(Reuters/Jonathan Ernst)

We get it, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. You're friends.

The ex-POTUSes are playing kissyface again. Are we supposed to care Hillary vs. Jeb might hurt their friendship?


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Jim Newell
July 24, 2015 1:57PM (UTC)

Concerns about "dynasty," or members of the same families running for president of the United States, tend to get much more hype than they're worth this cycle. If either Hillary Clinton or Jeb Bush had no talent or smarts they wouldn't have made it this far up the political ladder. They would just be investment bankers or something, like all the other well-connected idiots. Hillary Clinton would be a fine manager of government, and ... look. If one of the GOPers has to win, Jeb Bush is clearly the most palatable one. (Maybe.) Who cares that their husbands and brothers and fathers were also president if (if!) they're the best candidates out there?

But then you see Bill Clinton and George W. Bush do a smarmy joint interview like this in Time magazine and all the rage about "dynasties" suddenly makes sense.

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The piece refers to Bill and W. as the "two alpha dogs of American politics." Not sure that's correct at all. One is an alpha dog of American politics and the other is a disgraced shut-in who paints dogs. But they are friends and can't wait to tell us all about how friendly they are!

Aides say Bush can break into discussion about “light values” at any moment, and his easels and paints have taken over a weight room at the family compound in Maine. He has done series on dogs and leaders and, more recently, his granddaughter. He admits that efforts to paint Laura have not been successful; asked if he has tried painting Clinton, Bush pretends to be serious. “I’ve tried and tried and tried.” Then he confesses: “No, I haven’t. I don’t want to ruin friendships.”

“He can’t get my bulbous nose right,” Clinton deadpans.

Bill Clinton and George W. Bush are always doing these cutesy things, to show how close they are. Here they were last year on Twitter playing around with hashtags and reading each other's books and calling each other "brother from another mother," ha ha ha, vomit.

Why do they make a point of showing off how friendly they are? It's like they're adding a disclaimer to what's about to happen: these occasional bouts between our families are just little games that we like to play; we're really above it. Here is Bill Clinton wringing his hands about the process of electoral politics that he and Hillary have chosen to reenter:

“Look, this is highly complicated,” Clinton says of the the political environment. “People don’t like negative, divisive environments. But they frequently reward them in elections.”

“It’s great that you can get 100 media outlets,” Clinton said, “but you have to devour each other and it puts even more pressure on people like you to turn us all into two-dimensional cartoons.”

Not entirely true. Most of the efforts to turn politicians into two-dimensional cartoons are from rival campaigns. And there are no families better at torching opponents than the Bushes and Clintons. Each fire approximately $1-2 billion at the other, assuming they win their respective party nominations, which they probably will. They will say the worst sort of things about each other.

What are they saying in back-slapping interviews like these? Not to believe any of it; it's friendly blood sport in much the same way that Harvard-Yale football games are: It's just for kicks and the winners and losers both will go on to make a ton of money afterward.

It's like they're trying to make voters and the media feel guilty for putting them through a political process that might -- gasp! -- strain their pan-presidential friendship. And for that we apologize, really. We should be more observant of the strain that we might put on the Clinton-Bush relationship. We will fail them and their standards. It is our fault and now we will all go jump into canyons, out of shame.

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Jim Newell

Jim Newell covers politics and media for Salon.

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2016 Elections Bill Clinton Editor's Picks George W. Bush Hillary Clinton Jeb Bush Media Criticism

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