Washington: George W. Bush has been an unintentional beneficiary of the Trump administration, his reputation buoyed with the benefit of time and an unpopular president from his own party.
On Friday, he continued to embrace the role of good guy, with a photo of himself delivering pizzas to his Secret Service detail that he posted on Instagram.
“Laura W. Bush and I are grateful to our Secret Service personnel and the thousands of Federal employees who are working hard for our country without a paycheck,” he wrote. “And we thank our fellow citizens who are supporting them.”
The message comes as the shutdown, already the longest in history, nears a 27th day, as Trump’s demand for $5 billion (Dh18.36 billion) of funding for a border wall has met the harsh political realities of a divided government. Some furloughed workers have taken to accepting food handouts amid the weeks without a salary.
But Bush’s staff is not going hungry. The president bought them at least six pizzas, according to the Instagram post. He punctuated the post with a call for officials to figure out a way to end the impasse, though he did not give specifics.
“It’s time for leaders on both sides to put politics aside, come together, and end this shutdown,” he said.
Some 6,000 Secret Service employees are among the 800,000 federal workers not receiving salaries. Spokeswoman Catherine Milhoan said that more than 85 per cent of the agency is continuing to report to work every day but declined to comment on any operational details of Bush’s protection team.
“He is buying meals for Secret Service agents on his detail as a small way, however insufficient, to show his gratitude for their hard work without pay during the shutdown,” Bush spokesman Freddy Ford said in an email. Ford declined to answer how many pizzas Bush purchased or how many agents there were in his detail.
Bush did not face a single government shutdown during the eight years he was president.
The Secret Service emerged as a sticking point in the funding debate between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and President Donald Trump, when Pelosi noted in a letter that the service was stretched thin in the absence of funding, and recommended that the president postpone the State of the Union for security concerns.
Bush’s favourability ratings have climbed in recent years, from about 33 per cent when he left office in 2009 to 61 per cent a year ago, according to CNN polls. The gain was powered in large part by significant shifts in opinion from self-identified Democrats.
“I never thought I would agree with Bush,” one commenter on Bush’s post remarked.