43 Plus 41 Does Not Equal 42
By Peter Baker
President Bush today laughed off his predecessor's suggestion that former presidents would need to travel the world after he leaves office to repair the damage he has done while in the White House. And while he resisted again becoming the "oh-piner-in-chief" in the presidential campaign, as he put it, he did offer a few thoughts about what the next president should be like and brushed off an attack from one of his party's frontrunning candidates.
At an end-of-the-year news conference, Bush was asked about former president Bill Clinton's comment that if Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton wins the White House next year, she could send her husband and former president George H.W. Bush abroad to show that "America is open for business and cooperation again." The elder Bush, the nation's 41st president, has already shot down that idea, noting that his son has done a fine job and he sees no need for such a trip.
"Well, 41 didn't think it's necessary," the younger Bush said today. "It sounds like it's going to be a one-man trip."
Asked about former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee's assertion that the president operates from an "arrogant bunker mentality" when it comes to dealing with the world, Bush smiled and declined to take the bait. "I suspect my name may come up a lot and what the American people need to do is to sort through the rhetoric and the reality."
But he did bite on a question about what is important to him in evaluating a future president. "What's important to me will be this -- the principles by which people will make decisions," he said. "People develop principles all different kinds of ways. But you can't be the president unless you have a firm set of principles to guide you as you sort through all the problems the world faces." The second question he would ask, he added, would be: "Who are you going to surround yourself [with], and what process will you have in place to ensure that you get the unvarnished opinion of advisers? Because whoever sits in that Oval Office is going to find this is a complex world."
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