The Ex-Presidents Club 20 Years Later
LIANE HANSEN, Host:
In 20 years, we've been with you through major events that were just breaking over the weekend.
M: Ladies and gentlemen, we got him.
(SOUNDBITE OF CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
HANSEN: ...A new chapter in the political history of South Africa opened today, when Nelson Mandela emerged from Victor Verster Prison...
U: The body of Princess Diana has begun its final journey home to Britain. Her casket, draped with the flag...
HANSEN: What do you make of all of this?
DAN SCHORR: Well, certainly there are more ex-presidents at four than we've had in more than a century, which must be a credit to their good health habits and maybe the fine socialized medicine that they enjoy in government facilities.
(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)
SCHORR: They're very different, one from the other...
HANSEN: Hi, Dan.
SCHORR: Hi, Liane.
HANSEN: In 1989, when we had this conversation, the elder George Bush was in the White House.
HANSEN: And the living former presidents were: Nixon, Reagan, Ford and Carter. Give us a quick summary of what they were up to in 1989.
SCHORR: He probably was more active as an ex-president than he'd been as president.
HANSEN: Hmm. Now we have four living ex-presidents: Jimmy Carter...
HANSEN: ...and both the elder and younger Bush, and Bill Clinton. How does this group differ from that group we talked about in 1989?
SCHORR: Well, the difference, in the first place, from not having either President Reagan or President Nixon. That makes it all very different. It is a more relaxed group of ex-presidents on the whole, who can be invited to lunch together. They can make appeals for good causes together.
HANSEN: So let's see what they're up to now. You mentioned President Carter's work building houses and so forth. He's one of the first group that's still living. And the elder George Bush, how is he spending his retirement?
SCHORR: Well, he's writing memoirs and then he also cooperates with former President Clinton at times on worthy causes, such as trying to raise money for relief of tsunami victims in Asia. They are both together as a team, kind of a bipartisan do-gooders.
HANSEN: And former President Clinton, he's often still in the news.
SCHORR: He leads a somewhat more active life than most of the other ex-presidents.
HANSEN: And the most recent former president, George W. Bush, what's he up to?
SCHORR: Well, George W. Bush in a recent interview said, As president, I made calls as best I could and I didn't sell my soul. He also refers to himself, his new title he said is "retired guy."
HANSEN: Huh. How have the actions of these men shaped the perception or the role of former presidents?
SCHORR: But I do think it's beginning to happen now, that you have presidents and former presidents who can deal with each other pretty well and are available for good causes.
HANSEN: NPR's senior news analyst Daniel Schorr. Dan, thanks a lot.
SCHORR: My pleasure, Liane.
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