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Bush's flock expected to go out to pasture quietly

One will open a think tank, another wants to manage a professional sports team and the third will likely retire to his Chesapeake Bay home, down the street from a property nicknamed Mount Misery.

The current U.S. presidential administration has just over a month left in office and its most controversial members - including President George W. Bush, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Vice-President Dick Cheney - have begun to make plans for life outside the White House.

But for Mr. Bush and his colleagues, the post-executive period is unlikely to mimic the elder statesman efforts of Jimmy Carter or the globe-trotting celebrity of Bill Clinton. After presiding over two unpopular wars, a tanking economy and the lowest approval ratings in recent U.S. political history, most agree that Mr. Bush will eagerly leave behind both Washington and the public spotlight.

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"I think you'll see him keeping a pretty low profile for some time to come," said presidential historian Richard Norton Smith. "My hunch is that [the Bushes]will probably welcome the chance to get out of this town and back to friendlier surroundings."

Last week, it was announced that Mr. Bush and his wife, Laura, had bought a $3-million (U.S.), four-bedroom home in the Preston Hollow neighbourhood of Dallas, around the corner from Dallas Mavericks owner Marc Cuban and former presidential candidate Ross Perot.

"I can just envision getting in the car, getting bored, going down to the ranch," the President told his biographer Robert Draper.

The New York Times estimated the couple's assets at between $8-million and $20-million, and Mr. Bush will receive a yearly pension of $186,000, as well as travel funds, mailing privileges, Secret Service protection, office space, staff and other "transition expenses."

In an interview with ABC news anchor Charlie Gibson that aired last week, the Bushes said they were looking forward to living a "normal daily life."

"It's going to be an interesting adjustment. We'll adjust. We got each other, we've got our kids, we've got fabulous friends in Texas," Mr. Bush said.

The President said he plans to write a book and form a think tank known as the Freedom Institute that will operate from Southern Methodist University, which will also house his presidential library.

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The Freedom Institute will likely follow the model of the Hoover Institution, which is both a presidential archive and training ground for Republican politicians.

Mr. Bush has said that he plans to "replenish the ol' coffers" by giving public addresses, noting that Mr. Clinton is "making a lot of money" on the lecture circuit.

But Mr. Norton Smith believes Mr. Bush's reputation might interfere with his plans.

"There's probably not a lot of Republican dinner organizers who are eager to have him as their head speaker," he said.

Ms. Rice, too, could meet hostility when transitioning back to private life.

The former provost of Stanford University, Ms. Rice has said she is considering a return to academia. "I still think of myself more than anything as a kind of professor on leave," she told a magazine recently.

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But Ms. Rice's return to Stanford would likely be met with some protest surrounding her role in U.S. foreign policy. She is expected to write books, and has also expressed an interest in managing a sports team.

There was once speculation that Ms. Rice, an avid football fan, might be named the commissioner of the National Football League.

But that is probably one of the few high-profile offices she would consider occupying, as she said during the presidential election campaign that she has little interest in running for office.

Mr. Cheney, too, is unlikely to add another political chapter to his memoirs.

The Vice-President will turn 68 in the weeks after president-elect Barack Obama's inauguration, and has suffered four heart attacks.

His net worth is estimated to be between $30-million and $100-million, made as CEO of the energy company Halliburton in the late 1990s, and in 2005 he bought what is considered to be his retirement estate in St. Michaels, Md., just across Chesapeake Bay from Washington.

The $2.67-million, 3.5-hectare enclave is around the corner from former secretary of defence Donald Rumsfeld, who lives on a property named Mount Misery.

Mr. Norton Smith said Mr. Cheney and his Republican friends are all likely to stay out of the limelight initially, decompressing from the pressures of office. "Whatever you think of the last eight years, they've been brutal, and anyone would welcome the opportunity to turn the page," said Mr. Norton Smith. "That presupposes they're not going to spend a lot of time looking over their shoulder."

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