his beloved Nancy. In 1992 he reminded the GOP and the nation that he had more natural charm and appeal than any high-paid political consultant could fabricate with an unlimited budget and a deadline. He gave a stirring speech at that year’s Republican National Convention. It wasn’t choreographed tears that fell that night, many attendees still wished the “Gipper” could come off the bench for one more glorious ending. In 1997 though, he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and after 7 years of struggling with that illness he succumbed at age 83 in 1994.

Frank and Nancy

Hey Frank, your check cleared. Thanks. Time to go.

Bill C. (Clinton) seems to have taken the Jimmy C. (Carter) path. Co-founding the Clinton Global Initiative, overseeing the Clinton Presidential Library, campaigning for wife Hillary and pitch-hitting for President Obama in his re-election bid, Slick Willy has a whole new generation asking “What impeachment” and “Monica who?”

Babs and Bill

More gray hair. Older. Voice not quite the same. But enough about Bill. I still look grand.

Is how our ex-presidents spend their time after being president also purely partisan? Republicans retiring to their ranches and mansions while Democrats still globe-trotting and being do-gooders? Or maybe painting nude self-portraits?

How then, should the current occupant spend his post-White House years? President Obama will be a still youthful ex-chief of state at only age 55 and with his passion for sports, maybe a big-time commissioner? The NBA perhaps? Will he start painting like Dubya? What if Hillary somehow manages to become the first female US President? Let’s see, Bill would be First Spouse and that would leave an opening for an Ambassador to where for Barack? Time will tell.

Obama hoops pic

Future NBA Commish?

George Washington told us all that the future of our nation depended on its leaders welcoming the chance to go back to being “just” another citizen and allowing for new leadership and energy. What they do then is of course their own very personal choice. But history (and the rest of us) are still watching and judging.

Paint on with your bad self, Dubya. Paint on!

Perhaps, JFK put it best when he noted that when he left office he’d be in that awkward space, too old for another career yet too young to write his memoirs.

What should our ex-presidents do in their own “awkward” space? Thoughts?



17 thoughts on “Just what should Ex-Presidents do with all their spare time?

  1. Laurie Daub says:

    I think our ex-presidents should use what they learned while in office to help direct the future of our nation. Just because they are now retired, doesn’t mean they have nothing to contribute. They would be good advisors to many future politicians. The parties depend on them to endorse future candidates but having been president, they are exposed to information that can help reform the problems our government faces. They have insight to ways of streamlining and making the civil service more efficient. They have a raport with other countries that can help the US with bureaucratic problems that would make them a good choice for an ambassador. Exactly what they do after they have finished serving as president will depend on the person and what others think of them. Some will not be acceptable to other countries as an ambassador while others will be welcomed with open arms. They all have a unique insight that gives them an advantage no one else can have. They should return to their individual passion, whether it is negotiating, resolving conflicts, ranching, or just enjoying the family time. They have served their country and deserve respect for what they have accomplished in that time. As Commander In Chief, they are no different than other veterans and deserve the same respect. Laurie D. Section L

  2. Allen Igwebuike says:

    Allen Igwebuike,

    President Obama will still be young, at the age of 55 when he leaves office. I agree, and believe that if he wanted to be the next NBA commissioner he could accomplish that in no time. I feel as though he would be a great NBA commissioner because his passion for sports.

  3. stephon howard says:

    Stephon Howard,

    I think that an ex-president should try to do something constructive. Since they were once a figure head some people might still look up to them. They should take their little popularity and try to do something that can help benefit the country. However, even though they still might have a little power i think they should do whatever they want. If they want to travel the world they should do it or if they want to rob a bank go head if it will make them feel good. Once a president leaves office they shouldn’t let their previous stature discourage them from doing anything else.

  4. Caroline Baum says:

    I believe that what a president does after his time in office depends on the work he did while he was president. If he had started any major organizations or donated and helped with certain causes then he should continue to do so. If America elects this person out of trust and belief that he is capable of running an entire country, he should be able to uphold their expectations and make a difference during and after his time in office. Just because a presidents’ 4 or 8 years are up, does not mean he doesn’t have an impact on the country once he exits his role. After he leaves office, he is viewed a certain way by the public and if it is positive, the ex-president should use that to his advantage. Of course, if the past president is viewed negatively by the public, it might be best for him to fade away privately on some island where we don’t have to deal with his idiocy (Bush). But of course if were talking about Cal (too school cool for school) Coolidge, we hope to hear more of him and his stories about milk dishes.
    You’re the best Dr. R!
    Caroline Baum (Section L)

  5. Patrick Hilgert says:

    Being President is still a job like any other one, with basically more issues at hand that affect everyone else. However, like any other job, you retire, and live out your life normally.

    I think that they should still come in to support sides during elections, as if it’s a seal of approval if they were still in the Executive office, but they are out of office as a way of saying they have finished their job. Now, younger ex-presidents could still work for Congress in order to contribute even more with the energy they could still potentially have, and it would also add more to keep Congress from not being entirely one-sided, but again, this is entirely up to them. If they would like to run again, the people will have a say.

  6. Areana Pate says:

    This a very interesting article because no one thinks about what the president will do once he is not president anymore. I do believe that whatever their endeavors are after presidency it is up to them. While they were presidents they were responsible for the USA and if successful at doing that job they should have every right to do what they enjoy doing once they are no longer president. Even if they didn’t do such great job as a president they can come back from that and make a difference, like Bill Clinton. Clinton is doing well for himself and today supports his wife in her accomplishments. Who would have thought Bill Clinton would support his wife? Every president has his own way of adjusting to not being president anymore; how they do it is up to them because being president is a very stressful job. Ex-presidents should be able to do anything that makes them comfortable. It is interesting how democratic and republican ex-presidents differ in how they enjoy life after their presidency. It is similar to how they ruled as presidents. In the end when it comes down to it presidents are human too, so whatever floats their boats after their presidency then they should go for it.

    -Areana Pate

  7. Amy Graham says:

    I believe that our ex-presidents should carry on with their lives as they would have, although utilizing the knowledge gained from their presidential careers to better their own personal lives along with the potential lives of fellow Americans could produce a feeling of awe and happiness within the American public. The passions that these presidents indulge in do not sully their names while they are out of office since they are not living in the 24/7 fishbowl status that comes with being the active United States president. The morals that they believe in shape their actions both in and out of office. Carter made several public productions like the centers that he built in order to better provide for his state. Nixon’s scandal ruined his reputation, yet he tried to better himself through all of the things he did while out of office. Although these people have been presidents, Bush indulges in painting and Obama might dabble in the sports industry because they are all human beings that got to experience a career that a great majority of Americans will never comprehend. All of the stress that comes with a presidency can nearly evaporate when they leave office since they are no longer the sole person in charge and the sole person to blame for economic or governmental issues. We are all human, so the presidents should not be seen as these other-worldly beings that are all powerful. Living and enjoying life is what all people wish to achieve, so why shouldn’t an ex-president?

    Amy G. Section L

  8. Joshua Wardrip says:

    I don’t think that once a president leaves office that his contribution to the country should end. Jimmy Carter is the perfect example of how I think a president should respond to getting out of office. I feel like an ex-president should be involved in an organization to better the communities, environment, foreign relations, ect… I do not think that an ex-president should devote his whole entire time to an organization, but they should definitely try to better the country as best they can. If an ex-president can’t be a part of an organization then just having their name on things will bring popularity and potentially money to the their foundation. Again I don’t think that they should primarily devote all of their time to these things, but I think that their job doesn’t stop as soon as they leave office.
    Section L

  9. Jayson says:

    The way I see it being president is a very stressful and strenuous job. With that being said I feel like a president
    should try to live a more stress free lifestyle after their presidency. Whether it’s spending time with their family, going on vacation, or playing sports I feel like that is important. As far as other careers for an ex president, I would find it good for a president to find a job that they can still have a big impact on the outcome. An example of that would be a manager or CEO or a company or even the commissioner of a sports league. As long as they use their former experience as a president, and a hobby that they enjoy I’m all for it.
    Jayson Clear
    Section L

  10. Aaliyah Suggs says:

    That’s a good question because I always imagine that ex-presidents are still trying to have an input on society by maintaining a job that is close to his old one and contributes to the world. I think ex-presidents should take a break for a while so they can get their life together and relax from controversy and politics from the past years. After their break is over I think he/she should continue to stay active in the economy because there are citizens that looked up to them and just wouldn’t want them to disappear.

  11. Cole Harrell says:

    I believe our presidents should be able to do whatever they please with there life after president. No one knows how long they have before they die so you should enjoy it while you can. It shouldn’t be anyone else’s business what they choose to do. When a president retires he has the option of doing anything he wants to do with whomever he chooses to do so with. They become normal citizens with normal lives in the public when they retire.

  12. Jacob Downward says:

    The presidents time after office should be spent as a citizen. A president’s job is over after his term is up; afterwards he/she should try to be as normal citizen as possible. Painting, retirement, golf, world explorations, anything is possible for a ex-president, but they shouldn’t be as public as they were while in office. They are citizens, nothing more. And that’s how they should act.

  13. Kiarra Dukes says:

    I believe that an ex-president has vast amounts opportunities to fill their “awkward space”. They should do what ever they are passionate about or what gives them fulfillment. Personally i think you are never to old to start another career. Obama could be the next David Stern or you might see the release of some Obama 4s! However there are so many possibilities for an ex-president but its there decision. There job as Protector of The Union is done.

  14. Burton F says:

    While all these activities the prior presidents mentioned in the blog is perfectly fine with me. I admit I prefer that they use their experience and expertise n appositive way to better the nation. I would love for sitting presidents to ask prior presidents for advice. I don’t see a problem with asking an experienced man for advice especially if he has been there. In my opinion, the nation would be less likely to be lead down a wrong road we have been down before.

  15. Casey Holcom says:

    Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton provide the best examples of what to do. Jimmy and Bill are still out there doing things to make the world a better place. In all honesty though, there isn’t anything they “should” do. These people spent 4-8 years in the most stressful job there is. They’re entitled to do whatever they want once they’re done.

  16. tara c says:

    After a presidents term is over they should take time to get back into figuring out life again without being the center of the nations attention. I think that in some way our ex-presidents should still be involved in the community. They have the perfect tools needed to help smaller communities. There are so many communities and people that need to be recognized and even though the ex-president can not help every needing community, what better inspiration for a community then to have the backing of an ex-president. They will always be paid so continue with some type of community service.

  17. M. Brown says:

    In the modern era of presidential politics, the post-presidency is just as interesting (if not more interesting) than the actual presidency itself. While the original blog post was written in reflection on the George W. Bush post-presidency, it has new relevance as we begin to witness the first few activities of the Barack Obama post-presidency. This includes his campaign activities leading up to the 2017 Virginia Gubernatorial Election, as well as his work with the Obama Foundation, which recently hosted an inaugural civic leadership summit and several community training sessions.

    As you point out, the modern-post presidency has been defined by the work of Jimmy Carter, who has arguably had more success and made more of an impact outside of the Oval Office. When a president departs, it is now pretty much expected that they will build a presidential library and museum, establish a foundation or center to promote some ideal of their administration, author several books, collaborate on initiatives with other past-presidents, and make special appearances whether it is to give a speech, appear on a television show, or participate in campaign activities. I don’t think that this is necessarily a bad model to follow. While it is generally assumed that we have one president at one time, the public has historically been interested in the afterlife of a presidency. If nothing more, this gives the political party that is out of power a chance to rekindle the glory years and celebrate what “was” while they figure out “what’s next”. I also think that the divisive nature of politics, and gridlock of the federal government, leaves a president wanting to do more when they leave office. Legacy building doesn’t end when there is a new occupant in the White House. A president’s legacy is more often shaped by their post-presidency and how their successors fared. Indeed, George W. Bush’s favorability has improved since the end of his presidency, and Barack Obama’s favorability will likely do the same.

    The real question is not what the Obama post-presidency will look like. It is clear that he will follow the mold of Clinton, Carter, and others. What will be most interesting is the post-presidency of Donald Trump. Will he continue to troll his political opponents and adversaries? What will his library and museum ultimately entail? Will the existing Trump Foundation take on new meaning after Trump leaves office? And, will he collaborate with other past-presidents, as we have seen with George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton, and most recently with all five living ex-presidents joining together to support the One America Appeal for Hurricane Relief? Just as Jimmy Carter redefined the role of a former president, I think that Donald Trump will define a new post-presidency that will allow him to remain the center of the nation’s attention. Trump was an unconventional candidate and he is an unconventional president. Therefore, it is only logical that he will be an unconventional former president. If this is the case, then the Donald Trump post-presidency may be more interesting than his actual presidency. Buckle up!

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