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Clinton vs. Bush: Notes From the Floor

May 31, 2009

I had been planning to participate in the protest in honour of the visit of George W. Bush and Bill Clinton to Toronto last Friday. I even had an old pair of shoes ready for throwing. But then a fellow blogger let it be known that he had access to discounted tickets. Well then!

After I checked out the festivities and shooting some video across the street, I hooked up with my three companions for the afternoon (all lawyers, law students and/or bloggers), and we made our way through the airport-like security and into the hall.

The logistics were a disaster, BTW. We were told there would be food inside, but there wasn’t. It was supposed to start at 3:30 and indeed we did get a brief welcome speech at that time. And then… nothing. For nearly half an hour we were left sitting, wondering if perhaps some shoe-throwing incident had thrown off the schedule.

When things finally did get started again, and after suffering through another 10 minutes of introductory blather, Bill Clinton took the stage. He told a few jokes, talked about the extensive list of activities and organizations he’s been involved with since leaving the presidency, and then turned the stage over to George Walker Bush.  Who also told jokes.

You would think it would be difficult to find nice things to say about Mr. Bush given his appalling record, but leave it to the cream of the Toronto corporatocracy to find something: AIDS relief in Africa. That’s it.

Needless to say, the word ‘torture’ was never mentioned once.

Further details of what was said can be found on my blog and that of one of my other blogging companions, but I came away from the experience knowing two things I didn’t know before:

1) Bill Clinton has devoted his ex-presidency to helping people around the world and helping the planet itself through his Foundation and initiatives like the C40 group of cities – and he actively encourages others to find some way to make a difference and be of service. Bush is devoting his retirement to working on his ranch, writing a book, building his Presidential Library and Policy Centre, and generally trying to salvage his legacy from ignominy.

2) Bill Clinton is heartily sorry that he didn’t step in in Rwanda.  So much so, he nearly broke down talking about it.

Bush isn’t sorry at all.  Not for anything.

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