The Bush crowd has a big barbeque

600 gather to fete silver anniversary of 41st presidency

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COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- About 600 of George H.W. Bush's closest friends, administration officials, political allies and family members headed to his presidential library in Texas this past weekend to celebrate the 25th anniversary of his presidency.

Familiar faces such as former Secretary of State James Baker, ex-chief of staff John Sununu, and onetime Vice President Dan Quayle spent the time reminiscing about their glory days, eating heaping plates of barbecue and listening to live country music played by Clay Walker and Garth Brooks.

"It's like a combination between a college reunion and 'The Big Chill,' " said Ron Kaufman, a longtime political director for the 41st president.

The Bushes are going through a renaissance of Matthew McConaughey-like proportions. The 89-year-old elder Mr. Bush has gone from a badly defeated one-term commander-in-chief to one of the most popular former presidents in decades.

His son George W. re-emerged into the public this past weekend as a painter (which of course doesn't whitewash his presidency, but at least people aren't talking about Iraq for a moment).

And the rumblings on the sidelines for a 2016 run by son Jeb are getting louder by the day -- here's a conservative Republican governor with fundraising prowess, name recognition, love from the establishment and the ability to speak Spanish.

The Bushes are getting the benefits of walking behind rose-colored windows. The elder Mr. Bush lost in 1992 amid complaints that he didn't care enough about domestic issues, and he didn't win many conservative fans for his reversal of his oft-quoted line, "Read my lips, no new taxes." The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq haven't helped the family brand, either. A recent Post-ABC poll found that half of all Americans say they "definitely would not" vote for another Bush as president.

Still, Saturday night guests took their seats under a giant tent to take in the sounds of Mr. Walker with nothing but happy thoughts. Streamers exploded out of the ceiling, covering excited but confused senior citizens. Forty-one sat in his wheelchair in his neck brace, a smile plastered on his face. His wife, Barbara, sat nearby. Two of 41's sons -- George W. and Marvin -- were unable to attend because of previous commitments, and Mr. Brooks was unable to headline due to some kind of exclusivity deal, but there was nothing keeping the country superstar from jumping on stage to perform his hit "Friends in Low Places."


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