May 30, 2009 in Nation/World

Bush, Clinton share stage at Toronto forum

Rob Gillies Associated Press

TORONTO – Former President George W. Bush called former President Bill Clinton “his brother” and the two rarely disagreed in their first-ever appearance together on stage.

The Republican and Democratic ex-presidents defended each other at a Toronto forum on Friday, disappointing some in the crowd of 6,000 who expected a more heated debate.

Bush said that he never liked it when previous administration officials criticized his government but said Clinton was respectful and never did.

Bush declined to criticize the Obama administration, in contrast to former Vice President Dick Cheney, who has been a vocal critic of Obama. Bush, who wasn’t asked about Cheney, said there are “plenty of critics in America.”

Bush and Clinton did differ on Iraq. Clinton said U.N. inspectors should have been given more time to conduct the search for weapons of mass destruction and Bush should have concentrated on Afghanistan.

Bush disagreed. “I don’t buy the premise that our attention was diverted,” he said.

Bush joked about how much time his father, former President George H.W. Bush, and Clinton spend together. He said his mother, Barbara Bush, “said President Clinton and Father share the stage so much, he’s like a son to her.”

He said, “So brother, it’s good to see you.”

Clinton and the elder Bush have worked together to lead fundraising after disasters such as the southeast Asian tsunami.

The organizers declined to say how much the men were paid for the event, called “A conversation with Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton.” Ticket prices sold for around $200 Canadian.

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