NEW ORLEANS – They came on like rock stars — arms aloft, music pounding, lights flashing, the crowd standing and going wild. Former presidents Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush, former political rivals who have forged a friendship, have their act down pat and audiences eating it up.
The pair addressed the 25,000-plus people attending the National Association of Realtors convention in New Orleans Saturday night, drawing at least six standing ovations and almost continuous applause.
The convention is a milestone for New Orleans because it is the largest to come to the city since last year's Hurricane Katrina. The former presidents have raised $130 million in aid for hurricane recovery.
Bush, 82, told the crowd that retirement has been good, but he acknowledged missing some of the perks of the presidency, saying he even missed the large groups of demonstrators he once had to deal with.
He recalled a demonstration that was on hand for his arrival in San Francisco, describing it as big, and led by the "ugliest woman I've ever seen in my life."
The woman approached his limousine with a sign and shouted `stay out of my womb,"
"I thought `Lady, there's absolutely no problem," Bush said.
Clinton bemoaned that his punishment for beating Bush in 1992 elections was that he was "condemned for the rest of my life to be his straight man."
"If I'd told that ugly woman womb joke, the New York papers would kill me," Clinton laughed.
Although he has retired, Bush said certain things have not faded in memory.
"After 14 years, no one forgets if you throw up on the Japanese premier," he said. In 1992, Bush vomited on Prime Minister Kiichi Miyazawa and collapsed at a state dinner in Tokyo because he was ill with a virus.
Although Bush, a Republican, and Clinton, a Democrat, were once rivals, they are now part of the exclusive club of former U.S. presidents — the only other ones still alive are Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford. Clinton and Bush have teamed up to raise money for natural disasters, such as Katrina and the 2004 Asia tsunami.
Asked if the White House would remain occupied by either a Bush or a Clinton, as it has since 1989, Clinton said he didn't know and did not think his wife, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, had decided if she would run on not.
"If she were to be elected I think she would do a good job," Clinton said.
"Yeah, but I'm having a little difficultly picturing this fellow walking behind her like Prince Philip behind the queen," Bush said.