Saturday, May 30, 2009
Happy talk by former presidents obscures deep political divide
Nice to see former U.S. presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton getting along so well. The stuck up for each other and even joked around Friday at a political forum in Toronto when they spoke before a crowd of 6,000, according to the Associated Press. Neither criticized the other in their first appearance together, the AP said. Bush, who left office in January after eight controversial years as president, said he didn't like being criticized by previous administration officials and that Clinton never did that. Bush said there were "plenty of critics in America," the AP said. And Clinton, who was president from 1993-2001, did not even mention recent well-publicized comments by Bush's vice president, Dick Cheney, who has been highly critical of the new administration of Barak Obama. Bush even called Clinton his "brother" while joking about how much time his father, former President George H.W. Bush, spends with his immediate predecessor. Clinton and the elder Bush led international fundraising efforts after the southeast Asian tsunami and after hurricanes Katrina and Ike. The two former presidents made speeches before answering questions from the audience, the AP said. Clinton said he regretting not sending soldiers to Africa to stop the genocide in Rwanda in 1994, and Bush defended his administration's conduct of the Iraq war. "I don't buy the premise that our attention was diverted," Bush said, after Clinton said Bush should have given U.N. inspectors more time to look for weapons of mass destruction and instead concentrated more on Aghanistan, where al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden is still thought to be hiding. Clinton praised Bush for his contributions to efforts to battle the AIDS virus in Africa and for appointing a racially and ethnically diverse Cabinet. Bush said Clinton would not have been able to mobilize enough troops in time to stop the Rwanda bloodbath, in which Hutu militias killed 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus in three months. The event was moderated Frank McKenna, a former Canadian ambassador to the United States.