By Amie Parnes - 04/25/13 04:24 PM EDT
President Obama said Thursday that if he is able to sign an immigration reform bill into law it would be “in large part thanks” to his predecessor George W. Bush.
Speaking at the dedication of The George W. Bush Presidential Center in Dallas, Obama used the opportunity to call on Speaker John Boehner to “bring home” an immigration measure, while giving a nod to his predecessor’s work on the issue.
He added that if that’s accomplished, “it will be in large part thanks to the hard work of George W. Bush."
Moments earlier, former President Clinton also credited Bush with his efforts on the immigration fight.
"I hope the Congress will follow President Obama's efforts to follow the precedent you set," Clinton said.
In a brief speech at the Southern Methodist University campus, Obama paid tribute to Bush in other ways, speaking of his “strength and resolve” in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks and his work on fighting HIV and malaria.
But Obama spent a large portion of his speech talking about Bush’s likeable, easy-going personality adding, “To know the man is to like the man because he’s comfortable in his own skin.
“I like President Bush,” Obama said, adding that he is a “good man.”
It was a rare moment for Bush and Obama who haven’t crossed paths much in the last four years. Obama has routinely criticized the policies of the Bush Administration and tried to reverse course on much of his predecessor’s decisions. Obama, for example, put an end to two wars started by Bush in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Obama also spent the 2012 presidential campaign, as he did during his 2008 campaign, railing against the policies of Bush. In event after event on the campaign trail last year, he repeatedly sought to link former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney’s tax policies to Bush.
“We tried this for eight years before I took office — we tried it,” Obama told a crowd in Florida last April, without naming his predecessor. “It’s not like we didn’t try it.”
But a month later, Obama put politics aside when he paid tribute to the former president during Bush’s portrait unveiling at the White House. He commended Bush for his leadership in the days following the Sept. 11 attacks.
“All of us will always remember the image of President Bush standing on that pile of rubble, bullhorn in hand, conveying the extraordinary strength and resolve to the American people but also representing the strength and resolve of the American people,” Obama said at the time. In a lighter moment, Obama also thanked Bush for leaving him “a really good TV sports package.”
“I use it,” Obama said.
On Thursday at the dedication ceremony, a reflective Obama, sharing the same stage with former Presidents Carter, George H.W. Bush and Clinton on what he called a “special day for our democracy,” ruminated on the presidency being a “humbling job.”
“There are times you make mistakes … when you wish you could turn back the clock,” he said.
When Obama finished speaking at the dedication ceremony, he and Bush exchanged a hug.