“Clinton and I used to believe in free speech,” Mr. Bush said to roars of laughter from a crowd of 6,000, all of whom paid hundreds of dollars to attend the event. “So thanks for coming!”
No one will say how much each will take home, but estimates run as high as $150,000 apiece for the two-hour appearance. The estimates may be far too low — 200 people in the front rows paid $2,500 each, a total of $500,000, for the privilege of having photos taken with the 42nd and 43rd presidents of the United States.
Although he said “it’s hard to go from 100 miles per hour to zero,” Mr. Bush, dressed in a blue suit with a blue tie and the ever-present flag pin on his lapel, said, “I do not miss the spotlight.”
But he did say his life has changed — dramatically. After leaving the White House, “I’m sitting in Crawford, Texas, I have my feet up on the couch, and I said, ‘Free at last.’”
His wife, Laura, he said, responded: “‘Free to do the dishes, free to mow the lawn.’ I said, ‘Baby, you’re talking to the former president of the United States,’ and she said, ‘Yeah, just consider it your new domestic policy agenda.’”
The couple moved to an exclusive enclave in Dallas, and Mr. Bush, former two-term governor of Texas, said he hadn’t walked in a neighborhood for 14 years. Walking his dog, Barney, he said, “the little fella’ sees this unbelievably manicured yard and there I was, former president, with a plastic bag on my hand, picking up that which I had dodged for eight solid years.”
Mr. Clinton, in a light-brown suit with a bright orange tie, said, “There is no job description for a former president.
“I’m amazed President Bush is here,” he said. “It takes a while, actually, to figure out you’re not president anymore.”
He said “nobody plays a song when you walk into a room now,” noting that “Hail to the Chief” once rang out on his every entrance. “It’s totally disorienting; I was lost for three months.”
There are, he said, pluses and minuses of leaving the presidency.
“The great thing about not being president anymore is I can say whatever I want, about anything,” he said, but he noted that now, “of course, nobody really cares what I say.”
“And now I have the worst of all worlds — my wife has become the secretary of state, so no one really cares what I say — unless I mess up,” he said to laughter.
The two former presidents later sat in large, green leather chairs to answer friendly questions from a moderator, former Canadian ambassador to the United States Frank McKenna. They mused over just a few hand-picked questions on Cuba, Afghanistan, Iraq, AIDS, Rwanda, Darfur, same-sex marriage and the new passport requirements at the U.S.-Canadian border — to which both professed little knowledge.
Mr. Bush, a Republican, and Mr. Clinton, a Democrat, differed most on Iraq.
“We should’ve concentrated on Afghanistan,” Mr. Clinton said, who noted he had supported a resolution in Congress to employ force.View Entire Story
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