Former U.S. presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton

**Bush, Clinton get standing ovation after Toronto ‘conversation’ **

Former U.S. presidents perplexed by moderator’s passport question

**Last Updated: Friday, May 29, 2009 | 5:08 PM ET Comments188Recommend78

*Former Canadian Ambassador to the U.S. Frank McKenna, left, moderates a discussion between former U.S. Presidents George W. Bush, centre, and Bill Clinton, right, at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre on Friday. **(TD Bank Financial Group/Reuters)*Former U.S. presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton drew a standing ovation from a packed Toronto convention centre Friday after their mostly amiable discussion touching on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, AIDS programs in Africa and border security at home.
At one point during the event, which was billed by organizers as a “moderated conversation,” both Clinton and Bush admitted they were surprised to learn Canadians and Americans will require a passport or an enhanced driver’s licence to cross into the United States as of Monday.
Protesters gathered across the street from the Toronto convention centre where George W. Bush and Bill Clinton were speaking Friday. *(CBC)*Clinton, the first to take to the stage at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, joked in his opening speech that the event felt like a “21st-century coliseum,” and the audience might want to see him and his Republican counterpart “devour each other.” He said he and Bush would do their best to “thwart” such a spectacle.
Bush also struck a congenial note when he took the stage, giving Clinton top billing as he told the audience: “Welcome to the Bill and George Show.”
He joked that his mother, Barbara Bush, told him Clinton has been spending so much time with his own father, former U.S. president George H.W. Bush, that he is “like a son to her.”
“So brother, it’s good to see you,” Bush said, just over four months after he left office at the end of one of the most turbulent periods in modern American history.
Bush, making his second public appearance in Canada since leaving office in January, said he doesn’t “miss the spotlight,” and he spoke of adapting to post-presidential life in Texas.
He said he hopes to complete a book about the decisions he made while in office for publication by next November, and intends to establish a policy centre in his native Texas to push “the freedom agenda” he adhered to while in office.
“Freedom is transformative,” he said. “Freedom brings hope and freedom brings peace.”
Clinton praised Bush for increasing American funding to fight AIDS and malaria in Africa, calling it “one of the most important achievements” of Bush’s administration.
Bush, who received warm applause from the audience when he took the stage, looked relaxed and confident as he hailed Clinton’s “great work” through his foundation on trying to eradicate disease and poverty in developing countries.
The men then sat in green leather chairs on stage, in between two large video screens set up to allow those in the most distant seats in the large auditorium to see the action.
Iraq war not a distraction from Afghanistan: Bush

Frank McKenna, Canada’s former ambassador to the United States and a former New Brunswick premier, acted as moderator for the event. He largely steered clear of more controversial topics, including the use of torture on terrorism suspects by U.S. intelligence officials and the U.S. detention centre at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
McKenna led off with a question on whether the Iraq war was a distraction from the war in Afghanistan, a conflict in which he said Canada has suffered a “disproportionate” level of casualties.
Speaking first, Clinton said he supported the Congressional resolution giving Bush the power to go to war if Saddam Hussein defied UN inspectors, but added he would have wanted Hans Blix’s team to have more time to search for nuclear, chemical and biological weapons.
He said the campaign against extremism must remain focused on Afghanistan and quelling instability in neighbouring Pakistan.
“The real issue is, what in the world are we going to do now?” he said, adding Afghans “want to be free” and “don’t want to be under the Taliban again.”
Bush, in turn, rejected the premise that the Iraq distracted attention and resources from battling the Taliban and al-Qaeda in Afghanistan as “false.”
“I should know. I was there,” he said.
Bush also insisted that getting rid of Hussein “has made the world a safer place,” and said America and Canada “need to hang in with these good people” in Afghanistan.
Both men also thanked Canada for its contribution to the Afghanistan mission and sacrificing so many soldiers’ lives to help bring peace to a troubled region, which drew applause from the audience.
Outside the convention hall , about 400 protesters gathered behind police barricades to denounce the former presidents, as well as Prime Minister Stephen Harper, as war criminals for the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
By the time the event finally got underway at 4 p.m. ET, the activists’ numbers had swelled, mixing with bemused tourists while chanting slogans under the watchful eye of police officers. At one pointed, they shouted: “Bush and Clinton, shame on you!”
Border ID issue sparks confusion

McKenna caught both former presidents off-guard when he brought up the tough new identification requirement at the Canada/U.S. border and said many Canadians feel the mutual respect between the two countries is being “torn apart” by the restrictions.
As of Monday, Canadian citizens entering the U.S. and U.S. citizens returning home will require a passport or equivalent new identification, such as enhanced driver’s licences or so-called “smart cards.” But McKenna only mentioned passports in his question.
“I’ll be frank with you Frank, I don’t know about the passport issue,” Bush replied. “I thought we were making good progress on using a driver’s licence to cross the border. What happened to the easy-pass card?”
Clinton also admitted he hadn’t heard about the requirement before McKenna mentioned it to him on Thursday, and he suspected most Americans hadn’t either.
“I promise you, you have got my attention with this, so I’m going back home I’ll see if there is anything else I can do,” Clinton said, which brought a cheer from the audience.
Clinton grilled on Rwanda role

Earlier in the debate, McKenna directed the conversation to Africa, asking Clinton why he hadn’t stepped in as president to stop the killing in Rwanda in 1994.
Clinton responded that the decision not to act was “one of two or three of my greatest regrets” as president.
“We couldn’t have saved all of them,” he said. “[But] we could have saved as many as 300,000 lives .… I have no defence.”
Bush, in turn, defended Clinton’s stand on Rwanda, saying that it’s “not realistic” to think a president could just pick up the phone and order 20,000 troops into a conflict zone. He also said he felt Clinton was being “a little to hard” on himself for his handling of the genocide.
Asked by McKenna whether the U.S. should have intervened to stop the genocide in Darfur, Bush replied: “I was confronted by a situation of where do I send in marines?” The broad consensus among NGOs and government advisers was to not intervene unilaterally against Sudan, he said, '“So I didn’t.”
“We are trying to expedite troops to Darfur, but getting the international community together is hard .… [Diplomacy] only works with leverage.”
Clinton jumped in to defend Bush on Darfur, calling the attempts to build an international consensus an “agonizing process” and comparing it to the conflict in the Balkans in the 1990s.
"It’s not as simple as saying, ‘he should have done something,’ " Clinton said. “He [Bush] did about all he could do.”
Bush ‘deserves a lot of credit’: Clinton

McKenna brought the discussion back to issues in Africa, telling Bush, “The world owes you a debt of gratitude” for his administration’s massive anti-retroviral AIDS drug program for Africa. “To whom much is given, much is required,” replied Bush. “Don’t thank me, thank the taxpayers of the United States of America.”
He added that the best way to counter “terrorist killers” recruiting from the world’s hopeless and poor is through the efforts of “armies of compassion.”
Clinton in turn praised Bush for bringing a Christian appeal to the members of the Republican-dominated Congress, as well as church groups and non-governmental organizations. He also hailed the racial and ethnic diversity of cabinet choices under Bush.
“What he did on the AIDS drugs and the diversity in the cabinet … he deserves a lot of credit,” Clinton said.
The discussion ended with a standing ovation from the crowd, but some left with a feeling of disappointment that the debate hadn’t gone deeper into major issues.
Jonathan Tucker, a chartered accountant in the audience, said he was surprised there weren’t more fireworks between the two men.
“Clinton could have taken some shots, but he didn’t,” Tucker said as he left the auditorium.
Heather Williams, 29, said she was disappointed Bush didn’t face a direct question over his decision to invade Iraq.
“It was eye-opening, but I wanted to hear his justifications for going to war,” she said.
Tickets cost up to $2,500

Several lineups formed 90 minutes before the mid-afternoon event, with audience members who paid between $200 and $2,500 each having to go through metal detectors and be scanned with electronic wands.
Speaking fees for the former presidents weren’t disclosed.
The event was closed to traditional media coverage, though bloggers from a number of media agencies were sprinkled throughout the audience. Among those spotted in the crowd were federal Industry Minister Tony Clement, former Reform Party of Canada leader Preston Manning and Liberal strategist David Herle.
Bush, who left office in January, was president from 2001-2009. His first post-office speaking engagement was in Calgary in March.
Clinton has visited Canada for a number of speaking engagements since the Democrat politician served as U.S. president from 1993-2001.

The traffic was horrendous today (more than usual) but I managed to make it to this event, I was even interviewed by CBC!

I was even offered $4,000.00 to sell my tickets; I now regret not selling them!!

Oh a Star has been born

Mario, when will you be on the boob-toob? I’ll get the PVR warmed up!