The Ex-Presidents’ Club Bids a Member Goodbye





In a moment of presidential empathy, former President George Bush recalled a skill he had learned from Gerald R. Ford: how to handle being ridiculed on “Saturday Night Live.”

“I remember that lesson well, since being able to laugh at yourself is essential in public life,” Mr. Bush said in his eulogy for Mr. Ford on Tuesday. “I’d tell you more about that, but as Dana Carvey would say: ‘Not gonna do it. Wouldn’t be prudent.’ ”

As the 82-year-old former president imitated his own impersonator, there were only three people in the audience who knew exactly how it felt to be ridiculed, as a sitting president, on late-night television. Former President Bill Clinton responded with a hearty laugh from his seat in the Washington National Cathedral, while former President Jimmy Carter, in a neighboring pew, looked on with a smile. Seated nearby was President Bush, who has been relentlessly skewered by TV comics as well.

With Mr. Ford’s death last week, the group of living former presidents has shrunk to three, down from five in the early 1990s. Since 1994, Richard M. Nixon, Ronald Reagan and, now, Mr. Ford have left the stage, while Mr. Clinton has joined the ranks of former chief executives.



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