George Bush is a proud man but I'll bet no one had to tell him that he wouldn't be welcome at the Republican convention. His opponents would never give him credit, but Bush's post presidency has been one of dignity and restraint -- unlike Clinton and Carter who have injected themselves into both domestic and international affairs with regularity. Still, publicly turning down Romney's invitation must have been painful.
Former President George W. Bush will not attend the Republican convention next month in Tampa, POLITICO has learned.
"President Bush was grateful for the invitation to the Republican National Convention," Bush spokesman Freddy Ford wrote in an e-mail. "He supports Governor Romney and wants him to succeed. President Bush is confident that Mitt Romney will be a great President. But he's still enjoying his time off the political stage and respectfully declined the invitation to go to Tampa."
Asked if the former president had been invited to only attend or whether he was also asked to speak, Ford said the conversation didn't get that far and the former president declined "before details were discussed."
Bush's preemptive move spares Romney of having to face the delicate question of whether to have the polarizing former president address the convention. It is customary for former presidents to attend the party gatherings, and often speak, but President Obama's campaign surely would have used the opportunity to link Romney to the Bush administration.
Since leaving the White House in 2009, the 43rd president has kept a low profile and, in rare interviews, said he doesn't think former presidents ought to be in critiquing their successors.
Bush would not have been able to attend without speaking, and that was never in the cards. Obama is already running against Bush, tying Romney to the former president's economic policies, which are radically unpopular with the voter.
I recall after the Fort Hood massacre, guards at the base gate were surprised a few hours after the attack when a car carrying the former president arrived and asked for directions to the hospital. There was no press, no media at all when Bush spent the next 6 hours visiting with the wounded and their families. In fact, it wasn't reported until several days after the attack.
It was that kind of genuineness that got George Bush elected twice by the American people. It's a shame that political reality won't allow us to honor his service to the party and the country.