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Bush refuses to criticize Obama, says 'essential' to help him; split with Cheney grows

March 18, 2009 |  4:36 am

Former Republican U.S. president George W Bush speaking with former Canadian Ambassador Frank McKenna in Calgary Alberta 3-17-09 in the first of a series of paid speeches by the ex-president

A surprising split -- or perhaps a chasm -- appearing now between the former White House team of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, who seemed so solidly in sync for eight years.

After a previous interview with Politico.com, the ex-vice president was on CNN last weekend, again criticizing the new Barack Obama administration for what Cheney characterized as decisions that could seriously threaten American national security, including changes in terrorist interrogation policy and closing Guantanamo Bay. The former VP did say Bush should not be blamed for the economic meltdown.

But Cheney was also openly critical of the decision not to pardon his former chief of staff, Lewis Libby in the closing days of the Bush administration.

That decision, perhaps needless to say, was made by Cheney's boss, President Bush, who unexpectedly chose Cheney as his two-time running mate in 2000 after originally asking Cheney to lead the search for a VP partner. So the right-hand guy is letting the world know now his post-administration displeasure with the boss.

Since flying home to Texas after the Obama inauguration on Jan. 20, Bush has been totally silent, staying first on his Crawford ranch and then moving into a new house in the Preston Hollow section of north Dallas to begin work on a book and his presidential library at Southern Methodist University.

Tuesday in Calgary, the 43rd president gave the first of about a dozen paid speeches arranged so far by the Washington Speakers Bureau on his 2009 schedule. And here's what Bush told about 2,000 business persons about his successor, the 44th president:

"There are plenty of critics in Former Republican US President George W Bush arrives for a speech 3-17-09 in Calgary Canadathe arena. He deserves my silence."

Bush said something else too:

"I love my country a lot more than I love politics. I think it is essential that he be helped in office."

Not exactly the Rush Limbaugh failure line of comment. Or the Dick Cheney tone. Bush also said if the new president wanted his help, "he's welcome to call me."

The former president received two standing ovations from the Canadian audience, which paid $3,100 per table for "A Conversation with George W. Bush."

Bush said he was pleased to make his maiden post-presidential speech in a place like Alberta, (named for a daughter of Queen Victoria), which is Canada's most conservative province and one with close and deep energy-economic ties to Texas.

Bush joked that he'd need more such engagements to pay for the house his wife, Laura, bought without him seeing it. "I actually paid for a house last fall," he told the crowd. "I think I'm the only American to have bought a house in the fall of 2008."

The ex-president seemed to enjoy himself in the question-and-answer session, saying he was prepared to stay all day. "I'm flattered people even want to hear me in the first place."

Bush also revealed the outlines of his book, which will be built around what he regards as his 12 toughest decisions. "I want people to understand what it was like to sit in the Oval Office," he said.

We have a brief video with pictures below. And Mark Silva has more details on the story over in the Swamp.

-- Andrew Malcolm

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Photo (top): Former President Bush talks with former Canadian Ambassador Frank McKenna in Calgary. Credit: Ewan Nicholson / tinePublic via Associated Press

Photo (bottom): Bush arrives for speech. Credit: Associated Press

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