I have an 0p-ed in the Star-Ledger (the paper of record for New Jersey!) about how presidents go about rebuilding their legacy after leaving office.

My basic thrust is that a president’s post-career can do as much to shape their legacy as their time in office.  In the case of John Q. Adams and William Howard Taft, it actually enhanced their standing.  Adams’ term in office was mostly a bust, but his time in Congress afterwards reshaped his career.  Same with Taft, who became Chief Justice of the Supreme Court after finishing third in 1912 — the only incumbent president to achieve such ignominy.

As for Bush, what will his post-presidency look like?  I doubt he’ll become a global statesman like Carter, or an activist like Clinton.  And I don’t see him publishing like Nixon, or taking on big issues like Vice President Gore.  My guess is that he’ll follow in his dad’s foosteps:  lay low, keep clear of politics, do a little fund raising here and there … not much more.  I don’t see him reshaping his legacy in his twilight years.  He’ll have to leave that up to the historians.


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