The GOP Primary's Mysteriously Missing George W. Bush

Republican candidates barely mention their most recent two-term president

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As the 2012 race heats up, Republicans are constantly promising to uphold the legacy Ronald Reagan. Reagan said this, did this, though that, Reagan, Reagan, Reagan. The most recent to reach for the cloak fo Regan was  Jon Huntsman just kicked off his campaign exactly where Reagan once stood 22 years ago to announce his own candidacy. But what about that more recent two-term Republican president? What about poor ol' George W. Bush? It seems like Republicans would prefer we'd forget about him. And it appears Bush is heeding their wishes, because even as huge events that recalled his presidency made the news--aside from a notable souffle dinner--he's largely stayed out of the national spotlight.

After the second Republican primary debate--the first one with frontrunner Mitt Romney--The New Yorker's Ryan Lizza argued that "there was a clear loser last night: George W. Bush. While Barack Obama may have been the person most vilified from the podiums of the seven Republican candidates in New Hampshire, it was Bush and his legacy that suffered the most." Meanwhile, a guy not on that stage that night--but whom many Republicans dissatisfied with the current 2012 field hope will jump in--was Bush's successor as Texas governor, Rick Perry. Perry has a good record on jobs, support from social conservatives, and nice hair, but The Washington Post's Aaron Blake cautions that, with his accent and mannerisms, he might be too "Bush-y." Perry's strategist David Carney--who just quit the Newt Gingrich campaign--brushed aside that criticism, saying, "The Bush haters need to get a new hobby."

But in his absence, Bush seems to recognize that there are still quite a few haters out there. So where has our 43rd president been? Doing the same things you might do if you were in his position: Playing sports. Also: attending media-free dinners.

Here's Bush on June 18, throwing out the first pitch at the NCAA College World Series in Omaha. (Photo via Associated Press.)

Here he is on April 25, participating in the Warrior 100 mountain bike ride. (Photo via Reuters.)

Here's Bush on April 1, attending a Rangers game against the Red Sox. (Photo via Reuters.)

Bush watching the Super Bowl--surrounded by celebs!--in Texas, February 6. (Photo via Reuters.)

Aside from his public sports spectating, Bush has given speeches before friendly audiences where the media was not invited. He gave an unannounced address at Choudrant, Louisiana's Squire Creek Peach Festival Luncheon Tuesday, which raised money for the Boys and Girls Clubs of North Central Louisiana. Last month, Bush gave a speech to a group of hedge funders in Las Vegas in which he said his first words to Barack Obama upon hearing of bin Laden's death were, "Good call." Earlier this month, he elaborated that he was "not joyous" but "pleased" by bin Laden's death in his speech before the Lancaster, Penn., Chamber of Commerce & Industry's annual dinner. At a recent conference, he pressed his son-in-law's boss to stop paying his salary until he and and Jenna gave the ex-president a grandchild. After throwing out the first pitch at the college world series this weekend, Bush showed where his focus lies now, complaining that his pitching arm was failing him. "Threw a fastball, but it looked like a changeup," Bush said. "The catcher could have caught it barehanded."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.