Listening to President Bush’s short, somber farewell speech last night, I found myself wondering what he will do next. (It has been striking how much less speculation about Bush’s future there has been than with Bill Clinton, due to the failures of the Bush presidency). My guess is that Bush will set up a think tank, as Clinton did, and that he will focus on three issues. The first is promoting democracy around the world. This, and having protected the nation from a reprise of 9/11 for seven years, obviously will be Bush’s legacy, and I suspect he will spend a great deal of energy on democracy-related issues. The second issue is immigration. Obama no doubt will take up immigration reform in a year or two, and I suspect that will send Bush around the country to promote a proposed overhaul that includes a prospect of citizenship for America’s 12 million illegal immigrants. In the meantime, Bush probably will speak frequently about immigration, which is clearly an issue he cares deeply about. I would expect him to argue (and would personally agree)he that immigration and democracy are closely linked: more democracy outside America’s borders would remove some of the pressure for low skilled immigrants to escape their homeland and come to the US.
The final issue is faith based initiatives. Given how quiet things have been on this front recently, I was surprised to hear the President mention faith based initiatives last night. I suspect Bush will end up on the boards of one or more faith-based programs, and that he will promote these initiatives actively. Here, I suspect Bush may part ways with Obama a bit. Obama is likely to prohibit organizations that receive federal money from limiting hiring to those who share those beliefs. I suspect Bush will criticize this policy– though not in the first year or two of the Obama administration. Whatever else he is, President Bush is a true gentleman, and I suspect he will be solely a cheerleader for President Obama in the coming months.