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They may be one of the most intriguing political odd couples. Despite a history of standing on opposite sides of the aisle, former Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush are unexpectedly friends, they revealed recently. The two former U.S. leaders discussed their unique bond Thursday during a graduation event for the Presidential Leadership Scholars at the George W. Bush Presidential Center in Dallas, Texas.
"Now, why do I have a friendship with him?" Bush asked. "Well, because he’s called ‘a brother with a different mother.’ He hangs out in Maine more than I do," Bush said, referencing Clinton’s annual visits with his father, former President George H.W. Bush.
While the two men have many things in common, even Clinton himself noted the pair’s relationship is "unusual." So how did the son of the man Clinton defeated in the 1992 presidential election come to be so close?
According to Bush, it was the relationship Clinton and George H.W. Bush, despite once being political rivals, had managed to forge through mutual respect and graciousness that heavily influenced the younger Bush’s friendship with Clinton. "It starts with Bill Clinton being a person who refused to lord his victory over Dad," Bush said. "He was humble in victory, which is very important in dealing with other people. Dad was willing to rise above the political contest. It starts with the individual’s character and both men, in my judgment, displayed strong character."
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The two former presidents joked throughout the evening, at one point exchanging competitive notes about their grandchildren.
"Can your granddaughter sing ‘Happy Birthday’ in Mandarin?" Bush asked Clinton. "Mine can.”
"No, but she can in Spanish," Clinton replied. He then poked fun at the fact that Bush’s grandchildren refer to their grandfather as "Jefe," which is short for "El Jefe," or Spanish for "the boss." "I’m more humble," Clinton said. "I’m called Pop-Pop."
Although neither Bush nor Clinton referenced President Donald Trump directly, they both appeared to a bit of indirect commentary on him when emphasizing the importance of humility in a president.
"If you want to be president, realize it’s about the people, not about you," Clinton said. "You want to be able to say ‘things were better off when I quit, kids had a better future, things were coming together.’ A lot of these people who are real arrogant in office, they forget [that]… You don’t want to say, ‘God, look at all the people I beat.’"
Bush echoed a similar sentiment while reflecting on just how much power comes along with the presidency. "The decisions you make have a monumental effect on people," Bush said. "I think it’s really important to know what you don’t know and listen to people who do know what you don’t know," he also said during the event.
Clinton also expressed some concerns about the polarization currently being felt across America. "One of things wrong with America is we have separated ourselves in like-minded communities," Clinton said. "We don’t want to be around with people who disagree with us typically. And we get news in silos. Diverse groups make better decisions then homogenous ones."
Many viewers commended the two presidents on their unique friendship and the peaceful transition of power they’d pulled off after Bush was elected in 2000.