Former U.S. presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton told a forum in Dallas on Thursday that they were able to forge mutual bonds of respect and friendship because the other had been gracious in victory and respectful of presidential power.
The two did not mention President Donald Trump once during a nearly hour-long discussion where they traded quips and insights. But they offered indirect references that many in the crowd of around 300 people at the George W. Bush Presidential Library took to be references to the current president.
“He [Clinton] was humble in victory, which is very important in dealing with other people,” Bush said at the event to mark a graduation at the Presidential Leadership Scholars program, a partnership among the Bush, Clinton, Lyndon Johnson and George H.W. Bush presidential centers.
Clinton said: “If you want to be president, realize it’s about the people, not about you.
“You want to be able to say ‘things were better off when I quit, kids had a better future, things were coming together.’ You don’t want to say, ‘God, look at all the people I beat.’”
Trump has come under criticism from Democrats who have said he fires off excessive and unwarranted criticism against his predecessor, Barack Obama and his election rival, Hillary Clinton.
Bush said while in office he sought Clinton’s advice, while Clinton said that when he left office—having served two terms—he told Bush that he was avaliable should the incoming president need advice.
Bush and Clinton said they have enjoyed their lives after the presidency but would not trade their current status for their eight years in office.
“The decisions you make have a monumental effect on people,” Bush said. “Presidency is often defined by the unexpected. It makes the job interesting.”
Clinton said: “If you don’t deal with the incoming fire, it will undermine your ability to do anything else. If all you deal with is incoming fire, you can’t keep the promises you made when you were running.”
The two also exchanged jokes about being grandfathers, with Bush saying his grandchildren call him “jefe,” Spanish for “chief.”
“The best thing that can happen to you when you are in politics is to be consistently underestimated,” Clinton said. “I was pretty good at that,” Bush quipped.