'I just loved him': George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton's improbable friendship

Manuela Cardiga
Dec 08, 2018
03:37 A.M.

Bill Clinton's opened up about his relationship with former President George H.W. Bush.


Two men who were polar opposites as politicians became close personal friends. But they did have on thing in common: they had both been Presidents of the United States.

They were George H. W. Bush, and the man who had defeated him in his bid for reelection in 1992, Bill Clinton, reported Time.com on December 6, 2018.

“No relationship is quite like the bond between George H.W. Bush and the man who defeated him in 1992. Bush would go so far as to suggest more than once that he might be the father that Clinton had always lacked—a notion that the younger man did not dispute.”


Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy, "The Presidents Club"


In the aftermath of the tsunami that devastated Indonesia, Sri Lanka, and Thailand on December 26, 2004, and left an estimated 220,000 people dead, President George W. Bush called on his father and his old rival Bill Clinton for help.

He asked the two men to come up with a plan to administer US aid to the region. The two former Presidents underwent an extensive tour of the disaster zones. They spent their days consulting with government officials, and their evenings discovering they had a lot more in common then they had imagined.


The friendship and collaboration of a Democrat and a Republican joining forces to help their people was an inspiration in a time of bitter political strife between the two parties.


After their return to the United States, the two men continued and deepened their unlikely friendship. When Clinton underwent surgery in 2005, President George W. Bush gave the Nation an update on the former President's condition, stating:


“He (Clinton) woke up surrounded by his loved ones: Hillary, Chelsea … and my dad.”

George H. W. Bush would describe their relationship several times as "father/son" and Clinton did not dispute his assertion.


After Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in 2006, the two former Presidents joined forces once again, and set up a non-profit organization and used their considerable joint influence to raise $130 million.


The friendship and collaboration of a Democrat and a Republican joining forces to help their people was an inspiration in a time of bitter political strife between the two parties.

Bill Clinton was one of the mourners at George H.W. Bush's funeral, and he wasn't there to pay lip-service to a fallen opponent, he was there to mourn the loss of a beloved friend and mentor.



George H. W. Bush wasn't the only one in his family to seek out friends across party lines. His son, former President George W. Bush has struck up an unlikely friendship with former First Lady Michelle Obama, the wife of his Democrat successor to the Oval Office, Barack Obama.

"President Bush and I, we are forever seatmates because of protocol, and that's how we sit at all the official functions. He's my partner in crime at every major thing where all the 'formers' gather. So we're together all the time." She later added, "I love him to death. He's a wonderful man, he's a funny man."


Michelle Obama

The unlikely pair made headlines at Senator John McCain's funeral when George W. slipped Michelle a cough drop from his wife's purse.

At his father's funeral, George W. added a touch of sweetness to a sad occasion when he handed Michelle a piece of candy, which she accepted with a smile.

George W. attributes their friendship to their zany sense of humor:

“She kind of likes my sense of humor. Anybody who likes my sense of humor, I immediately like. I needle her a little bit and around her, I’m fairly lighthearted. [The Obamas] are around serious people all the time and we just took to each other.”

Both the Obamas and the Bushes have been ardent champions of children's education and leadership programs and provide a desperately needed example of unity across party lines at a time when America is riven by bitter political antagonism.

In a related story, George W. Bush slipped Michelle Obama a piece of candy at his father's funeral.

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