Posted by Brad @ 7:37 pm on May 30th 2009

W. and Clinton

Bush Jr. and Bill Clinton appeared together in Toronto and, in stark contrast to Cheney, seemed to get along well and were both very respectful of both each other and Obama.

Former President George W. Bush called ex-President Bill Clinton “his brother” and the two rarely disagreed in their first-ever appearance together on stage.

The Republican and Democratic ex-presidents defended each other at a Toronto forum on Friday, disappointing some in the crowd of 6,000 who expected a more heated debate.

Bush said that he never liked it when previous administration officials criticized his government but said Clinton was respectful and never did.

Bush declined to criticize the Obama administration, in contrast to former Vice President Dick Cheney, who has been a vocal critic of Obama. Bush, who wasn’t asked about Cheney, said there are “plenty of critics in America.” […]

Asked why he didn’t stop the killing in the Rwanda genocide when he was president in 1994, Clinton said he had no excuse or defense.

“It’s one of the two or three greatest regrets of my presidency,” Clinton said.

Clinton said the U.S. could have saved 250,000 or 400,000 of the 800,000 people who died had he sent about 20,000 troops. Bush defended Clinton, saying 20,000 troops could not have been mobilized quickly.

Clinton praised Bush for his AIDS initiatives and also hailed the racial and ethnic diversity of his cabinet choices.

I know it’s meaningless, but I like this sort of thing. It makes me feel better about Washington that two guys who were at the center of the political universe, once removed from it, can not really care about partisanship and just respect the office and have a good time and revel in the kinship belonging to the world’s most exclusive club.


  1. Clinton and the older Bush have always gotten along well, too. I’ve always sort of attributed that to the “class” of GHWB. Perhaps that’s rubbed off on WJC (and, I suppose to GWB). Too bad Dick Cheney didn’t learn the lessons, having served in both Bush Administrations. Unfortunately, I think he did his learning when he was in the Nixon White House, and has taken Nixon’s “reinvention of image” as the model.

    I like to see this sort of thing, too, though. And I liked it when Tip O’Neill and Ronald Reagan would have a drink together “after 5”. It’s nice to see a certain civility in our politics, even among people who might very much disagree.

    Comment by Laura — 5/30/2009 @ 9:02 pm

  2. It’s not just the class of GHWB. Clinton has always been pretty good about this sort of thing too. I think he genuinely enjoys it, and although one can certainly question his respect for the office in light of his, ahem, indiscretions in it, he has always seemed to maintain a certain dignity about it too. He’s sort of a paradoxical guy that way, I guess.

    My impression is that W. will be a pretty good ex-president, in much the same vein as his father, and minus the aplomb for the spotlight of Clinton. It is sort of funny that Cheney, of all people, would continue being the rabid partisan. He managed to work for every Republican administration from Nixon except Reagan’s. I always thought that was telling, somehow. I do sort of shudder to think of how history will portray him 100 years from now. W.’s legacy, as a person, I’m guessing winds up a bit softened with time. I don’t think he’ll ever be viewed as a good president, and indeed I would guess he winds up viewed as a very bad one, but I do think people will be able to sympathize with him, chalking his mistakes not up to evil or corruption so much as weakness and short-sightedness (a sort of Harding/Hoover figure, I guess).

    Cheney, on the other hand, is pretty well situated to go down the Nixon/Jackson path. Indeed, he seems pretty well committed to it, if anything only amplifying the stereotype of him as he’s left office. Which is kind of a shame—he’s always struck me as a sharp guy, and my guess is I would probably like him on a personal level if we ever got to know each other. I would love to see a 22nd century American history textbook’s entry on him.

    Comment by Brad — 5/30/2009 @ 10:41 pm

  3. My guess is he’d likely shoot you in the face it you ever got to know each other.

    Comment by thimbles — 5/31/2009 @ 12:11 pm

  4. Well, I’m not sure you can necessarily blame him for that.

    Comment by James — 5/31/2009 @ 3:32 pm

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