Bush: ‘I Went Against My Free-Market Instincts’

By Jacqueline Klingebiel

Nov 12, 2009 5:06pm

An energized George W. Bush laid out plans for his public policy institute – and appointed its first fellows -at SMU today. 

My colleagues Devin Dwyer and Evan Harris report on a man who didn’t seem to miss flying to the APEC Conference today:

“I Went Against My Free-Market Instincts”

That’s what former President Bush said today in explaining why he signed off on the bailout for Wall Street…calling the decision “one of the most difficult of his presidency.”  

The former President made the remarks at the unveiling of the George W. Bush Presidential Center at Southern Methodist University. 

“I went against my free-market instincts and approved a temporary government intervention to unfreeze the credit markets so that we could avoid a major global depression,” Bush said.

And without mentioning President Obama by name the former President did have some rather pointed comments for the current Administration claiming that generally “history shows that the greater threat to prosperity is not too little government involvement, but too much.”

Bush, who as President also signed off on massive aid to the auto industry, warned against a government takeover of the economy fearing it would eliminate free-market enterprise.  “As the world recovers, we are going to face the temptation to replace the risk and reward model of the private sector with the blunt instruments of government spending and control.”

"Retired" Not "Tired"

Former President George W. Bush offered a rare appraisal of his time since leaving office and unveiled his vision for the soon-to-launch Bush Institute.

“I’m happy to report that there is life after the White House,” Bush told the friendly crowd of invited guests. “Laura and I are healthy, happy and home in the heart of Texas.”

“We may be retired, but I’m not tired,” he added.  Bush said he’s been spending his time in recent months giving speeches around the world, working on his memoir — due out next fall – and planning construction of his presidential center on the SMU campus.

“I enjoy popping in on class from time to time…Come to think of it, that was my strategy as a student,” Bush said to erupting laughter.  

Bush also signaled that he has been reflecting on his time in office and  on some of the “toughest decisions” he had to make as president.

 “There were some good days and there were some tough days, but every day I was honored to represent the nation I have loved,” he said. “I gave the job my all, I always did what I believed was in the best interest of our country and I came home to Texas with my values intact.”

Those values – which Bush called “timeless” and ones that defined his presidency – are the basis for the institute’s work at SMU.  Bush said it will research and advance public policy proposals to strengthen freedom, opportunity, responsibility and compassion.

As Bush spoke, a projector flashed images related to each theme overhead – President Bush with the bullhorn at Ground Zero; the Georgian people celebrating a democratic election; volunteers serving the hungry; and, a giant red AIDS ribbon hanging from the portico of the Bush White House. 

The Bush Institute is described as an independent and non-partisan organization that will strive to achieve progress in four areas: education, global health, human freedom and economic growth.

“Our first focus is education,” Bush said. “It was my top priority as governor and top domestic priority as president.”

Bush announced the appointment of the first of several dozen scholars who will work at the institute, which has already scheduled a half-dozen conferences for next year, according to organizers.

“The Center will be the focus of our attention and forum for our public service as long as we live,” Bush said. “And we’re ahead of schedule to meet our fundraising goal… well, truth is, we have some ways to go.” Mr. Bush grinned widely and Mrs. Bush chuckled.

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