WASHINGTON, Nov. 16, 2010— -- Former President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney shared a stage together Tuesday for the first time since the two left office, showering each other with praise as they reflected on the legacy of their administration and the decision to run for office together.
The two men united for the groundbreaking of the $300 million Bush Presidential Library on the Southern Methodist University campus in Dallas. Hundreds of Bush administration alumni, including former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice and first lady Laura Bush, also attended.
Bush has said the library and affiliated George W. Bush Policy Institute will be "the focus of our attention and forum for our public service" for the rest of his life. The library and institute are also largely seen as vehicles through which Bush can continue to shape his presidential legacy.
"Two years after your tour at the White House ended," Cheney said to Bush, "judgments are a little more measured than they were. When times have been tough and the critics have been loud, you've always said you had faith in history's judgment. And history is beginning to come around."
Cheney, who has been one of the most ardent and outspoken defenders of the administration, appeared gaunt and frail in what was a rare public appearance since having heart surgery in July.
It was also the first time the men appeared together since the release of Bush's new memoir, "Decision Points," in which the former president writes that he considered replacing Cheney as his running mate during the 2004 re-election bid.
Bush began his remarks by directly addressing the episode and offering unambiguous support for the man he ended up keeping by his side.
"I'm asked about Dick Cheney," Bush said. "Here's what I say: Dick Cheney was the right pick in the year 2000, and as I stand here, there is no doubt in my mind he was the right pick then, he was a great vice president of the United States, and I'm proud to call him friend."
Today's ceremonies marked the first time Bush and Cheney appeared publicly together since leaving office in January 2009. They met face-to-face for the first time since leaving office in February.
Bush Breaks Silence in Memoir
Bush, who has generally kept a low profile since leaving office, has broken his silence in recent weeks with the publication of his book, which he has been working on since leaving office in early 2009.
"I wanted to give readers a glimpse of the presidency from my perspective," he said in a promotional video.
But until recently, the role of defending the administration had largely fallen to Cheney, who picked up the mantle again today.
"History is an account of what happened. But sometimes the greatest story of all is what did not happen," Cheney told the crowd. "And because you [Bush] were determined to throw back the enemy, we did not suffer another 9/11 or something even worse."
"I have a few more thoughts on the man and his presidency, but I'll save them when we're all back in Dallas again for the grand opening of the library," Cheney said.