'Happy and relaxed' Bush eager to prove he's comfortable in new life

April 23, 1993|By Boston Globe

HOUSTON -- Former President George Bush, making a sudden adjustment to retirement after a quarter-century in the public eye, says he just wants to "be left alone, be a good citizen and do what's right."

Mr. Bush, who has shunned interview requests since leaving the White House three months ago, talked for 20 minutes with the Boston Globe yesterday as he relaxed in his modern, top-floor office suite crammed with photographs.

Insisting that he plans to steer clear of politics, Mr. Bush said he has no intention of second-guessing President Clinton, who defeated him in November after a bitter campaign. The smiling Mr. Bush also hastened to debunk published reports that he has been in a funk since the loss.

"You tell me how those stories get started," Mr. Bush said, laughing easily as he displayed the spectacular view of the Texas city from his ninth-floor balcony. "I'm happy and relaxed. I'm not bitter. I'm doing what I want to do and when, and I'm not doing any interviews."

Looking tanned from a recent visit to the Middle East and from frequent rounds of golf and tennis at home, the 68-year-old Mr. Bush wore a blue sweater emblazoned with the insignia of Camp David, the presidential retreat in the Maryland mountains. On one wall hangs a group portrait of all five living ex-presidents.

Asked how he was adjusting to his new life, Mr. Bush said he recently read a book titled "Farewell to the Chief," a series of essays about presidents leaving office. He said it helped him learn how other chief executives dealt with decompression on returning, voluntarily or not, to private life.

Was he modeling himself after Harry Truman, who returned quietly to his home in Independence, Mo., in 1953? "No, because he tried to influence presidential politics in the next two campaigns, and I have no intention of doing that," Mr. Bush said.

He said he plans to devote much of his time to his presidential library at nearby Texas A&M University, which will open in 1996. Earlier this week, he attended ceremonies presenting a segment of the Berlin Wall to the library, and he lectured in one class, telling students firmly that his answers to their questions were "off the record."

With his spacious office quarters, seven paid employees and a contingent of Secret Service agents assigned to protect him for life, Mr. Bush still retains a presidential aura. To navigate Houston's clogged freeways, he still travels by limousine, though his wife, Barbara, now drives a Mercury station wagon.

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