Long after nightfall on January 20, 1969, Lyndon and Lady Bird Johnson arrived at their 330-acre Texas ranch. LBJ had been an ex-President for just a few hours. Throughout the day well-wishers had gathered – first at Andrews Air Force Base, then at Bergstrom Air Force Base in Texas. They showed up to say thank you to the man who had ascended to the presidency in those chaotic Dallas moments more than five years before - and who less than a year before had pulled himself out of the race for a final term in the White House.
One of the first tell-tale signs that life was going to be comparatively perk-free was when they came upon their massive collection of luggage that had been left in the carport that evening, with no one around to carry the bags. Mr. and Mrs. Johnson laughed and she remarked: “The coach has turned back into the pumpkin and all the mice have run away.”
I imagine that President George W. Bush has been thinking a lot about Crawford, Texas and his post-presidency period these days. With polls indicating that he is increasingly unpopular, he will step down just after noon next January 20th.
The U.S. Senate is sometimes referred to as the country’s most exclusive club. But actually, that distinction better describes a group of three - soon to be expanded to four: The fraternity of former Presidents. Reentering the atmosphere of earthly reality minus the privileges and powers inherent in our nation’s highest office has not always been an easy adjustment.
We currently have three former presidents roaming the land. There is the first President Bush, who has clearly managed to conduct himself with the kind of self-effacing dignity that characterized his personal style during his Oval Office tenure. Except for the occasional jump out of an airplane to mark a birthday, he doesn’t make the news much, and it’s probably because he prefers it that way. Will his famous son approach his exile similarly?
Then there are Jimmy and Bill – two men who seem to be determined to magnify the weaknesses of their previous service in ways that make the news on a near-daily basis.