WASHINGTON D.C. — All five living former US presidents are joining together to support a relief and recovery effort after Hurricane Harvey.
Former Presidents Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama appeared in a video and asked Americans to respond to the devastation wrought by the hurricane.
Harvey caused massive flooding in the Bushes’ home state of Texas and neighboring Louisiana, destroying homes and killing dozens.
The office of the elder Bush announced that the push would include an appeal in the opening of the NFL’s regular season, with another public service announcement over the weekend.
“We love you Texas,” the elder Bush said in a video posted to the One America Appeal site.
The charity effort by the former presidents comes as the federal government continues to respond to Hurricane Harvey and braces for the impact of Hurricane Irma, which is currently expected to hit Florida.
Donations will be collected and distributed by the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library Foundation through a restricted account, the office’s statement said. The elder Bush and Clinton have joined together in response to disasters in the past, including Hurricane Katrina.
A person familiar with the former presidents’ appeal said that although the White House was notified ahead of the public announcement, the effort was always intended to be only the ex-presidents without participation from the current commander in chief.
That wasn’t intended as a slight and wasn’t because of the animosity that’s lingered between President Donald Trump and his predecessors, according to this person.
Instead, the presidents were modeling themselves on past efforts — including the George H.W. Bush-Clinton effort after the South Asia tsunami and Hurricane Katrina, and the George W. Bush-Clinton effort after the earthquake in Haiti — that brought together past presidents for charity appeals.
The rollouts of those efforts, however, did include the sitting president. Obama brought George W. Bush and Clinton to the White House Rose Garden to announce the Haiti relief effort, and Bush brought his father and Clinton to the Roosevelt Room to announce the tsunami appeal. The Katrina efforts emerged from the tsunami coordination.
The Texas-based Bushes spearheaded Harvey efforts, according to the person familiar, and donations to the appeal will be funneled through a special account created by George H.W. Bush’s library foundation.
Trump offered his backing for the effort on Twitter late Thursday, writing: “We will confront ANY challenge, no matter how strong the winds or high the water. I’m proud to stand with Presidents for #OneAmericaAppeal.”
Trump’s re-election campaign has encouraged private donations for relief efforts, and Trump himself donated $1 million in recovery efforts after Harvey.
The “Presidents Club” has existed in an uneasy state since Trump was elected. The normal comity between past holders of the job and the current occupant has been disrupted by Trump’s frequent criticism of Obama, his continued attacks on the Clintons and his general disregard for the usual displays of decorum offered in the job. He’s not believed to have spoken to any ex-presidents since taking office in January.
The White House has not yet responded to an inquiry about whether Trump was invited to participate.