Former President Bill Clinton and current President Barack Obama had nothing but compliments Thursday for the man in the middle of their presidential sandwich: George W. Bush. Clinton and Obama, along with George Bush Sr. and Jimmy Carter, joined W in Dallas today for the opening of the George W. Bush Presidential Center. Here, in the spirit of bipartisanship, are 11 nice things America's two most recent Democratic presidents had to say about the nation's most recent Republican president (and the extended Bush family).
President Clinton (remarks via video from ABC News):
1. "I want to take my hat off to President Bush. This is a beautiful library. The exhibits are great."
2. "I like President Bush. And I like it when we have disagreements. He's disarmingly direct. We were heaving an argument over health care... and I went on about the German health care system, and he said, 'I don't know a thing about the German health care system.' He probably won the argument."
3. "A couple of times a year and in the second term, George Bush would call me just to talk politics. And a chill went up and down my spine when Laura said that all the records were digitized. Dear God I hope there's no record of those conversations."
4. "I want to thank President Bush for passing PEPFAR. [Read more about the AIDS relief plan here.] No president of my party could have passed that through Congress. I've worked all over Africa… I have personally seen the faces of some of the millions of people who are alive today because of it."
5. "I probably shouldn't say this but I will anyway. Your mother showed me some of your landscapes and animal paintings and I thought they were great. I seriously considered calling you and asking you to do a portrait of me until I saw the results of your sister's hacked emails. Those bathroom sketches were wonderful, but at my age I think I should keep my suit."
6. "You know, starting with my work with President George H.W. Bush on the tsunami and aftermath of Katrina, people began to joke that I was getting so close to the Bush family I had become the black sheep son. My mother told me not to talk too long today. And Barbara, I will not let you down."
President Obama (transcript via Politico):
7. "Every president gains a greater appreciation for all those who served before him; for the leaders from both parties who have taken on the momentous challenges and felt the enormous weight of a nation on their shoulders. And for me, that appreciation very much extends to President Bush."
8. "The first thing I found in that desk the day I took office was a letter from George, and one that demonstrated his compassion and generosity. For he knew that I would come to learn what he had learned — that being president, above all, is a humbling job. There are times where you wish you could turn back the clock. And what I know is true about President Bush, and I hope my successor will say about me, is that we love this country and we do our best."
9. "Now, in the past, President Bush has said it's impossible to pass judgment on his presidency while he's still alive. So maybe this is a little bit premature. But even now, there are certain things that we know for certain.
We know about the son who was raised by two strong, loving parents in Midland, famously inheriting, as he says, 'my daddy's eyes and my mother's mouth.' (Laughter.) The young boy who once came home after a trip to a museum and proudly presented his horrified mother with a small dinosaur tailbone he had smuggled home in his pocket. (Laughter.) I'll bet that went over great with Barbara.
We know about the young man who met the love of his life at a dinner party, ditching his plans to go to bed early and instead talking with the brilliant and charming Laura Welch late into the night.
We know about the father who raised two remarkable, caring, beautiful daughters, even after they tried to discourage him from running for president, saying, 'Dad, you're not as cool as you think you are.' (Laughter.) Mr. President, I can relate. (Laughter.) And now we see President Bush the grandfather, just beginning to spoil his brand-new granddaughter."
10. "So we know President Bush the man. And what President Clinton said is absolutely true — to know the man is to like the man, because he's comfortable in his own skin. He knows who he is. He doesn't put on any pretenses. He takes his job seriously, but he doesn't take himself too seriously. He is a good man."
11. "Seven years ago, President Bush restarted an important conversation by speaking with the American people about our history as a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants. And even though comprehensive immigration reform has taken a little longer than any of us expected, I am hopeful that this year, with the help of Speaker Boehner and some of the senators and members of Congress who are here today, that we bring it home — for our families, and our economy, and our security, and for this incredible country that we love. And if we do that, it will be in large part thanks to the hard work of President George W. Bush."
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