Former President George W. Bush has made a point of avoiding politics since leaving office in 2008. Lately, however, he has called attention to his own record fighting AIDS in Africa, and offered a glimpse of how he feels about two of the most controversial issues dividing Washington these days — gay marriage and immigration reform.
During an appearance at a citizenship ceremony Wednesday, Bush urged politicians to reach a "positive resolution" on the immigration reform debate, saying "the laws governing our immigration system are not working." This came days after Bush told ABC News' Jon Karl that people shouldn't be "overly critical" about gay marriage until they had looked into their own hearts.
Does this mean Bush is returning to the political stage? Maggie Haberman at Politico says Bush, who has been in "self-imposed political exile" since leaving office, is suddenly "having a resurgence." His approval numbers, which once dropped to 23 percent, "have climbed to a seven-year high of 47 percent in a recent Washington Post poll," she says — a hair higher than President Obama's.
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One thing that is not at all clear is whether Bush's recent outspokenness will have any political impact. In fact, argues David Weigel at Slate, "none of this seems to matter politically":
Still, it is hard to argue that something has changed. Dana Milbank at The Washington Post notes that former presidents usually "grow in public esteem as memories fade." In Bush's case, Milbank says, our forgiving and forgetting is accelerating now that the Iraq war is over and the economy is recovering. That means this is a good moment for Bush to reemerge, Milbank says, although he might be speaking up not out of a desire to wade back into politics, but to forge a legacy as a uniter.
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