WASHINGTON, Mar 18 – Former President George W. Bush, in his first post-presidency speech, refrained from criticising President Barack Obama, saying that his successor in the White House "deserves my silence," Politico.com reported Wednesday.
"There’s plenty of critics in the arena," Bush told an overflow crowd of 2,000 business leaders in Calgary, Canada who paid 400 dollars each to attend the speech featuring the former US president.
"I think it’s time for the ex-president to tap dance off the stage and let the current president have a go at solving the world’s problems. If he wants my help and I agree with him, I’ll give it," Bush said Tuesday.
Otherwise, Bush said "he deserves my silence".
He made his remarks as Obama and his top officials fend off criticism about their handling of the economic meltdown and try to quell public backlash over lavish bonuses paid to executives at insurance giant American International Group (AIG.)
"I can’t help him any more than this: I’m not going to spend my time criticizing him," Bush said.
Politico reported that Bush received two standing ovations during a half-hour speech, which was followed by a question and answer session during which he was peppered with questions on topics ranging from the war in Afghanistan to his future life plans.
The former president did not demur however from chiming on the AIG flap roiling Washington for several days over hefty payouts for executives at AIG, despite the company having received tens of billions of dollars in bailout money.
"I agree with the angst being expressed in Washington on this matter," Bush said.
He told the audience that he plans to continue working on initiatives started begun during his presidency to combat AIDS and malaria in Africa, saying he hopes "to be useful" and to "not play golf in retirement, but actually contribute to society."
Bush, who has returned to his home state of Texas, also spoke about an upcoming memoir he plans to write on 12 tough decisions he made in the White House.
"I want people to understand what it was like to sit in the Oval Office … and let them determine what they would have done if their most important job was to protect the country," said Bush, whose presidency has been maligned has having eroded civil and human rights as he prosecuted the US "war on terror."