It isn't even past.
Time Magazine's David Von Drehle:
Hard to imagine that at his zenith, George W. Bush would ever have wanted to quote the Marxist revolutionary Leon Trotsky, but one of Trotsky's famous lines would have fit perfectly into his farewell. "You may not be interested in war," Bush said in essence, "but war is interested in you."
I took this reference as a "wink wink, nudge nudge" type of statement. And Time's Karen Tumulty has a good eye for metaphor--the type Ron Suskind might write into one of his books.
Matt Yglasias comments on the occasion:
After something happens, it can begin to seem inevitable. The extent to which the actual has its origins deep in the past, and the present-day has been unfolding for decades, becomes clear to us all. On occasion, it’s useful to have a jarring reminder that things didn’t always seem that way...
The problem is that most didn't see how strong an influence the past really was.