George W. Bush has even largely followed it. In fact, he's been silent on most everything since leaving office. During the last presidential election, the most he offered publicly was saying, "I'm for Mitt Romney." Given that he left office with a 22-percent approval rating, it was probably a good thing to to be too outgoing in endorsing his party's nominee -- or saying much about anything.
He even acknowledged this presidential tradition when speaking at a fundraiser of the Republican Jewish Coalition on Saturday night, when according to the New York Times, wrote here that "he would not criticize President Obama, whose aim to degrade and ultimately destroy the Islamic State he applauded."
However, the Times went on that it came as a surprise when he went on to do just that, and criticized Mr. Obama for his foreign policy actions.
"Mr. Bush voiced skepticism about the Obama administration’s pursuit of a nuclear deal with Iran. Although he had begun the diplomatic effort to press Iran to give up its nuclear program, Mr. Bush questioned whether it was wise to lift sanctions against Tehran when the Islamic government seemed to be caving in, and suggested that the United States risked losing leverage if it did so."
Later, the former president quoted Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) who has said that “Pulling out of Iraq was a strategic blunder."
It's a difficult position for former presidents to be in -- wanting to defend their legacy, wanting to support their party, wanting to be seen as relevant, yet wanting to be respectful to an office that only a handful of people in the history of the United States could ever understand, and who had been respectful to him in return. Still, as difficult a position as it is for former presidents, it's not all that challenging, since they all seem to handle it pretty well. Okay, all except Mr. Bush. But then, he had a hard time handling the office period (a 2010 Siena College poll of presidential historians ranked him 6th worst), so we shouldn't assume his post-office life wouldn't be much different.
Of course, there are two issues here: should he have said anything, and what did he say?
As for the first -- no, he probably shouldn't have said anything, it's very bad form, but he had every right to do so, and that's life.
But it's the second point that gets one eye-rolling. At least it's nice to see that former President Bush hasn't lost his touch is showing why he left office with a 22-percent approval rating and is considered the sixth worst president in U.S. history.
Let me repeat that, lest its impact just slide by. George W. Bush left office with a 22-percent approval rating and presidential scholars say he is the sixth worst president ever.
He got the United States involved in a war based on a lie, the war lasted over a decade -- the longest ever in U.S. history -- and he's still arguing in support of it. Forget whether he should have said anything or not: that he still thinks this way is pathetic and confirms every bad opinion the public and experts have on his abilities.
Not terribly long ago, when that eminent former part-time governor Sarah Palin (R-AK-half-term) was addressing the Susan B. Anthony List breakfast in 2010 (right around when that Siena Poll of presidential historians place Mr. Bush as sixth worst ever), she swaggered with glee about a billboard she'd seen that referenced George Bush, "Miss me yet?" Somewhat similarly, Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), only a few months later, told C-SPAN, "I think a lot of people are looking back with a little -- with more fondness on President Bush's administration, and I think history will treat him well."
The only reason that Americans will miss George Bush is if he has the good sense to not be found. And the only way that history will treat him well is if he lets them admire him for refusing to talk about politics any more. And in the end, he will best be served by following the advice of his own Republican Party's founding father, when Abraham Lincoln said --
"Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than speak and remove all doubt.