George W. Bush, Bill Clinton discuss politics during joint appearance

Two former presidents sat down for a conversation about the past, present and future of American politics.

Former President George W. Bush visited President Bill Clinton at his presidential library in Little Rock. The two are celebrating their presidential leadership scholars.

The two presidents have become close friends since leaving office.

At times during the conversation, the mood was light.  But they also tackled complicated issues like immigration and the growing divide between many Americans.

Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton came together at the Clinton Presidential Center in Arkansas to talk politics and the current state of affairs.

“There's just too much bitterness, and it's just very discouraging to me,” Bush said.

“All this sort of character assassination makes me want to throw up,” Clinton said.

The presidents took part in the graduation ceremony of the 2018 Class of Presidential Leadership Scholars, a network of diverse professionals brought together to collaborate and make a difference in the world. The graduates tackled controversial topics with the former world leaders, like immigration reform.

“What can we do so folks like me, Hispanics and sons of immigrants, have an opportunity?” asked Steven Llanes.

“I'm disturbed by the debate that's taking place because I think it undermines the goodness of America,” Bush said. “It doesn't recognize the contributions immigrants make to our society. It obscures the fact, the rhetoric does, that the system is broken and needs to be fixed.

Bush made no direct mention of President Donald Trump during his remarks.

SMU Political Science Professor Matthew Wilson isn't surprised.

“President Bush particularly feels strongly that a president's predecessor should not criticize him when he's in office,” Wilson said.

Clinton was less vague.

“Now, we're all divided again,” he said. “Where people think our differences are more important then what we have in common.”

Wilson says what matters is that important conversations are being had and future leaders are learning from them.

“In this day and age, there's so little cooperation across party lines and so much polarization that any program that can bring people together under Democrat and Republican to talk about solution-based approaches to public policy challenges and transcend partisanship is extremely welcome,” Wilson said.

The 59 graduates will join an active network of 181 scholars who are working to lead lasting and positive change in their communities and across the globe.

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