Thursday, December 5, 2013
By Ken Thomas / The Associated Press
(Continued from page 1)
Former President George W. Bush laughs as former President Bill Clinton speaks at the dedication of the George W. Bush Presidential Center on Thursday in Dallas.
The Associated Press
When the Clintons arrived at the White House in January 1993, aides to both families said the Bush family was gracious to the new president and his family. The elder Bush avoided criticizing his successor and after Clinton's presidency, the two joined forces to raise money for victims of the devastating tsunami in Asia in 2005 and Hurricane Katrina in 2006.
Aides describe a friendship between the two ex-presidents that almost resembles a father-son relationship. Bill Clinton has visited the ailing ex-president at his homes in Houston and Kennebunkport, Maine, and first lady Barbara Bush joked in a 2012 interview with Parade Magazine that her sons refer to Clinton as their "brother by another mother."
"My mother told me not to talk too long today – and Barbara, I will not let you down," Clinton quipped Thursday, prompting laughs from Hillary Clinton.
That friendship helped connect Clinton and George W. Bush, who campaigned for president in 2000 on restoring "honor and dignity" to the White House following Clinton's impeachment over a sex scandal. After Haiti's devastating earthquake in 2010, Obama tapped Clinton and the younger Bush to lead a relief effort.
Joshua Bolten, a former chief of staff to George W. Bush and a board member of the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund, recalled that on their first trip to Haiti, the presidents wore tan baseball caps emblazoned with the number 85 – the combination of the 42nd and 43rd presidents. He said the relationship between Clinton and the elder Bush "helped open the door to a good 42 and 43 relationship."
Both families know what it's like to watch a family member face the scrutiny of a national campaign. Clinton recounted that in 2008, he and George W. Bush would talk politics by phone as Hillary Clinton sought the White House – a time when Bush's approval ratings sank and Republicans avoided him. Clinton, standing a few feet from Obama, joked that a "chill went up and down my spine" when he learned that the Bush library's records were digitized. "Dear god I hope there is no records of those conversations."
The two families could be thrust into the spotlight once again if Hillary Clinton or Jeb Bush runs for president in three years. During the 2008 campaign, Bill Clinton served as his wife's top surrogate, vouching for her abilities. In recent days, George W. Bush has encouraged his younger brother to seek the White House, saying in an interview with C-SPAN, "My first advice is: Run."
But first lady Barbara Bush appeared to disagree. Asked in an interview Thursday on NBC's "Today" show how she felt about Jeb Bush running for president, Mrs. Bush said, "We've had enough Bushes."
Recent polling has found an improving assessment of George W. Bush's presidency, a measurement which could play a factor in how Jeb Bush would be viewed in future Republican primaries. A poll released in March of registered Republicans by Quinnipiac University found Jeb Bush trailing GOP opponents such as Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan and Kentucky Sen. Ron Paul.
Hillary Clinton remains popular, with a Gallup poll released earlier this month showing that 64 percent had a favorable opinion of her.
The presidential trail follows both of them three years before the next election. Clinton supporters chanted her name outside her private speech in nearby Irving, Texas, on Wednesday night while Jeb Bush received encouragement to run for president during an event with a Dallas civic group. Looking to the future, Jeb Bush pointed to the nascent campaign in Texas of his 37-year-old son, George P. Bush.
"To be honest, I'm focused on the land commissioner race in 2014," Bush said with a smile.
Presidential politics can wait.