Aides describe a friendship between the two ex-presidents that almost resembles a father-son relationship. Bill Clinton has visited the ailing ex-president at his homes in Houston and Kennebunkport, Maine, and first lady Barbara Bush joked in a 2012 interview with Parade Magazine that her sons refer to Clinton as their "brother by another mother."
"My mother told me not to talk too long today — and Barbara, I will not let you down," Clinton quipped Thursday, prompting laughs from Hillary Clinton.
That friendship helped connect Clinton and George W. Bush, who campaigned for president in 2000 on restoring "honor and dignity" to the White House following Clinton's impeachment over a sex scandal. After Haiti's devastating earthquake in 2010, Obama tapped Clinton and the younger Bush to lead a relief effort.
Joshua Bolten, a former chief of staff to George W. Bush and a board member of the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund, recalled that on their first trip to Haiti, the presidents wore tan baseball caps emblazoned with the number 85 — the combination of the 42nd and 43rd presidents. He said the relationship between Clinton and the elder Bush "helped open the door to a good 42 and 43 relationship."
Both families know what it's like to watch a family member face the scrutiny of a national campaign. Clinton recounted that in 2008, he and George W. Bush would talk politics by phone as Hillary Clinton sought the White House — a time when Bush's approval ratings sank and Republicans avoided him. Clinton, standing a few feet from Obama, joked that a "chill went up and down my spine" when he learned that the Bush library's records were digitized. "Dear god I hope there is no records of those conversations."