The Afterlife of George W. Bush

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Bush has always been friendly. And maybe, after years of being cordoned off by security, his face time with others carefully choreographed and his days scheduled to the hilt, it's refreshing to him just to have the chance for a spontaneous chat with a neighbor. But Bush's choice of conversational companions may speak to something deeper. He lived in a bubble during much of his time in Washington; having left office with a disapproval rating of 73 percent, he might be forgiven for being a bit hesitant about what awaits him on the outside. He's declined to give a major interview since leaving office (he and his aides declined to cooperate with this story). So Bush seems to be easing into life back home in Texas, reaching out quietly to reconnect with old friends, stalwart supporters—and the occasional teenage fanboy, who may or may not yet be fully aware of the harsh public judgments, even in Republican circles, of the guy who just moved in next door.

"He is in home territory for sure, no question about it. And that's where he wants to be," says Bruce Buchanan, a presidential scholar at the University of Texas at Austin. "He doesn't enjoy naysayers and critics and opposition. Never has. And right now, he needs that nurturing cocoon that he is in. He is not calling people who didn't support him. He is calling people who supported him, those 14-year-olds."

"But we will see how serious he wants to get in being a participant in the debate over his legacy, beyond writing his side of the story," Buchanan continues. "He may decide, forget it. Or he may decide to become his own version of the Jimmy Carter model. Or he might just stay on the lecture circuit and make money. He has all those options."

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