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Ex-presidents keep them laughing at New Orleans convention

Monday, November 13, 2006

By MARY FOSTER

The Associated Press

NEW ORLEANS -- They're separated by more than 20 years, they come from opposing political parties, and one evicted the other from the White House. But Bill Clinton and George Bush act like a team, a pair of touring comedians with a well-honed act.

The two former presidents even have their entrance down pat, striding in with arms aloft, music pounding, lights flashing, the crowd standing and going wild.

The pair addressed more than 25,000 people attending the National Association of Realtors convention Saturday, drawing at least six standing ovations and almost continuous applause.

Bush and Clinton thanked the real estate agents for holding their convention in New Orleans. It's the biggest convention to come to the city since Hurricane Katrina hit Aug. 29, 2005, and the pair has raised $130 million to aid New Orleans and the Gulf Coast in recovering from the storm.

Missing the perks

Retirement has been good, Bush said, although he misses some of the perks of the presidency.

One problem with retirement, Bush said, is that memories do not fail on certain topics.

"After 14 years no one forgets if you throw up on the Japanese premier," he said.

However, he said, years of being badgered by the news media have left him with a simple philosophy: "Now if I don't like your questions, the heck with it, then I'm not going to answer them."

Clinton played second banana after Bush's round of jokes.

"You've just witnessed George Bush's revenge for the 1992 campaign," Clinton said of the year he defeated Bush for the presidency. "I'm condemned for the rest of my life to be his straight man."

Bush can get away with some things more easily, said Clinton, whose presidency was marked by the Monica Lewinsky scandal, noting that if he were to repeat one off-color joke that Bush told, "the New York papers would kill me."

What's more, the 60-year-old Clinton told the crowd, Bush, at 82, is in better shape.

"Make no mistake about it," said Clinton, who has undergone quadruple bypass surgery. "George Bush will speak at my funeral."

As for the recent election, both said they had to deal with congresses controlled for most or all of their presidencies by the other party. They said some of the best legislation during that time were made through compromises.

Presidential bid

Clinton said he did not think his wife, Sen. Hillary Clinton, had decided yet whether she would run for the presidency.

"If she were to be elected I think she would do a good job," Clinton said.

"Yeah," Bush interjected, "but I'm having a little difficulty picturing this fellow walking behind her like Prince Philip behind the queen."


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