Former Presidents Bush and Clinton teed off Tuesday for a round of golf on the second day of a get-together by the former political foes at Bush’s summer home along the Maine coast
Chatting briefly with reporters near the first tee at Cape Arundel Golf Club, Bush and Clinton said their friendly relationship should demonstrate to people at home and abroad that political rivalries need not stand in the way of personal friendship.
The two former presidents cemented their friendship earlier this year when the current President Bush appointed them to head up fund-raising to assist victims of the Asian tsunami.
“We found that when we traveled abroad, people said this couldn’t have happened in their country. The equivalent of a Republican and a Democrat – this never would happen. Well, it doesn’t have to be that way,” the elder Bush said.
“You can feel strongly about your principles, and we do, and we differ on a lot of issues, but that’s not what tsunami relief was about and it’s not what life ought to be about,” he added.
Clinton, who just returned from a tour of Latin America, recalled a skeptic there asking him, “Is this deal between you and Bush real?”
When the questioner found it hard to believe that the two really liked each other, Clinton said, the man’s personal dislike of his political opponents was “completely dysfunctional.”
“If people are mad at each other they never hear other, and therefore they can’t figure out who’s right and who’s wrong and where the compromise comes because they have so much personally at stake. I hope this is good for America and the rest of the world,” Clinton said.
But then, moments before they headed out to the first tee, Clinton joked, “If he beats me too bad, I’m back to partisanship the next day.”
Bush and Clinton each drove two balls onto the fairway, with Bush shooting from the front tees. The pair then hopped back into their cart, with Bush at the wheel, to continue the game.
Rounding out their foursome were CBS sportscaster Jim Nantz, a frequent golfing partner of Bush, and Ken Raynor, the Cape Arundel pro.
Clinton arrived at Kennebunkport on Monday after an appearance in South Portland at a book signing in conjunction with the release of the paperback edition of his memoir, “My Life.” Bush extended the invitation after learning that Clinton was planning to be in Maine.
The two, who faced off during the 1992 presidential race, went for a boat ride later in the day on the Atlantic in Bush’s three-engine boat, Fidelity III, and then went out to a restaurant for dinner.
The visit to Walker’s Point wasn’t the first for Clinton, who recalled being there with other governors in 1983 while Bush was serving as vice president. Clinton said the two also developed a friendship when he visited Washington during the 1980s to represent Democratic governors at the White House.