VAIL, Colorado -- President Bill Clinton teed off Saturday for a bipartisan round of golf with former Republican President Gerald Ford, who vowed to help the 46-year-old Democrat win congressional ratification of the North American Free Trade Agreement.
'We have a few things where we have similar views, particulary NAFTA, which I think is a very critical issue for the nation,' Ford told reporters at the Country Club of the Rockies golf course.
'I will be as helpful as I possibly can,' the 80-year-old former president said.
Ford's words drew a big grin from Clinton, who is trying to build bipartisan support for the proposed free trade pact with Canada and Mexico.
'That's the way I'm going to try to run the rest of my administration,' said Clinton. 'I don't ever want the kind of polarization we had the past six months' over his recently passed deficit-cutting budget.
Clinton's long drive on first hole marked the start of his initial full day of relaxation on a two-and-a-half-week working vacation that began Thursday when he left Washington on a cross-country trip.
The president and Ford were joined at the Country Club of the Rockies by Jack Nicklaus, a legend of the game and designer of the rolling golf course a few miles outside of Vail, Colorado.
The final member of the foursome was Ken Lay, a businessman from Houston.
Aides said the current president had no plants to talk to reporters, but did so after the former president stopped to share a few thoughts about playing golf with Clinton.
'I'm very excited,' said Ford, the man who replaced Richard Nixon in the White House following the Watergate scandal.
Asked if he planned to give Clinton any advice, Ford said, 'I'm sure over the next 24 to 48 hours, we will have a chance to very casually do a little talking.'
Asked what he thought of Clinton's budget, which received no GOP support on Capitol Hill, Ford smiled and said diplomatically, 'I look to the future. I don't look talk about the past.'
Clinton arrived in Vail shortly past midnight Saturday following visits earlier in the week in St. Louis, Denver and Oakland, California.
The president, joined by his wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton, and daughter, Chelsea, 13, are staying at a private residence a few doors down from the house in Beaver Creek, Colorado, where the former president and Betty Ford reside.
The Clinton family arranged to attend an outdoor performance of the Bolshoi Ballet in Vail Saturday night.
On Monday, the president is to address a meeting of the National Governors Association in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and then spend a couple of days with friends in Fayettville, Arkansas.
He and his family are to depart Thursday for an 11-day stay on the Massachusetts resort island of Martha's Vineyard.