May 29, 2009
Former U.S. Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton traded jokes about life after the Oval Office and took turns defending each other as they shared a stage in Toronto on Friday to discuss global affairs.
[efoods]In a sold-out event billed as their first conversation on stage since they left office, Bush and Clinton disagreed politely about a couple of issues, backed each other on others and refused to criticize anything current President Barack Obama was doing.
Bush’s vice president, Dick Cheney, has emerged as one of Obama’s toughest critics and the staunchest defender of the Bush administration’s policies after the Sept. 11 attacks.
But Bush, saying he had hated it when former presidents criticized him after he took office, said, “Anything I say is not to be critical of my successor … (there are) plenty of critics in American society.”
Bush, who has stayed mostly out of the public eye since leaving the White House in January, said he was enjoying the freedom of being a private citizen but thanked the Toronto organizers “for giving me something to do.”
The two-term Republican president from Texas said he had been taking on chores dictated by his wife, Laura, and had discovered the challenges of cleaning up after pets as he walked the family dog, Barney, around their Dallas neighborhood.
“There I was, the former president, with a plastic bag on my hand, picking up that which I had dodged for eight solid years,” Bush said to laughs from the 6,000-strong audience.