February 17th, 2008
09:41 AM ET
4 years ago

Bush, African host deflect Obama query

The presidential campaign followed Bush to Africa.
The presidential campaign followed Bush to Africa.

Dar Es Salaam, TANZANIA (CNN) – It took two days, but Obama-mania finally crashed President Bush's party in Africa ever so briefly on Sunday.

The whole point of Bush's six-day trip to this continent is to break away from the presidential campaign that's overshadowing him in the United States, and get some attention for his AIDS relief program that's a popular legacy item. And in fact, Bush was greeted like a native son when he arrived at the statehouse here for a meeting with Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete - literally thousands of screaming fans lining a red carpet to get a chance to shake his hand.

But this is also the home turf of sorts for a real native son, Sen. Barack Obama, whose father hailed from Kenya. So questions about the Democratic presidential candidate are bound to come up. And the first one did at a joint press conference with Bush and Kikwete, and it was politely and somewhat comically dodged by both leaders.

Jennifer Loven of the Associated Press asked Bush a question about his AIDS relief plan and then turned to Kikwete to note the excitement in Africa about Obama's candidacy and asked the African leader to comment on "what you think it says about America that we might elect a black President with roots in Africa?"

Even though that part of the question was not directed at him, Bush weighed in first with mock exasperation that everyone seemed to be forgetting he was treated like a rock star on the trip. "It seemed like there was a lot of excitement for me, wait a minute," the President said to laughter. "Maybe you missed it."

Then after Bush answered the first part of Loven's question, which was about criticism over the focus on abstinence in his AIDS plan, the President turned to Kikwete and wondered aloud whether he wanted to answer the question about U.S. politics. "See, she didn't ask me it because she knew I wouldn't answer the question," said Bush, who has been trying with mixed success to refrain from opining on the exciting race to succeed him.

But Kikwete ducked any kind of endorsement in the U.S. election, instead heaping some praise on Bush.

"Well, I don't think I can venture into that territory, either," said Kikwete. "Of course, people talk with excitement of Obama - well, our excitement is that President Bush is at the end of his term, and the U.S. is going to get a new President, whoever that one is. For us, the most important thing is, let him be as good [a] friend of Africa as President Bush has been."

Public relations crisis averted. If Kikwete had launched into a speech about the wonders of Obama, U.S. journalists here would have been scurrying to file stories about how the Democratic upstart was trumping Bush's Legacy Tour.

Surely this was just a case of Kikwete being a smart politician who didn't fall into the trap of upstaging his guest. But then again, that $700 million aid check Bush had forked over to Kikwete a few minutes earlier probably fostered a wee bit of goodwill too.

–CNN White House Correspondent Ed Henry


Filed under: President Bush
soundoff (34 Responses)
  1. Freedom Seeker

    It's so pathetic and ironic that now Bush wants to pretend he is concerned with helping the people in Africa. It's just political posturing for the Republicans. This is the same party that ignored the war and genocide in Darfur, just this week cut funding for Aids research., looked the other way when Hurricane Katrina showed his indifference to people's suffering, and has consistantly ignnored the plight of people of color. This grandstanding should be and is ignored by anyone with any intelligence.

    February 17, 2008 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  2. Texas

    It sounds as if Mr Obama needs to return to his roots. He has it too good here in the United States. There is no way he will become our next president. Who would he choose for his Vice President, Oprah?

    God help us all

    February 17, 2008 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  3. marge

    "Ryan February 17th, 2008 11:55 am ET

    How many homes does Obama have? Illinois… Hawaii… Kenya… didn't he claim Indonesia as well?

    I'm still baffled over his "uphold the rules and let the people's vote matter" rhetoric. I mean… let me get this right… the DNC said Florida's votes don't count, so that rule should be upheld and the people's vote won't matter. But then the DNC also has a rule about superdelegates being able to vote and to vote for who they want to… however, that rule should change?? Which is it, do we keep the rules or let the people's vote count? Would he be making this argument if he had won Florida (which he attempted to do by running ads and leaving his name on the ballet as well)?

    And is anyone else upset that in a race for who will be the candidate for THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY, that the majority of Democrats are supporting Clinton, however, that Republicans and Independents weighing in are supporting Obama? I mean, that's fine in the GENERAL ELECTION, but when electing the candidate for the Democrats, shouldn't that be decided by the… hmmm… Democrats"?

    Stripping Florida and Michigan of their delegates was a DNC RULE.
    The DNC does not nor has it ever had a RULE regarding the super delegate vote. The argument over the super delegate vote has to do with PRACTICE.
    The majority of democratic voters are not supporting Hillary. Earlier on she had what they call "core" democrats,which may not be the case now!
    In case you're not aware of how this thing works.....In the general election,the Independant and dis satisfied Republician vote will help elect the next democratic president.. The intelligent democrats welcome support from whom ever can help the party take the WH back.
    EVERYONE should be upset at the prospect of this nomination being won by anyway other then the voters!

    February 17, 2008 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  4. marge

    Mick February 17th, 2008 1:09 pm ET

    If the question was about Clinton it would have never made it to the article, however President Clinton has done more for Obama's home land then he has, I wonder why that didn't make it to this article"?

    Maybe because BILL CLINTON is NOT running for President!!!!
    How does what Bill did help Hillary??? Unless of course you feel as many Americans do that Hillary was co-president during his administration.
    "

    February 17, 2008 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  5. DrJ

    The change will hit this president like a ton of bricks,,,
    I feel for him,,,,Maybe he was a bystander,, just like the rest of the American People,,,,,,,,,,,,,

    The rich want to take away the poors rights,,,
    so they can feel safe,,,

    Freedom isnt free,,,,,,,,,,,,,never has been.
    Drj

    February 17, 2008 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  6. marge

    "For us, the most important thing is, let him be as good [a] friend of Africa as President Bush has been."

    If only Bush could have been a good friend to America!!!!

    February 17, 2008 02:23 pm at 2:23 pm |
  7. jbp

    I have watched CNN for years and have been pretty loyal to CNN. But I am now going to FOX. They way CNN has been giving glowing reports of Obama as the great savior is crazy. CNN plays clips of Obama's speeches for 10 minutes yet shows only 2 – 3 minutes worth of Clintons. I have never seen such bias lately. It would be better for the CNN network to just come out and say they support Obama instead of trying to make like they are providing fair reporting. At least FOX gives a better more fairly balanced report on the two. CNN should be on Obama's payroll if they aren't already.

    February 17, 2008 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
  8. Karen from Houston

    Has anyone given thought to our relations with (Afganistan, Pakistan, Iran, Iraq, Venezula, China, Russia, Korea, Cuba and how a 'female' president will be received in these countries. Most of them are countries w/o rights for their OWN WOMEN.

    Further, how can we possibly advance communications/relations with them with a John McCain who believes in give me war or give me death. To Elect Hillary or John McCain is sending this country into a point of no return- other countries hate us and most are not advanced in the rights of women. Although America may be ready – is the world in which we live? Do we not have a unique advantage in advancing communications with someone new and perceived as being not of the American political mindset. Someone who will listen and investigate before reacting. Are not other countries praying for a Barack Obama as well having experienced only a Bush/Clinton in the last 28?

    Most people may be unaware of the actual duty/responsibility of THE PRESIDENT. His/Her primary responsibility is to dispatch and/or use the Armed Forces (our military) appropriately. All other judicial functions of the presidency are tasked to those hired in his/her Administration. A president is a negotiator for all other functions.

    Given that the PRIMARY TASK of PRESIDENT is to properly use the armed forces, would not the military MEN/WOMEN have MORE SECURITY from someone who WILL POSSESS GREAT JUDGEMENT ON DAY ONE? Had judgement been the prevailing factor we would not have the IRAQ war at present. We should have a policy to TALK FIRST – Words – before we take – Action!

    Hillary/McCain did not use good JUDGEMENT on the primary function of someone seeking the highest job in the land and that to me disqualifies them to be PRESIDENT of THESE UNITED STATES. AMERICA MUST NOT SEND A MESSAGE TO THE WORLD THAT WE CAN DO NO BETTER THAN A BUSH OR CLINTON TO LEAD US! HOW SAD!

    February 17, 2008 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  9. Anatoly Likhatchev

    >Hillary/McCain did not use good JUDGMENT on the primary function...

    And your revered Obama was not in the federal Senate and hence not privy to all the discussions to even exercise a judgment. His judgment at the time was irrelevant. And when he finally weaseled his way into the State Senate he has been voting PRO WAR.

    February 17, 2008 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
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