Civilized political talk captures country’s imagination

Former Presidents Bill Clinton, left, and George W. Bush, laugh while participating in the Presidential Leadership Scholars Program Launch, Monday, Sept. 8, 2014, at The Newseum in Washington. The two are launching a new scholars program at four presidential libraries, aiming to help academics and business leaders learn more about presidential leadership.  (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

On his TV show this morning, journalist Charlie Rose asked a good question. “Why can’t we have more of this?” he asked.

“This” is two politicians on other sides of most every issue, having a friendly conversation, as former presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush did last night.

Dana Milbank of the Washington Post writes:

The event was to launch a joint leadership-development program by the presidential centers of Clinton, LBJ and both Bushes. Clinton said the “presidential leadership scholars” program would be, in part, about rebuilding “the skill that we are beginning to see atrophy in America, which is listening to people who disagree with us.”

Clinton said he would like to get people talking about the need to compromise. “If you read the Constitution, it ought to be subtitled ‘Let’s Make a Deal,’ ” he said.

Restoring the role of compromise is a big task — but perhaps not impossible, if these old warriors have become as friendly as they claim. “I admire my pal’s ability to communicate and to lead,” affirmed Bush, playfully calling Clinton a “beautiful man — beautiful.”

“I will say one thing nice about my friend here,” Clinton returned, then amended his statement. “I will say more than one thing.”

And he did.

That it’s news when a couple of prominent politicians play nice says a lot about the state of politics.