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Ex-Presidents Express Hope for Civil 2016 Campaign

Former U.S. Presidents George W. Bush (L) and Bill Clinton share a laugh during a moderated conversation at the graduation of the inaugural class of the Presidential Leadership Scholars program, a partnership between the presidential centers of George W.

Former U.S. presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush joked about growing "long in the tooth" and expressed hopes for civility in the current presidential campaign as they spoke together at an event Thursday in Texas.

Despite coming from two different ends of the sometimes bitterly divided U.S. political spectrum, Bush and Clinton have become close friends in retirement. The current presidential campaign is reviving the Bush-Clinton rivalry, this time between George's brother, ex-Florida Governor Jeb Bush, and Bill's wife, ex-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Speaking at a graduation ceremony for the Presidential Leader Scholars program in Dallas, Bush and Clinton said they are optimistic the campaign will focus on important issues and not be marked by nasty character attacks frequently associated with U.S. political races.

"I know Jeb, and I'm confident Secretary Hillary will elevate the discourse," said Bush, 68, who also signaled he will not get involved in his brother's campaign. "I am not going to be a surrogate," he said during the 40-minute question-and-answer session.

The 68-year-old Clinton, who has appeared more willing to publicly campaign for his wife, said he expects a vigorous campaign, but hopes the candidates "show respect for the debate by trying to be as specific as we can about the choices before us."

"I hope we clarify for the American people that this is a big bunch of choices. They're not simple, but we can do it. That's all I really care about," Clinton told the audience, before adding, "besides, I know who I'd like to win."

Governor Bush and Secretary Clinton are seen as among the leading candidates to win their party's nomination for president, continuing their families' long tradition in the highest ranks of American politics. Since 1976, there has been only one U.S. presidential election (2008) that did not include a member of either family.

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