March 14, 2005
A UNITER AFTER ALL:
An unexpected friendship in the ex-presidents' club (Harry Bruinius, 3/15/05, The Christian Science Monitor)
One stands pale and gaunt, his cheeks missing the chubby, rosy glow and exuberant vitality of his younger years, while the other, a stately and famously prudent octogenarian, stands less listless than he once seemed, as he leaps from planes like an X Games teen.Posted by Orrin Judd at March 14, 2005 6:28 PM
Their differences, even those arising from the unpredictable changes of time, have always been quite stark. But now, as former presidents Bill Clinton and George Bush head the US relief efforts for the victims of December's tsunami, they have become the nation's most improbable duo, forging a relationship that has moved beyond polite public decorum and toward what many observers say is a surprisingly warm friendship.
Yes, they pal around at football games, give each other playful shoves after ceremonial appearances, and tease each other on the golf course. [...]
Though Clinton and Bush insist they have always liked each other, many feel the new, closer friendship began in the past year, after a series of events in which Bush's son, the current president, lavished praise on his predecessor. Especially notable was the unveiling of the Clintons' portraits in the White House last June.
"The years have done a lot to clarify the strengths of this man," George W. Bush said of Clinton. "As a candidate for any office, whether it be the state attorney general or the president, Bill Clinton showed incredible energy and great personal appeal. As a chief executive, he showed a far-ranging knowledge of public policy, a great compassion for people in need, and the forward-looking spirit the Americans like in a president." Later, after Bush paid tribute to Clinton's mother, Virginia Kelley, his words brought tears to Clinton's eyes.
Such praise continued in November, at the dedication of the Clinton Presidential Center in Little Rock, Ark.
And the warm tone even continued at last weekend's Gridiron dinner, an annual Washington "roast" attended by journalists and political leaders. There the younger Bush, noting that Clinton is recovering from another operation, said that he was surrounded by "loved ones," including his wife, daughter ... and "my dad." Laughter ensued.