Former President Bush opines on immigration, Iran, bank bailout, more
Former President George W. Bush expressed skepticism about Iran's recent diplomatic overtures and predicted an end to the Republican Party's internal battles during a wide-ranging conversation on Thursday at an energy conference Downtown.
As keynote speaker at a 2,500-person lunch on the first full day of the DUG East convention for the natural gas industry, Bush defended his namesake foreign policy doctrine of pre-emptive force, as well as National Security Agency surveillance that began under his watch.
He discussed comparing dogs with Russia's Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and the oil painting he has taken up since leaving the White House in 2009.
“I don't miss Washington, and I don't miss being president,” Bush said. He acknowledged the job had perks, though. On the ride to the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, sans motorcade, “it was inconvenient stopping at all the stoplights. I miss that. I mean, Air Force One was nice.”
A former oil company CEO in Texas, Bush met with energy executives, conference speakers and Mayor Luke Ravenstahl before his luncheon discussion, an informal, hourlong question-and-answer session with Richard Mason, chief technical director for convention sponsor Hart Energy.
The former president, a Republican, alternated between jokes and drama from his eight years at the country's helm, including a 2008 conversation in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in which Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke warned him the country might plunge into a depression without a $750 billion bank bailout.
“This is the fundamental question I faced: Do I adhere to principle in this place and let the market sort out winners and losers, which I told the American people I believed in, and risk a depression?” Bush said. “I didn't want history to say, ‘Bush could've done something about the depression that happened.' I didn't want history books saying ‘25 percent unemployment could've been avoided.'”
As the White House and State Department try to stop the Senate from tightening sanctions on Iran over its nuclear program, since negotiations last week failed to produce a deal, Bush seemed skeptical of the Islamic republic.
“The sanctions are working. Are they trying to ease sanctions in return for nothing, or are they trying to ease sanctions in return for substantial change? I think we need to be very cautious,” Bush said.
He immediately clarified that he's not trying to “undermine our president.”
“I think it's bad for the country to have former presidents out there undermining the current president,” Bush said.
A day before Bush's address, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said he won't negotiate with the Democratic-controlled Senate over immigration reform, which Bush tried to push through during his tenure.
“It's a very complex, difficult issue to get done, and therefore it needs to be the primary focus of Congress and the president. It can't be a secondary objective,” Bush said.
Leadership has to come from the White House, he said.
“Congress can't lead. Congress is basically made up of risk-averse people who've got two-year time horizons,” Bush said.
He traced discord within the Republican Party to its consecutive losses in presidential elections, casting it as a predictable political cycle.
“When you've been out of power for eight years, without a leader, there's going to be diverging views,” Bush said. “Ultimately, the party will make the decision to win, and nominate somebody, and then it'll change.”
Allen Gilmer, CEO of the data analysis company Drillinginfo, said Bush told CEOs with whom he met privately that he enjoys being out of the public spotlight.
“And we said, ‘Well, how so?' ‘Well, I go home, and it's fun to be able to just be running down the street,' ” Gilmer said. “ ‘People wave at me, and they're using all their fingers.' ”
Mike Wereschagin is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach him at 412-320-7900 or email@example.com. Staff writer Timothy Puko contributed to this report.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Fix for issues vowed at Pittsburgh VA
- 3 Brentwood council members submit resignation letters
- Leadership rises as issue for Pa. voters in new poll
- Bakery Square town houses plans to go to Pittsburgh city planners
- Citation of police observer called ‘abuse of power’ by Pittsburgh police
- Four questioned in Glen Hazel shooting of teen
- Density, divide complicate effort to cull deer in Mt. Lebanon
- Pittsburgh region enjoys healthy dose of ‘brain gain’
- Penn Hills school board accepts building sale
- Newsmaker: Jay Carson
- Some riled, others resigned to high earners in Pittsburgh public housing