An ad promoting a trip to Glacier National Park

Former presidents generally make a killing on the speech circuit, and I suspect George W. Bush will get his share of high-dollar gigs. I’ve noticed, however, that he’s been conspicuous by his absence since leaving the White House in January, keeping a decidedly low profile.

My generous side likes to think he is being intentionally gracious and staying out of his successor’s way. My more cynical side figures that he’s lying low until his astronomical unpopularity abates and he’s less likely to be the target of the national anger about the war in Iraq, the authorization of torture, the overcooking of the financial system, and a general sullying of America’s image around the world.

Who wants to pay big money to hear speeches from a president whose legacy is widely regarded as disastrous?

Conservative Christians do — or at least, the organizers of a series of religious festivals called “Celebrators” think they do. In full-page color ads placed in state Baptist papers and other publications. Celebrators is touting Bush as the headliner for a “Celebrate America Patriotic Service” during its October 5-8 shebang in Sevierville, TN, while Laura Bush will be featured at a similar celebration in Branson, MO later in October.

“Celebrators” events cater mainly to senior adults, who often come by busloads and are largely conservative in matters of both faith and politics. It’ll be interesting to see what kind of crowd the former president and preacher David Jeremiah draw to the event.

I suspect most of those who will attend remain enamored with “W,” who’s swagger-appeal will no doubt continue for diehard fans. And for those in the crowd who’ve left the Bush bandwagon, at least they’re likely to be forgiving.

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