Former Obama officials say that although their campaign considered attacks on Bush’s record as useful politically, it didn’t factor much into their thinking once they took office.
“In a political context, that comparison was made quite often,” a former Obama official said, “but when you’re in the mode of governing, you’re not thinking about that.”
Bush aides say the critiques have been unfair. “I don’t think that rhetoric was appropriate for the president and not particularly helpful for the president,” said Tony Fratto, a former Bush spokesman.
Bartlett added that whether Bush “thinks it’s a smart political strategy is open to debate. He doesn’t take it personally. I would say there’s a certain shelf life for that criticism.”
Obama and Bush’s most famous conversation was a brief one when Obama called the former president to tell him that bin Laden had been killed.
Privately, the two have talked about family life, particularly how to bring up two daughters in the White House spotlight, Bartlett said. (Bush’s daughters, Barbara and Jenna, were in college when he entered the White House, but they were an object of media fascination, as are Obama’s children, Sasha and Malia.)
“They know more than anything about the pressures it puts on family life,” Bartlett said. “That has been a common level of interest.”
Last May, Obama hosted the Bush family and legions of aides for his portrait unveiling. Obama saluted Bush (and threw in a few jokes, too), saying he was grateful for his predecessor’s efforts to rescue the economy and for the “really good TV sports package” he left.
Bush said he was honored to be there, but his remarks were short on policy and heavy on jocularity. Bush told Obama that, with the portrait in place, “when you are wandering these halls as you wrestle with tough decisions, you will now be able to gaze at this portrait and ask, ‘What would George do?’ ”
Discuss this topic and other political issues in the politics discussion forums.