Donald Trump is on pace to do something unprecedented in the past century of American politics: run for president as the nominee of a major party without the endorsement of any former presidents. Politico reported Monday that George H.W. Bush will vote for Hillary Clinton, based on a conversation recounted by Kathleen Hartington Kennedy Townsend, the daughter of the late Robert F. Kennedy. "The President told me he’s voting for Hillary!!” Townsend posted on Facebook. She later confirmed Bush's vow to back Clinton to Politico.
This news is nothing short of surprising, if not shocking. Even presidential candidates unpopular in their own party, like Barry Goldwater and George McGovern, received the endorsement of past presidents. But in its own way, Bush's reported decision to support the wife of the man who got him fired from his best job makes sense. Because despite the hard-fought presidential campaign of 1992, when Bill Clinton implied Bush was a liar in TV ads and had campaign volunteers in chicken suits heckle the then-president, the 41st and 42nd presidents are actually quite good friends.
The two first got to really know each other after both had finished their time in the White House. They joined with Bush's son, George W., to ask for private donations for tsunami relief for Southeast Asia in 2005, and went on a trip to the region to deliver aid and survey the damage. The two of them came together again several months later to do the same for Hurricane Katrina relief.
The pair jointly won the National Constitution Center's Liberty Medal in 2006 for their efforts. At the award ceremony, Clinton said "I love George Bush," and in a series of letters Bush released in 2013 for his book All the Best, Bush thanked his former rival, saying "I so appreciated your words about our relationship, about our friendship. It was from your heart — I hope you know I feel the same way." He also wrote of Clinton's skill as a talker during their trip to Asia, calling him "de man" for his ability to connect to people while the elder Bush remained reserved.
Bush's son has his own sweet relationship with the man whose house he moved into:
And Barbara Bush has said as well, "I love Bill Clinton — maybe not his politics, but I love Bill Clinton."
This kind of attitude about the presidency seems gone from the current presidential race. In 1993, when Bill Clinton first took office, Bush left him a heartwarming letter of advice:
Hillary Clinton said a few months ago that rereading that letter moved her to tears:
It's hard to imagine that kind of sweet exchange between political opponents today. Witnessing Bush support the wife of his rival-turned-friend over his own party loyalty is, to me, a sign that there is still some hope in the world of presidential politics.