You know how I feel about seeing all the living presidents together. Their rare gatherings together say more to the world about our democracy than any history lesson ever could. But thereâ€™s something especially rich and sentimental about this photo from the opening of George W. Bushâ€™s library and museum that popped up in my Twitter feed this morning. In the presidents’ club all is forgiven, it seems.
Carter and Clinton: Jimmy Carter (39) and Bill Clinton (42) arenâ€™t the best of friends. Okay, they arenâ€™t friends at all. Remember this Oval Office photo from President Obamaâ€™s first inaugural? If Carter stood any further away from Clinton heâ€™d be in the Old Executive Office Building. But thereâ€™s 42 laughing with his arm around 39 and 39 doesnâ€™t seem to mind at all.
Clinton and Obama: President Obama (44) and Clinton have long gotten over the bruising 2008 Democratic presidential primaries. Now that they are both two-term Democratic presidents, there are plenty of smiles to share. Besides, 42 is hoping his wife will run to be No. 45, a glass-ceiling-shattering achievement that an endorsement from 44 would help.
Clinton and Bush: Bush (43) ran for the presidency in part by promising to â€śrestore honor and dignity to the White House.â€ť That was a not-so-thinly veiled smack at Clintonâ€™s affair with an intern that got him impeached. Meanwhile, 42 left the White House with a budget surplus, which 43 blew on a massive tax cut, two wars and a Medicare prescription drug plan.
Obama and Bush: Obama ran for president promising to jettison just about everything done by his predecessor. And once in office, 44 blamed 43 for the nationâ€™s economic mess and sluggish recovery. Other than that, thereâ€™s not much of a beef between 43 and 44. The same cannot be said about Bushâ€™s former lieutenants.
Knowing all this, the laughs, the physical contact and the genuine pleasure in each otherâ€™s company (at that moment, anyway) is truly a remarkable thing to behold. There was a time when that kind of camaraderie was not just the province of the presidents’ club. Itâ€™s what got things done at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue. Those were the days.
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