tv Former Presidents Clinton and Bush Discuss Leadership and Friendship CSPAN August 23, 2017 8:00pm-8:51pm EDT
announcer: a discussion with former presidents bill clinton and george w. bush and been a look at the experiences of muslims living in america. the government accountability on the gao list. economistiew with about the federal debt limit. former presidents george w. bush and bill clinton were in dallas to talk about leadership and how to build community. they also talked about their time in office and lives as x presidents. ex-presidents.
it is 50 minutes. [applause] >> pretty strong, tough to follow that act. i would like to thank mrs. bush. thank you for being here. [applause] >> i was supposed to do that. how are your parents doing? former president bush: i hate these tough questions. i told dad today that i was going to be on stage with bill
and you were the moderator. >> what did he say? former president bush: he was surprised. >> surprised you cannot do anybody better. >> -- former president bush: they are doing well. i am fortunate to be the only president with both parents alive after the presidency. every day it is a blessing to have your mom and dad alive. they are doing well. 93 and 92 years old. thank you for asking. i will tell them you asked. >> how is hillary doing? former president clinton: good, if you knew our grandkids, you would know she is good. she has been working on her book and we spent every available hour with our grandchildren. my grandson just turned one year old on saturday. every seven years his father's will celebrate father's day on
his son's birthday. my almost three-year-old granddaughter saying happy birthday to him at his party. >> can your granddaughter sing happy birthing and mandarin? in mandarin? former president clinton: no, but she can sing it in spanish. [laughter] [applause] >> you both have grandchildren. what do your grandchildren called you? former president bush: i am called jefe. former president clinton: i am more humble, i am called pop pop. [laughter] former president clinton: you're the one that told me that once you become a grandparent europe -- and you drive down to the bottom of the totem pole. >> we will talk about your presidencies, you are now former presidents. what is the difference between being a former president and the president. one day you have been nuclear
-- you have the nuclear codes, the next day, when you leave office, you have no power. what was the transition might. -- transition like? [laughter] former president clinton: nobody plays the song when you walk in the room anymore. [laughter] former president clinton: for the first three weeks after i left office, i was lost. i was waiting for the music created -- music. actually, it is wonderful. very rarely, in 17 years have i been given a thought to, well i wish i was there, or i miss this. you have to be grateful for the time you have and then realize you should focus on today and the future. i think it is both liberating, and also, to concentrate the memory. you do not know how many years you have left, that you feel the country has given you something
priceless and you owe something back. each in our own way, we try to figure that out. i found it a rewarding part of my life. i have loved it. former president bush: i woke up in crawford. [laughter] former president bush: the day after the presidency, expecting someone to bring me the coffee. [laughter] former president bush: laura did not bring the coffee. [laughter] former president bush: i think the thing that startled me, was, the sense of having no responsibility. in other words, during the presidency, you become accustomed to the responsibility you have. slowly but surely it becomes a natural part of your life. you wake up the next day and you have no responsibility. that was probably the most stunning thing for me. >> when you build try to do -- when you try to do something
you have someone on the opposite political party saying it is a terrible idea. it is hard to get is done in -- things done in washington. when you are a former president, is it easier to get things done? former president bush: it depends on what you are trying to do. former president clinton: you have to realize what you do not have and what you do. it is really true that -- i love the job and i loved all those responsibilities. it is amazing how every day is taken up by things you have to do as president and the incoming fire. nobody said what are you guys going to do if al qaeda bombs the world trade center? you see it in a lot of different ways.
will undermine your ability to do anything else. if all you deal with is incoming -- it is a lot of trouble. when you get out, you change out of that power. whatever influence you have, or whatever your experience will allow you to do, you have to decide what to do. everybody makes different decisions. president carter collapsed today, but he is fine. he was building habitat houses in canada. that is what he wanted to do. by doing that he helped habitat growing to one of the biggest homebuilding operations in the world. we all had to make these decisions. former president bush: i don't think it is that easy, quite frankly, to get things done. one of the great accomplishments was the building of this building and the inspiration of programs that we think make a difference.
was hard work to get there. it was not an appropriation spill. [laughter] >> when former president's get together, which is funerals and when libraries open, it is not common that you get together. what do you say to each other when your former president's get together? do you tell secrets? former president bush: you generally say, when is this program going to start and when will it end? [laughter] former president clinton: there are shorter answers. [laughter] former president clinton: it is unusual with us because we had -- because when i left office i told them, i said, if i can ever
help you i will do it. if i cannot in good conscious, i won't but i will never embarrass you in public. hillary was a senator, i said there may be some policies i disagree with, but i will always do it respectfully and i want you to succeed. i tried to be as good as my word. then he gave me the chance to work with his father after the tsunami in south asia and after katrina. he had a heck of a time doing it. we did a lot of good and not -- it brought all three of us closer. >> you ran against president bush 41. it was a bitter campaign. how did you manage later to develop a close relationship? wasn't that difficult were awkward at times? how did you come together? former president clinton: i think it helped that we had some contact before.
i represented the democratic governors when he decided to embrace education. we started working together. i tried never to take a cheap shot at the governors association. if we disagreed, we said it. we found things to do together. he deserves a lot of credit. if he had not asked to do the tsunami work together, i'm not sure the relationship would have been the way it was. we just liked being together. sometimes you click with people and sometimes you don't. i always admired him. i completely supported what he did in the aftermath of the collapse of the soviet union in supporting european union, supporting the efforts he made
and i made, as you see today mixed results to integrate russia into the family of democracy. we just started working together this tsunami thing. it was easy to forget because it worst long ago, but their president bush said, america has to do our part, most people cannot find those countries on the map, but they were part of the global community that he was willing to take responsibility for. >> how did you become close ? former president bush: i think it starts with bill clinton being a person who refused to
laud his victory over dad. he was humbled with victory. i think dad was willing to rise above the political contest. it starts with the individual's character. both men, in my judgment, displayed strong character. therefore, the friendship was able to be formed. why do i have a friendship with him? because he is a brother with a different mother. [laughter] >> when you campaigned, you campaigned against some of the things the clinton administration had done? former president bush: probably. [laughter] former president bush: we are both baby boomers and we are both southern governors. we had a lot in common. he got along with people in his legislature and we had friends in common. there was a natural ability to
respect and like each other. if you disagree with someone, it does not mean that you do not like them. former president clinton: i recognize that he was 44 days older than me. [laughter] former president clinton: in 44 days i said, i am calling you on bended knee because this begins my 44 days of respect for my elders. [laughter] former president bush: when i was president i would call bill, he was very helpful. he knew a lot about a lot of issues, particularly international affairs that i was interest in. -- interested in. i knew i could count on him for good advice. he was gracious in receiving my calls. >> you have done something that was very unique. all of us recognize that someone who is a student body president
and everyone thinks that person could be president of the united states. none of them have actually made it except for you. you were the only person who was a student leader and made it to president of the united states. what was the factor that drove you to be such a leader? from high school, to college, to graduate school, most people burn out and say i do not want to still be a leader. what do you think the qualities were? former president clinton: i also lost two elections along the way which also keeps you humble. i think i got elected because, basically, we are the last generation that was born without a television. i grew up in a conversational culture where people actually talk and listen to each other. i don't know how people make it today.
the average president talks eight seconds on television. snapchat is 10 seconds and twitter is 140 characters. my life revolved around meals. my father died in a carwreck before i was born. my grandfather resided over conversations and he involved kids in them. he told me most people have a story and most people cannot tell it. i was taught to listen, to look, and i really think that is what it is. i just got lucky. i don't care what anybody says.
all these people who say they theyborn in a log cabin built themselves, they are full of bull. >> i think i was partially responsible for you being elected because i worked in the white house for president carter. we put together people in arkansas. former president clinton: i thank you for doing that. [laughter] >> at the time you were not that happy about it. president bush, i think i am responsible for your being elected. i worked in the carter white house and got inflation to 19%. that enabled your father to be vice president and leading you to become president. former president bush: i think clinton had a bigger role than needed. i never would've run for
governor had he not defeated dad. it would have been difficult for me because i spent my time defending george h.w. bush in the last two years of his presidency. by losing, it enabled my brother jeb and me to run on our on. -- own. >> both of you ran for congress and you both lost. you had that in common, but maybe you lost when you are beating an incoming congressmen. did you say i am out of politics? former president clinton: i got a break in a way. in the house the democrats did well in 1974. that was after president nixon resigned. i ran against a congressmen, who was one of his father's friends. he had an 85% approval rating and 99% name recognition. former president bush: that is
called suicide. former president clinton: i was 0-0 and he beat me 51-48. it is the best thing that ever happened to me and we wound up being friends too. the district we ran and had the highest amount of gasoline use because it was so rural and you had to do stuff people do not do anymore. you have to do retail campaigning. i learned to 75% about politics in that race. >> hillary rodham clinton helped you in that campaign. did you think that she would stay down in arkansas and marry you? because arkansas was not a place that was the center of the universe. former president clinton: no. up one step at a time i
asked her twice to marry me and she said no both times. smart girl. the third time i said just come down here. they liked her so much that they offered her a job teaching. she did not have anything else to do. she was working with the house judiciary committee, when that was over she took the job and it worked out pretty well. when you got married, she said to you i do not ever want to make any speeches and you implied he would not get into politics. former president bush: we got married in november. the next year i campaigned for congress. i said she would never have to give a political speech and she did. she is a good speaker. >> when you lost the house seat, did you say i am out of politics? former president bush: for a while, but like bill said, it is the best thing that happened to me.
the guy who beat me said, if i had not beat bush, he would still be on the agricultural committee. >> you decided to run for governor. your mother and father said you had no chance of winning. former president bush: the father didn't say that, the mother did. [laughter] >> what did you say to her when you won? former president bush: are you going to come to the inauguration? you know my mother, you don't pop off to her like that. [laughter] >> when both of you became president, that first day you are in the oval office and you learn all the codes, all the crises we might be getting into, what was the biggest surprise? when does it hit you that you
are the most powerful man in the world? former president clinton: harry truman said that the amazing thing about being president is you spend so much of your time talking people into things they should do without you asking them in the first place. what surprised me -- maybe because i was the governor of a small southern state -- you are so far removed from the american people that it is hard for them to see you as a three-dimensional person. i had to learn all over. even governor of texas, i think you have a much more personal relationship with people. bob loved george bush. i think he helped him be a better governor.
we were just being people and dealing with people. it really surprised me how easily i could be turned into a two dimensional cartoon instead of a three-dimensional human being. you have to discipline yourself about what to talk about, how to talk about it. you have to keep remembering that there are all these layers between you and people that did not used to be there. that surprised me. i thought i was a good communicator. i just fell on my face four or five times until i figured out how to do it. >> you became president at a very young age of 46 years old. if you were president at 56 or 66, do you think you would have been different or would have had less energy with more experience? former president clinton: i think i would have been better in some ways if i was older. i think i would have been not as good in some ways.
sometimes you get a bunch done because you are too dumb to know you cannot do it. you show up and you keep trying to do it and something happens. >> your father was president so you were in the white house. you saw what he did right and what he didn't wrong. -- did wrong. former president bush: i learned a lot from watching him. we have a great father-son relationship. i learned a lot from watching him. my most startling moment came at -- right after the inaugural parade, i decided i would go in the oval office to see what it felt like. unbeknownst to me, andy called upstairs and asked dad to come in. i was sitting in the oval office at the desk taking it all in. in walks my dad and i said, oh welcome mr. president and he said, thank you mr. president.
>> what was it like when your mother walked into the oval office when you were president? former president clinton: she started laughing out loud. [laughter] former president clinton: it was so ridiculous that it could ever happen. when i started running, she was the only one who thought i had a good chance to win. nobody else. hillary and chelsea were undecided. it made me feel good because my mother was widowed three times. she had a pretty tough life. she got up at 5:00 every morning and got herself ready and was at work by 7:00. she did everything she could to take care of me. i was proud to be able to show it to her. liveds ill then, but she -- excuseanother year
me, a little less than another year. she died january the fifth. former president bush: do you want to know what my mother said? >> i guess so. [laughter] former president bush: get your feet off the jeffersonian table. [laughter] >> but your mother was proud. think about this. there is only one woman who had the president of the united states whose father was president. i do not think abigail adams was alive when john quincy adams became president. when you are living in the white house, some people call it a prison because you cannot get out very much. is it anjoy it? pleasure to live there or not so much? former president clinton: if you
lived in informal life -- i spent almost a dozen years in the governor's office in arkansas -- it is very different. i basically was self supported from the time i was 19, it took some getting used to. i developed a real respect and affection for the people that ank there, and i developed enormous amount of respect for the secret service and the risks they take. i adjusted myself accordingly. i loved living in the white house. i remember, very vividly, the last time i got off the helicopter marine one before i would soon be gone. i was consciously aware that i was going in there more optimistic than i was about america than the first time i walked in. i never got tired of it. former president bush: it's
great. they pamper you. we knew a lot of the staff. they were the same people who worked there when bill was there and many of the same when dad was there. it is great. it is a really historic place. it is comfortable. i loved every minute of living there. >> most people have never been to camp david. this is a great way to relax or is it overrated? former president clinton: i liked it. it is a great place, particularly -- i love them most at thanksgiving because i would bring all of the family. i liked when chelsea could bring her friends up there. you have more freedom and more wandering around. it is great to get away. former president bush: i went
there a lot. we went there a lot. probably used it more than any president. maybe ronald reagan used it more. we could invite our friends. we would invite friends we grew up with and show them the oval office or camp david. the other thing i liked about it is because i love exercise areas the place is set up for a lot of hiking, running, mountain biking. there is a wonderful gem there. i found it to be liberating. >> mountain biking is a dangerous thing and you have fallen a couple of times, but you have not given it up? former president bush: i still ride. >> you don't worry about breaking things? former president bush: no. [laughter] rememberesident bush: the rest things we were talking about? dad was jumping out of planes in 1985.
>> you have lost weight since you left the presidency on a vegan diet. is that hard to do? former president bush: less burgers. former president clinton: not when you have quadruple heart bypass and you want to live to be a grandfather. i realized i was highly prone to arterial blockage and i thought i would cut my chances. i wanted to see if i could live to be a grandfather, unlike him who comes from great genes. i'm the oldest person in my family for three generations. i said, i think i would like to hang around, i'm having a good time being alive. [laughter] former president clinton: i think i will just stretch it out as long as i can. >> if you could run for president of the united states or former president, what is a better job? to be president for eight years? there only 13 people and our -- in our country's history who
served consecutive terms. two you two are some of them. would you rather do that or's be -- or president for 30 or 40 years? former president clinton: it depends on how you keep score. you have to live a long time as a former president to have an impact on as many people as you can as president. i've tried to do as best as i could on that. former president bush: the decisions you make have a monumental effect on a lot of people. it is exciting to be in that environment. it insists that you use all of your skill and energy in order to affect policy in a positive way. the presidency is often defined by the unexpected. it makes the job doubly interesting.
former president clinton: john quincy adams is one of the most important anti-slavery advocates. herbert hoover came out of retirement and wrote the civil service act. they did a lot of good things. george and i have been blessed because we were reasonably young. barack obama is young. you can be doubly lucky. you can serve eight years as president and do other good things. >> i assume you would recommend a job to people if they want to be president. john kennedy was asked, what do you think about this job and would you recommend it? he said not to others right now because i would wait until i finish my tenure. would you recommend a job to young leaders? would you say it is worth the
aggravation and hard work, or would you recommend a pursue -- they pursue something else? former president clinton: in a heartbeat. former president bush: same. there is a good chance we are looking at a future president here. [applause] >> you would recommend it. you would say being president of the united states is better than private equity? former president bush: we make $200,000 a year in pension, what do you make? [laughter] former president clinton: if we could say one serious thing, there are a lot of good questions flowing out there. a mexican multibillionaire who is a smart guy and gave a good speech during the campaign and the campaign being what it was, no one was interested in asking about it. i believe this would be the
revolution that will kill more jobs than it creates. therefore, i believe we will either have to have people with money pay even higher taxes to subsidize people living who do not, or countries are going to have to start planning a three-day workweek because all the robotics and artificial intelligence. no one knows the answer to that. nobody knows if he is right or not. it will not be boring. it is not boring figuring how to deal with climate change issues. it is not boring figuring out whether we can have a spirit of prosperity and still have growth.
boring andnot figuring out how to navigate a political world, not just in terms of owner ability of attacks. attacks or -- it is a fascinating and exhilarating time to be alive. also, i told george once, i hope you are not the first republican who is not afraid of immigrants. we could go to south texas and have a discussion about what immigration reform should look like, but if you look at america we are only having a replacement of our native warm 2.1 population from natural birth. we cannot grow the economy unless we take in more immigrants, so we have to be comfortable about it. aren't you glad that a cambodian mormon found their way to louisiana? [applause]
former president bush: my only regret is that she did not find her way to texas. >> you look back at your presidency and you both served eight years. our country has had roughly 550 nine people in the country's history. 45 of them elected president, but only 13 people have served two consecutive terms. you were two of the 13. what would you say in your eight years you were most proud of having done? former president clinton: i was most proud that when i left office we had the broadest period of shared prosperity in 50 years. the bottom 20 percentage income and the percentage increased more and nobody was mad at anybody. it was shared across regional
lines. that i abolish inequality? no. at least we found a way to have more shared prosperity, including three budget surpluses. i think everybody has a decent job and something to look for two in the morning, 90% of the other problems away. we might have health care policies or any other social policies, it will become less significant if people think they can start a business, keep a job and educate their kids. families are stable, communities are more stable and problems get smaller. >> what would you say? former president bush: my daughter's love me. [laughter] former president bush: it is a challenge to have teenage daughters when you are president. it is a challenge anytime to have teenage daughters.
thanks to laura's guidance and love, our family unit strengthened. i think that is a great accomplishment. former president clinton: this is what i think a lot of people do not believe about people like us -- if you take it seriously, your most important job until your kids are out of the house is being a father or a mother. >> when you are president do you have time to be a parent? isn't it hard when you have people coming at you? former president bush: it was hard for us. one of our girls was at yale and one was at university of texas, yes, it is hard. laura spent a lot of time nurturing them and helping them out. i knew what it was like to be a child of the president. the criticism is harsh. somebody you love is getting criticized, laura was very good at comforting them.
i tried to do my best. >> what is it like when you have a daughter and she goes on a date, and the father is greeting the young man and you are president of the united states? i assume that is intimidating for the young man? former president clinton: at the time, i hope so. [laughter] former president clinton: i liked chelsea's boyfriends. she never went out with more than one point at a time, but i -- boy at a time, but i remember she had one boyfriend and high school i really liked, but he would not take his baseball cap off inside. finally he set down at dinner one night and i said, i really like you but you cannot wear that cap at dinner, take it off.
that guy goes on to become an architect. he was a young person who had just started out and i ran into him in biloxi, there they were just three young people trying to help people put their lives back together. my daughter still brings 26 people home for thanksgiving every year. people who do not go home for thanksgiving. hillary and i feed them and they go around the table and say what they are grateful for every year. you cannot be pessimistic about the future if you hear young people say that. former president bush: i told people earlier that came through, you will not believe how tonight's event will lift
your spirits about the future of this country. [applause] >> what makes you both most optimistic about the country today? former president bush: tonight, you will see why i am optimistic . we have people with good hearts willing to serve others. one of the most unique things about our country is the armies of compassion that exist throughout the united states. they exist in spite of the government. these are people that say i will try to improve the community in which i live, and tonight we are going to meet leaders who do just that. any nation with that kind of compassion is a nation where the citizenry should be optimistic. >> you are now famous for taking up painting. former president bush: correct. >> people were surprised because you were not thought to be an artist before.
former president bush: you did not think i was sensitive? [laughter] >> how did you decide to pick up painting? former president bush: people said look at the paintings in the exhibit after dinner tonight. i painted because i was bored. this foundation institute takes up time, but not enough. my exercise program was not taking enough. --ead winston controls painting is a pastime. i said if winston churchill can paint, i can paint. [laughter] >> since he left the presidency you have changed your diet and other things, what do you spend the most time on now? former president clinton: building my foundation and trying to fund it. it got so big so fast that it took up all my time.
i am trying to make it more entrepreneurial. i am trying to spread it out now. health initiative is now focused on aids. we never took any american money, it meant we could drive the price of all medicine down everywhere. the initiative, which we do not have anymore, i am working on some specific things. we have 400 million people with matt. -- that. it is a lot of trouble. you have to keep at it all the time. i first thought, i do not want to do this, but i did good i am a workaholic and i did not think i could be a gifted painter. [laughter] i admired him for doing that. the best thing to do is be consistently underestimated.
former president bush: i was pretty good at that. [laughter] [applause] former president clinton: he made me a genius. i look like a genius because when the presidential race of 2000 started, i turn on the tv and i saw him sitting on a bale of hay and it was the first time he made that speech. i got on the phone and said you better pay attention to this. what he said to people that could go either way, i will give you the same thing clinton did but with a bigger tax cut. would you like that? are not as good
with bumper stickers. it was brilliant. i thought, they are going to underestimate this guy. he understood the politics was about culture and not just what position you are taking on the issue. he constructed a campaign that fit with where texas was at that time. it did not have anything to do -- you do not have to dislike ann richards to vote for george bush. he maximized the amount of people he could get. >> how did the two of you come together to create the presidential leadership program? former president bush: one of the problems with the centers is that they become irrelevant very quickly unless there is something that captures people's attention.
they said we ought to think about using these platforms to call young people together and encourage them through a leadership education program. it makes a lot of sense. bill and i talked together and it fit into our view of how to be useful. that is how it got started. it made a lot of sense. most people focus their attention on libraries on the coast. this is a valuable resource for people in what we call the heartland. former president clinton: we talked to these young people. it is a nice thing to go to our libraries. we give speeches and everything. the thing they get the most out of is being with each other. one of the things that is wrong with america today, what bothers me about our future is that we
have separated ourselves into like-minded communities. we may be less racist, homophobic and everything, but we don't want to be around people who disagree with us. we get moods and silos. in an interdependent complex world, diverse groups make better decisions than homogenous ones. these people would make better decisions. everybody knows that, but they almost cannot help themselves because it gets more abstracted and we all vote for the gridlock against what we hate. i was telling george, i just came from lake tahoe. it is one of only two bluewater lakes in the world. republicans and democrats on the ground made it possible because
they had the end in mind and all we did was say yes. i just came from columbia where i started but he mostly finished when they gave the country back to its people. it was a bipartisan deal because we started with the end in mind. we have to get back to that in america. this is killing us, all this fighting over nothing instead of saying what are we trying to get done? >> both of you can answer this. for those who are presidential scholars, or other people watching, if somebody wants to be president of the united states, is the quality most important hard work, intelligence, optimism, luck. what does it take for someone to be president? former president bush: humility. it is important to know what you don't know and listen to people who do know what you don't know. former president clinton: i also think you have to begin with the end in mind. you say yes i will win the
election, but why are you running? governor, he did not say ann richards is a klutz, but i want to be governor because of these things. a couple of them i did not agree with, but he had an agenda. if you want to be president it is about the people, not about you. when it is over -- that is what a lot of these people who are arrogant forget, time passes. it passes more quickly than you know. you want to be able to say people are better off when i click. things are coming together. you do not want to say look at all the people i beat. i think the most important thing is to be humble, to listen, to realize that everybody has a story. former president bush: the only
thing he disagreed with in my platform is that texas ought to take arkansas. former president clinton: i did agree with the fact that he wanted all our water. barrel for barrel. >> thank you for your service to our country and thank you for the leadership you have given to so many people. thank you for what you are doing in your post presidency. former president clinton: thank you all. [applause]