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From adversaries to pals



Published: Sat, February 26, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: It seems appropriate that two former presidents spent Presidents Day working in behalf of tsunami victims in southern Asia. At the request of the current occupant of the White House, former Presidents Clinton and Bush have spent much of the last two months raising both public awareness and private dollars for the relief of countries devastated by the Dec. 26 earthquake and tsunami.

They have done their jobs well. The tour, which took them to Thailand, Indonesia, Sri Lanka and the Maldives, will keep high public interest on relief efforts. In fact, it's estimated that one in three American households has already contributed money to tsunami relief.

But what's amazing in this era of vicious political attack and counterattack is to see these two men working together and, apparently, enjoying each other's company. Don't forget that they were bitter political rivals in 1992; indeed, the success of the Clinton campaign denied Bush a second term. And it is no secret that the current president saw his successful run in 2000 as a vindication of his father's loss to Clinton.

Moved by the tragedy

What's going on here? Both former presidents have spoken about the good-hearted nature of the American people as it relates to the tsunami, and they reflect that characteristic. Both were moved by the tragedy, which left at least 169,000 dead and tens of thousands with drastically altered lives. As former public servants, Bush and Clinton no doubt were pleased to be asked to serve again.

Cynics may suggest that Clinton might see this as a way to parlay himself into leadership at the United Nations, and that 41 would do anything to help his son's standing in the international community.

Maybe so. But wouldn't it be wonderful if this was the start of something really big? Democrats and Republicans working together, respecting each other and getting some productive work done?




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