Presidents Bush and Clinton: Be humble in victory, responsible with power

DALLAS (Reuters) - Former U.S. presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton told a forum in Dallas on Thursday that they were able to forge mutual bonds of respect and friendship because the other had been gracious in victory and respectful of presidential power.

The two did not mention President Donald Trump once during a nearly hour-long discussion where they traded quips and insights. But they offered indirect references that many in the crowd of about 300 people at the George W. Bush Presidential Library took to be references to the current president.

RELATED: President Bill Clinton's inaugurations

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President Bill Clinton's inaugurations
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President Bill Clinton's inaugurations

President Clinton speaks outside the U.S. Capitol following his inauguration as the 42nd President of the United States.

(Wally McNamee/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)

Spectators gather at the US Capitol Building to witness President Bill Clinton's first inauguration into office. Bill Clinton stands with his wife Hillary and daughter Chelsea as he takes the oath of office.

(Wally McNamee/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)

Democrat Bill Clinton (L) is sworn in by Supreme Court Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist (R) as the 42nd President of the United States as his wife Hillary (C) looks on during the inaugural ceremony at Capital Hill, January 20.

(Jim Bourg / Reuters)

U.S. Senator John Warner of Virginia, co-chairman of the Congressional Joint Inauguration Committee, points out the view from the presidential inauguration podium to ABC news reporter and anchor Barbara Walters as final preparations continue at the U.S. Capitol January 19 for President Clinton's inauguration ceremonies. Clinton will be sworn in for a second term at noon on January 20. 

(Jim Bourg / Reuters)

U.S. President George Bush (L) greets President-elect Bill Clinton (R) upon his arrival 20 January, 1993 to the White House in Washington, DC to meet Bush for a pre-inaugural coffee. Clinton was sworn in as the 42nd U.S. President later 20 January.

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Press photographers and remote cameras are focused on President Clinton as he is sworn in on Capitol Hill, January 20. Clinton is the first Democratic president to be inaugurated for a second term since Franklin-Roosevelt.

(Mike Theiler / Reuters)

President WIlliam Jefferson Clinton waves from inside the 'Beast' limousine as his inaugural parade passes 14th street freedom plaza.

(Photo by Mark Reinstein/Corbis via Getty Images)

President Clinton and his family, first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton and daughter Chelsea, applaud during the opening act at the Presidential Inaugural Gala in Landover, January 19. The president attended the star-studded revue on the eve of his inauguration to start his second term. 

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WASHINGTON, : The Clintons and the Gores applaud as jump ropers perform in front of the reviewing stand during the inaugural parade 20 January in Washington, DC. US President Clinton was sworn in earlier on Capitol Hill for his second term as US president.

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President Clinton, first lady Hillary and daughter Chelsea greet crowds along the inaugural parade route near the White House after they emerged from their armored Cadillac to finish the parade on foot January 20. President Clinton was sworn-in for the second time as the nation's 42nd president.

(Rick Wilking / Reuters)

Chelsea Clinton holds Tyler Clinton, son of President Clinton's brother Roger, as they watch the inaugural parade from the White House reviewing area January 20. President Clinton was sworn in for the second time as the nation's 42nd president.

(STR New / Reuters)

Diana Ross performs on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial with the statue of Lincoln behind her as part of the American Reunion celebration on the mall kicking off the Inuagural events for President William Jefferson Clinton. 

(Photo by Mark Reinstein/Corbis via Getty Images)

The U.S. Capitol is readied for the second inauguration of President Clinton early January 20 . Clinton will be the first Democratic president to be inaugurated for a second term since Franklin Delano Roosevelt.


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President Clinton and his family (L) and Vice President Al Gore and his family (R) review the troops during inaugural ceremonies at the United States Capitol, January 20. Earlier in the day, Clinton took the oath of office on the steps of the capitol to begin his second term in the White House.

(STR New / Reuters)

President Clinton, accompanied by House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R), waves as he arrives at the U.S. Capitol to be inaugurated as the 42nd president of the United States January 20. Clinton is the first Democratic president to be sworn in to a second term since Franklin Delano Roosevelt. 

(Reuters Photographer / Reuters)

The U.S. Capitol is decked in bunting as President Clinton delivers his inauguration speech after being sworn in for a second term, January 20. Clinton is the first Democratic president to be re-elected in 50 years.

(Gary Hershorn / Reuters)

U.S. President Clinton is sworn in for a second term as President by U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist (R) as Clinton stands on the West steps of the United States Capitol with his wife Hillary and daughter Chelsea at his side, January 20. Vice President Al Gore and his wife Tipper look on at rear. 

(Reuters Photographer / Reuters)

President Clinton and First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton embrace as they dance at the first inaugural ball of the evening at the Old Post Office Building in Washington, January 20. The Clintons are scheduled to appear at 15 balls to cap the inaugural festivities.

(STR New / Reuters)

Inauguration of President of United States, President William Jefferson Clinton,42nd President,52nd Presidency Washington, DC, 1/20/93.

(Photo by Visions of America/UIG via Getty Images)

Lincoln Memorial Gala Celebration for the Inaugural of William Clinton as President. Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, Diana Ross. Credit: Mark Reinstein

(Photo by Mark Reinstein/Corbis via Getty Images)

Inauguration of President William Jefferson Clinton, Jan, 30 1993, Washington DC.

(Photo by Visions of America/UIG via Getty Images)

Aretha Franklin preforms at the Lincoln Memorial for President CLinton's inaugural gala.

(Photo by Mark Reinstein/Corbis via Getty Images)

President-elect Bill Clinton (2nd from right) and Vice President-elect Al Gore (2nd from left) stand with their wives, Hillary Clinton (right) and Tipper Gore (left), at the 1993 People's Inaugural Celebration at the Lincoln Memorial.

(Photo by Lynn Goldsmith/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images)

Chelsea Clinton, daughter of U.S. President-elect Bill Clinton, videotapes the inaugural festivities 17 January 1993 at the Lincoln Memorial.

(CARLOS SCHIEBECK/AFP/Getty Images)

Bill and Hillary Clinton along with David Dinkins stand on stage January 20, 1993 in Washington, DC. Eleven inaugural balls were held on the same evening in honor of President Clinton's election.

(Photo by Diana Walker/Liaison)

A member of the U.S. Marine Corps Marching Band tunes up 20 January, 1993 in front of the U.S. Capitol Dome prior to the start of the inauguration of William Clinton in Washington, DC. President-elect Clinton will be sworn-in at noon to become the 42nd President of the U.S.

(TIM CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)

Hillary Clinton smiles January 20, 1993 in Washington, DC. Eleven inaugural balls were held on the same evening in honor of President Clinton's election.

(Photo by Diana Walker/Liaison)

American poet Maya Angelou reciting her poem 'On the Pulse of Morning' at the inauguration of President Bill Clinton in Washington DC, 20th January 1993.

(Photo by Consolidated News Pictures/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Uncle Sam, played by Steve Myott of Greenville, North Carolina, looks down while a police officer walks between his legs as Myott performs along the route of US President Bill Clinton's inaugural parade in Washington, DC 20 January. The parade, celebrating the beginning of President Clinton's second term in office, goes along Pennsylvania Avenue from the US Capitol to the White House.

(TIM SLOAN/AFP/Getty Images)

African National Congress (ANC) President Nelson Mandela (R) and Lindiwe Mabuza (L), the ANC's chief representative to the U.S., look up at the U.S. Capitol in Washington DC, 20 January 1993, after taking their seats for the inauguration of Bill Clinton as the U.S.'s 42nd president.

(ARYEH RABINOVICH/AFP/GettyImages)

Pres. George Bush gazing at view of Capitol bldg. fr. helicopter window, leaving capital after inauguration of successor Pres. Bill Clinton.

(Photo by David Valdez/White House/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)

Pres. Clinton pausing fr. his inaugural address, turning to applaud George Bush (R) as Mrs Bush, outgoing VP Dan Quayle (L) et al join in, in crowd-framed acknowledgement of outgoing Pres.

(Photo by David Valdez/White House/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)

SWEARING IN--The Children of the Gospel choir performs during the swearing in ceremony of President Clinton.

(Photo by Scott J. Ferrell/Congressional Quarterly/Getty Images)

Stevie Wonder performs at Bill Clinton's inaugural gala January 19, 1997 in Landover, MD. On November 5, 1996, Clinton was elected to his second term as the forty second President of the United States.

(Photo by Cynthia Johnson/Liaison

Singer Bob Dylan performs at the first inauguration of President Bill Clinton on January 20, 1993 in Washington DC.

(Photo by David Hume Kennerly/Getty Images)

1993 - Clinton, Inauguration Gala

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Pres. Bill Clinton (L) playing saxophone, jamming w. musicians onstage at DC Armory Ball during inaugural wk. festivities.

(Photo by Diana Walker//Time Life Pictures/Getty Images)

Pres. Bill Clinton hugging daughter Chelsea & wife Hillary Rodham during his Inaugural Day swear-in ceremony.

(Photo by Dirck Halstead//Time Life Pictures/Getty Images)

The Washington Monument as pictured on the morning of the First Presidental inauguration of Bill Clinton in Washington, DC.

(Photo by Images Press/IMAGES/Getty Images)

Bill Clinton Speaking at his Inauguration Gala

(Photo by Peter Turnley/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images)

Pres. Bill Clinton (C) speaking during his 2nd term Inaugural Day ceremonies.

(Photo by Dirck Halstead/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images)

Ramona Howard, of St. Louis, Mo, puts up a message to President-elect Bill Clinton on the 'American Town Hall' 18 January, 1993 during inaugural festivities on the Mall in Washington, DC. President-elect Clinton is scheduled to take the oath of office 20 Jan to become the next president of the United States.

(CARLOS SCHIEBECK/AFP/Getty Images)

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"He (Clinton) was humble in victory, which is very important in dealing with other people," Bush said at the event to mark a graduation at the Presidential Leadership Scholars program, a partnership among the Bush, Clinton, Lyndon Johnson and George H.W. Bush presidential centers.

Clinton said: "If you want to be president, realize it's about the people, not about you.

"You want to be able to say 'things were better off when I quit, kid's had a better future, things were coming together.' You don't want to say, 'God, look at all the people I beat.'"

Current President Trump has come under criticism from Democrats who have said he fires off excessive and unwarranted criticism against his predecessor, Democratic President Barack Obama and the person he beat in the election, Democrat Hillary Clinton.

Republican Bush said while in office he sought Democrat Clinton's advice. Clinton said when he left office he told incoming President Bush that he would offer him help and treat him with respect.

RELATED: George W. Bush and family

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George W. Bush and family
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George W. Bush and family
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Bush and Clinton said they have enjoyed their lives after the presidency but would not trade their current status for their eight years in office.

"The decisions you make have a monumental effect on people," Bush said, adding humility is a key quality for any president.

"Presidency is often defined by the unexpected. It makes the job interesting," he said.

Clinton said: "If you don't deal with the incoming fire, it will undermine your ability to do anything else. If all you deal with is incoming fire, you can't keep the promises you made when you were running."

The two also exchanged jokes about being grandfathers, with Bush saying his grandchildren call him "jefe," Spanish for "chief."

"The best thing that can happen to you when you are in politics is to be consistently underestimated," Clinton said.

"I was pretty good at that," Bush returned.

(Reporting by Lisa Mariua Garza and Jon Herskovitz in Austin; Writing by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

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