ABOARD AIR FORCE ONE — President Bush solicited foreign policy advice from former President Bill Clinton at CIA briefings this week and even told Mr. Clinton that he liked his approach to reforming Social Security.
‘It was really a lot of fun, Mr. Bush told reporters yesterday after spending three days with Mr. Clinton and former President George Bush in Rome.
‘These CIA briefings a lot of time prompt policy discussions,’ he added. ‘It’s interesting to get their points of view about their experiences in particular countries.’
The president also praised one of Mr. Clinton’s domestic policies — trying to reform Social Security. Both men have proposed personal savings accounts as part of the solution, an idea that is vociferously opposed by congressional Democrats.
‘I was telling President Clinton I remember watching one of his town hall meetings in Albuquerque, New Mexico, on this very subject,’ Mr. Bush said just hours after bidding farewell to his predecessor at the Rome airport.
‘And I thought it was a very impressive presentation,’ he added. ‘By the way, a lot of the language happens to be pretty close to some of the town hall meetings we’ve had.’
Comparing himself favorably to Mr. Clinton is the latest in a series of recent moves by Mr. Bush to strengthen relations with the man who vanquished his father in 1992. The thaw comes after years in which Mr. Bush talked of the need to ‘restore honor and dignity to the White House’ in the post-Clinton era.
Earlier this year, the president dispatched Mr. Clinton to help his father orchestrate relief efforts for tsunami victims in Asia. This week, Mr. Bush brought his two predecessors to Rome on Air Force One for Pope John Paul II’s funeral.
By pairing Mr. Clinton with his father, Mr. Bush has drawn both predecessors back into the orbit of the White House after years in which they generally stayed away — at least publicly. It also has allowed Mr. Bush to do something he has strenuously avoided since taking office — acknowledging that he sometimes sounds out his father on foreign policy questions.