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What next for George W Bush?

By Rajini Vaidyanathan
BBC News, Washington

"We've been in the spotlight now for 14 years.

President Bush joked with reporters at his final news conference

"We've lived in the Governor's Mansion and the White House. It's going to be an interesting adjustment."

George W Bush is unlikely to disappear completely from view, but in an exit interview with ABC News last month, he hinted at a desire for a quieter life.

"I'd like to live life without the limelight for a while. I don't - I think it's going to be real important for me to get off the stage. We got a new man coming on the stage - I wish him all the very best," he said.

No more perks

Once that new man, Barack Obama, is sworn in, at midday on 20 January, Mr Bush will cease to be president of the United States.

He gets to keep the title, as all former presidents do, but the power and status will disappear.

As will the perks - the White House, Air Force One and the presidential motorcade.

George W Bush will leave the corridors of power in Washington DC, and head back to his home state of Texas.

Some book publishers have been suggesting that both due to his unpopularity and the state of the economy, he's not likely to get a big advance right now
Robert Draper, Bush biographer

He is set to move into a $2m house in an upmarket part of Dallas.

His soon-to-be neighbours are said to be delighted. As well as the prospect of seeing a former president putting the rubbish out and watering the plants, security on the street will be guaranteed, as President Bush will continue to be protected by secret service agents for years to come.

And once he is installed in this pad, what does life have in store for the 43rd President of the United States?

He has already said he plans to work on his presidential library, and write a book.

There is speculation that he could tour the lecture circuit, a cash cow many former world leaders have banked on.

'Unpopular'

Robert Draper, author of a biography of Mr Bush, Dead Certain, has interviewed the president about what his next moves might be.

"He talked to me in December 2006 about going on the lecture circuit. He was unpopular then but he's even more unpopular now.

Laura Bush
Will Mrs Bush land a bigger book deal than her husband?

"I don't think he's going to be raking it in the way Bill Clinton did," he told me.

"For his book, publishers have been suggesting that both due to his unpopularity and the state of the economy, he's not likely to get a big advance right now. He'll certainly get an advance in the millions of dollars - but the low millions, so $4m or $5m."

In fact, Mr Bush's wife Laura has beaten him to secure a book deal.

Publishing house Scribner is expected to release her memoirs in 2010.

In a statement, Mrs Bush said it would "tell the stories of the extraordinary events and people I've met in my life, particularly during my years in the White House."

Championing causes

All the signs are that the president will not be troubled by the fact he has yet to sign a deal for his memoirs.

He has no urgent need of the money, Robert Draper suggests, as he still has millions of dollars in the bank from the sale of the baseball team he used to own, the Texas Rangers, in 1998.

"The truth is that George W Bush never really craved the limelight. He didn't seek out the presidency all his life the way other American politicians have," he said.

"I think it will not be as crushing a thing to lose that from his life as it might be for others. He'll recede somewhat gracefully."

George W Bush and George H W Bush
In retirement, Mr Bush may take his father as a model
The president has said he is confident he will adjust to life after Washington.

His main focus will be the institute he is planning to build at Southern Methodist University in Texas, as well as his library and archives.

He is likely to use the institute to champion causes he believes in. Pete Wehner, a former deputy assistant to Mr Bush, thinks the ex-president might aim to promote liberty and democracy around the world.

Aside from that, it is likely he will enjoy life outside the fast lane.

He will continue to exercise - something he is said to enjoy - and keep watching his favourite sports, like baseball.

In Mr Wehner's view, he is the kind of person who knows when to let go.

"I think as a general matter he's going to be an ex-president who embodies grace. His dad is going to be a model for him.

"I don't think he's going to be in the spotlight and I don't think he wants to be. He's not going to be an outspoken public critic, or a critic at all of President Obama."

Correction 12 January 2009: Due to an editing error, an earlier version of this story misquoted Robert Draper. He had been speaking about publishers in general and not any specific publisher.

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