Special Coverage

NADA Convention & Exposition

NEW ORLEANS – Former U.S. Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton offer moral support as they address the National Automobile Dealers Assn. convention here Monday.

The two men, rivals in the 1992 presidential campaign, have gone on to become friends and co-founders of a charitable fund that aids needy people, including the victims of Hurricane Katrina that hit this city in 2005.

“Ninety percent of life is what you do with what happens to you, and 10% is what happens to you,” Clinton tells dealers who, along with the rest of the auto industry, are trying to cope with a severe sales downturn.

“All I want to say is that we ought to make cars in America, and we ought to sell them. So you hang in there.”

Bush lauds NADA for also contributing to the Katrina relief effort. “Stay involved,” he tells dealers. “I’m 84, and as I look back at the tapestry of life, I see the importance and need of helping others.”

He tells dealers to “work as hard as you can” and to work with financial institutions “to get the credit out of them. I’m proud of the (auto) industry, and I’m proud of you and your entrepreneurial spirit.”

Clinton calls the current recession “the most mind-numbing, complicated economic crisis I’ve ever seen.

“We need to know how bad it is, but we can’t believe for a second that we can’t get over it. This country has been around for 233 years, and a lot of people bet against us during those years. Every single one of them has lost their bets.”

The former presidents joke about how their influence has waned after leaving office. “What’s good about being an ex-president is you can say what you think,” says Clinton. “Of course, no one cares what you think anymore.”