HE ALMOST MADE IT FIVE MONTHS…. In March, George W. Bush had a chance to criticize his successor, but he took a pass. “I’m not going to spend my time criticizing him,” Bush said. “There are plenty of critics in the arena. He deserves my silence.”

It was a good move. Not only is there an expectation of decency when presidents leave the stage, but Bush, of all people, should be as silent as possible. After all, it’s Bush’s spectacular failures in practically every area of governmental policy that his successor is now forced to deal with. The less he says, the better.

Last night in Pennsylvania, however, the failed former president decided to play fast and loose with his vow not to criticize President Obama, who Bush apparently no longer believes “deserves his silence.”

Former President George W. Bush fired a salvo at President Obama on Wednesday, asserting his administration’s interrogation policies were within the law, declaring the private sector not government will fix the economy and rejecting the nationalization of health care.

“I know it’s going to be the private sector that leads this country out of the current economic times we’re in,” the former president said to applause from members of a local business group. “You can spend your money better than the government can spend your money.”

Repeatedly in his hourlong speech and question-and-answer session, Mr. Bush said he would not directly criticize the new president, who has moved to take over financial institutions and several large corporations. Several times, however, he took direct aim at Obama policies as he defended his own during eight years in office.

Bush, without a hint of irony, talked about his expertise in knowing how to use government to “expand the job rate in the United States.” What’s more, asked about the facility at Guantanamo Bay, the former president said “I told you I’m not going to criticize my successor,” before using some unusually cheap rhetoric: “I’ll just tell you that there are people at Gitmo that will kill American people at a drop of a hat and I don’t believe that persuasion isn’t going to work. Therapy isn’t going to cause terrorists to change their mind.”

Asked if he finds the new president’s policies “socialist,” Bush started to answer, saying it “depends on…” before concluding, “We’ll see.”

Stay classy, George.

That said, I wouldn’t be too surprised if Obama’s team found all of this encouraging. The more there’s a “Bush vs. Obama” dynamic, the more it benefits the current occupant of the Oval Office, not the former.

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.