5 ex-presidents have teamed up for Hurricane Harvey relief

By TODD J. GILLMAN | The Dallas Morning News | Published: September 8, 2017

DALLAS (Tribune News Service) — The Haiti earthquake brought together two ex-presidents. Hurricane Harvey has spurred all five living ex-presidents to join forces.

The two Republicans and three Democrats launched One America Appeal on Thursday, asking Americans and others around the world to pitch in to rebuild Texas. Damage estimates from Harvey top $180 billion.

The aim is to expand the campaign once Hurricane Irma, an especially powerful Category 5 storm, slams into Florida this weekend.

The organization's website notes that the 51.88 inches of rain Harvey dumped on Houston exceeds the annual record for rainfall recorded at Bush Intercontinental Airport — the one just north of Houston named for the eldest of the five, George Bush.

The 41st president, 93, lets the others do most of the talking in the half-minute ad, "Our Friends in Texas," which is set to air Thursday night on the NFL's regular season opening game on NBC.

A second public service announcement will air this weekend, covering both Harvey and Irma's devastation.

Donations are tax-deductible and go to a special account at the George H. W. Bush Presidential Library Foundation, a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organization, "to ensure 100 cents out of every dollar donated goes to hurricane victims.

The former presidents — Republicans Bush and George W. Bush, and Democrats Barack Obama, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton — taped their parts of the ad separately. They've rarely been together in one place. Two weeks before the younger Bush handed off the presidency to Obama in January 2009, the outgoing president hosted the president-elect and the former presidents at the White House.

All five were on hand for the grand opening of the George W. Bush presidential library in Dallas in April 2013. The elder Bush, whose health has steadily declined in recent years, did not attend President Donald Trump's inauguration in January, so that was the last public sighting of the five men currently in the club — the nation's 39th and 41st through 44th commanders in chief.

Harvey's devastation hit home for the Bushes. George and Barbara Bush live in Houston, though they were at the family retreat in Maine when Harvey hit. The younger Bush and his first lady, Laura, live in Dallas.

"Hurricane Harvey brought terrible destruction, while also bringing out the best in humanity," says Clinton as the ad opens.

"As former presidents, we wanted to help our fellow Americans begin to recover," says Obama, who enlisted Bush the younger and Clinton to help Haiti recover from a massive earthquake in 2010.

"Our friends in Texas, including Presidents Bush 41 and 43, are doing just that," says Carter.

Then George W. Bush appears, putting a Texas face on a Texas crisis. 

"People are hurting down here. But as one Texan put it, "We've got more love in Texas than water," he says.

"We love you Texas," says his dad.

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In this Jan. 7, 2009, file photo, then-President-elect Barack Obama is welcomed by then-President George W. Bush for a meeting at the White House with former presidents George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter.

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