November 23, 2013 by gregrabidoux2013
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?”
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.
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?