Bush & Clinton both worry about their legacies

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Bush and Clinton have this in common: they spend time worrying about their place in history. As president, Clinton spent hours fretting he could never be in the "top tier" because he'd never been a "war president." Bush initially suggested to [biographer Robert] Draper he'd be long dead before anyone knew his place in history. But he was thinking about it. Competing with political adviser Karl Rove to read the most books, Bush compared himself to Lincoln, winning the confidence of his generals with a show of unshakable resolve. Draper writes, "His presidency now all but consigned to history, Bush was immersed in the past, gleaning from its portents what the future would say about America's 43rd president."

All presidents worry about their place in history. How could they not? Every one since Herbert Hoover has built his own library, a living monument where scholars may ponder the leader's stewardship of the country. An ex-president's standing can go up and down as new evidence and new historical vogues emerge. And all presidents suffer the pain of withdrawal that goes with the high office. The great cold-war Secretary of State Dean Acheson once compared leaving office to the end of a love affair. Bush told Draper he plans to "build a fantastic Freedom Institute" to promote the spread of global freedom. He also told Draper he could make "ridiculous" money on the lecture circuit.

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