DALLAS (AP) — Former President George W. Bush’s decision not to appear at ground zero with President Barack Obama after the death of Osama bin Laden is consistent with his desire to keep a low public profile, former first lady Laura Bush said Thursday.
“He’s made the real decision not to enter into politics or the public eye,” Laura Bush told The Associated Press on Thursday.
Bush said she and her husband were out to dinner Sunday night when they received word that Obama wanted to speak with him. The former president went home to take the call informing him that U.S. military forces had killed Osama bin Laden in a raid of his compound in Pakistan, she said.
“We’re very, very proud of our military and our intelligence services. It was risky and it was dangerous for our members of the military,” she said at a Dallas elementary school after announcing grants from her foundation for school libraries.
The former president congratulated Obama and military and intelligence personnel in a statement Sunday night, calling bin Laden’s death “a victory for America.”
She said Bush feels that acting presidents alone should preside over such official ceremonies as the one held Thursday at ground zero. She told the AP that her husband declined an invitation to attend Thursday’s event in New York because “that’s for President Obama to do at this point.”
Earlier this week, George Bush’s spokesman, David Sherzer, said the former president appreciated the offer to attend the ground zero event but choses to remain out of the spotlight during his post-presidency.
George Bush was in power on Sept. 11, 2001, when agents from bin Laden’s al-Qaida network hijacked planes and crashed them into the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington, killing nearly 3,000 people in the worst terrorist attack on American soil.
Bush sent U.S. forces against al-Qaida and the Taliban in Afghanistan in October 2001.
He famously appeared at ground zero days after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, using a bullhorn to tell those gathered: “I can hear you. The rest of the world hears you. And the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon.”
Laura and George Bush moved to Dallas after he left office in 2009. Both released books last year and made several media appearances to promote them, but otherwise they have stayed largely out of the public eye. They do make appearances for events related to the George W. Institute, which has put on conferences this year including one on the nation’s economy and another on helping Afghan women achieve economic success.
The institute is part of the George W. Bush Presidential Center, which is being built on the campus of Southern Methodist University and is set to be completed in 2013.