December 9th, 2013
03:52 PM ET
9 months ago

Obama flies to South Africa with Bushes, Hillary Clinton

(CNN) – The Air Force One flight from the U.S. to South Africa on Monday was historic not only for its final destination, but for its passenger list.

Joining President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama for the trip to Nelson Mandela's memorial was former President George W. Bush and former First Lady Laura Bush, as well as former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

"The President and the First Lady have been able to spend time with the Bushes and with Secretary Clinton. And so I think it's a unique experience obviously," Ben Rhodes, deputy national security adviser for strategic communications, told reporters aboard the flight.

He added that the dignitaries had been reflecting on their interactions with the anti-apartheid icon.

"He is a leader that intersected with so many different American political leaders of both parties over the years, and so each of them has their own experience with Mandela," Rhodes said.

Reporters on the flight said George W. Bush visited the press cabin twice for off-the-record conversations, totaling about an hour and a half. His wife joined him for part of the time.

Attorney General Eric Holder, National Security Adviser Susan Rice and Obama senior adviser Valerie Jarrett were also on the plane Monday.

The high-profile figures mostly congregated in the plane's conference room, White House press secretary Jay Carney said. When not in the conference room, the Obama's stayed in the President's cabin while the Bushes sat in the medical office located behind the Obama cabin. Clinton sat in the senior staff cabin behind the medical office, according to the White House pool report.

"It's a very I think enjoyable experience certainly for the President and First Lady. And they're both grateful to be able to have (the) former President and First Lady, former Secretary of State on board," Carney added.

The plane stopped in in Dakar, Senegal to refuel before making its way to Johannesburg, South Africa.

Former President Bill Clinton and daughter Chelsea, as well as former President Jimmy Carter, are also slated to attend Mandela's memorial, but they're traveling separately from Air Force One. Former President George H.W. Bush, who is 89, is not scheduled to fly to South Africa.

- CNN's Ashley Killough contributed to this report.

soundoff (25 Responses)
  1. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    WOW!!!
    Historic indeed!!
    Not only was Air Force One carrying our current President but also the one that preceeded him, and the one that will follow him: Hillary Rodham Clinton.
    Also on board our first African-American attorney general Eric Holder, accompanied by our National Security Adviser Susan Rice, and senior White House adviser Valerie Jarrett.
    I hope grandmother Robinson and the girls got to ride along as well!!
    Yes the hell I do!!
    HISTORICAL flight for Air Force One INDEED!!!!
    God bless and keep our President, and may they all return home safe and sound.

    December 9, 2013 04:05 pm at 4:05 pm |
  2. bill

    photo op. golf anyone?

    December 9, 2013 04:06 pm at 4:06 pm |
  3. Gurgyl

    Have a very safe flight, come back safely!!!
    PS: talk less during that visit.

    December 9, 2013 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  4. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA -aka- Take Back The House -aka- No Redemption Votes

    I wonder why H.W. is not attending.

    December 9, 2013 04:19 pm at 4:19 pm |
  5. Never Gone' Happen MittensRobme

    Great Madiba!!

    You've lived well and fought the good fight....now it's time to rest in the bossom of the lord!!!

    Btw, South Africa belongs to Africans and not to some invading White apartheid regime...Madiba has every right to fight and defend his homeland and country....By Any Means Necessary!!!!

    December 9, 2013 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
  6. The Real Tom Paine

    -tom l

    @The Real TP,
    If you think the complaints about the ACA are about a website then I would suggest you read a little bit more. The website is the least of the concerns.
    ****************
    My point is that opposition to the ACA has lurched from one thing to another, when what it really boils dows to is that this is an approach the GOP conceived as an alternative to Single Payer that they cannot take credit for should it succeed, so they will do everything to ensure that it fails. Even you cannot deny that making it fail is the goal, and a constant drumbeat on the shortcomings has certainly helped the GOP, even though they have no detailed alternative. You deliberately skipped over that to stick to your talking points, again.

    December 9, 2013 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  7. Lynda/Minnesota

    "The President and the First Lady have been able to spend time with the Bushes and with Secretary Clinton. And so I think it's a unique experience obviously," Ben Rhodes, deputy national security adviser for strategic communications, told reporters aboard the flight"

    Very unique, indeed. And no doubt quite civil in tone and conversation. How absolutely refreshing.

    December 9, 2013 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  8. Hex

    hopefully it becomes historic....I know what you're thinking. Wow that's terrible, well terrible people deserve what comes to them.

    December 9, 2013 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  9. Anonymous

    so how many millions of dollars are going to be spent on this trip to South Africa....this makes me sick....using Air Force One to visit Obamas home and relatives....

    December 9, 2013 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
  10. Government Waste Rules

    Wow this article is so filled with hope and change my eyeballs may explode.

    December 9, 2013 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
  11. ACanadianPerspective

    Most unciomfortable flight ever.

    December 9, 2013 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  12. robert

    nice to see the king and queen doing what they do best....nothing

    December 9, 2013 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
  13. Emley

    Ok – with no budget signed and a shutdown coming again in January – why are we spending this money and why are they not back in America trying to get the government jump-started? I think this is a waste of money....unless they pay for it themselves......

    December 9, 2013 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  14. The Real Tom Paine

    And I'm sure there are conservatives praying for a mishap.

    December 9, 2013 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  15. One way ticket...

    Hopefully they don't have a return flight booked.....

    December 9, 2013 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  16. Silence DoGood

    Way below, on the ground, are tiny specs mumbling "how much is that costing?", "benghazi", "dictator", mumble, mumble.
    Keep up the good work Mr.President.
    (data point – I kept my same doctor btw)

    December 9, 2013 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  17. wendel

    at least they all seem to get along better than congress. Safe trip to all .

    December 9, 2013 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  18. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    I wonder why H.W. is not attending
    -------------------------------------------------
    Too old/poor health they said.

    December 9, 2013 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  19. Fair is Fair

    Dutch/Bad Newz, VA -aka- Take Back The House -aka- No Redemption Votes

    I wonder why H.W. is not attending.
    ---------
    Ummmmmmmm... because he's in terrible health?

    December 9, 2013 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
  20. Babyboomer

    I pray for a safe journey for everyone on Air Force One as well as those traveling to South Africa for President Mandela's homegoing service by other means. Peace and Blessings to All.

    December 9, 2013 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  21. Steve, New York City

    I am a little surprised that they're putting so many important people on one flight. Although Air Force One is possibly the most protected plane in the world, with fighter jet escorts, etc., still a little surprising that they'd let the current president and a former president take the same flight – not to mention a fomer secretary of state.
    Wow – I hope that funerals aren't the only thing that can spur bipartisanship these days.

    December 9, 2013 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  22. Phil in KC

    @Dutch/Bad Newz, VA – It was no doubt due to his health. I don't think he is up to a trip of this nature at this stage of his life. The last picture I saw of him, he was looking rather frail. But, then, he is 89.

    December 9, 2013 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
  23. GottaBeKidding

    Anonymous

    so how many millions of dollars are going to be spent on this trip to South Africa....this makes me sick....using Air Force One to visit Obamas home and relatives....
    _______________________________________________________________________________________________
    Was wondering when this ridiculous thought would be put into words! How many millions of dollars were spent when other presidents flew on Air Force One for occasions like this! Trips that were also paid for with taxpayer dollars. Bet those trips didn't bother you at all. So why does this trip and every other one that President Obama has taken get under your skin?

    December 9, 2013 05:22 pm at 5:22 pm |
  24. tom l

    "My point is that opposition to the ACA has lurched from one thing to another, when what it really boils dows to is that this is an approach the GOP conceived as an alternative to Single Payer that they cannot take credit for should it succeed, so they will do everything to ensure that it fails. Even you cannot deny that making it fail is the goal"

    ========

    There are so many issues and problems with the ACA that it's easy to jump from one point to the next. People were lied to (if you want to stick your head in the sand on this point that's up to you) but everyone is saying he lied (they're just justifying it now by saying "at least this lie didn't cause us to go to war!" – but it's a lie nonetheless). It was passed without one vote from the other side (so why would they champion something they didn't vote for and had no opportunity for any input?). How about the fact that 11 of the top 18 hospitals either don't accept any patients from the ACA plans or they are extremely limited. How about the fact that the payment system hasn't been built? How about the cost which has increased exponentially?

    Do they want it to fail? Probably. The reason they want it to fail is because there is a better way. There has to be. Repubs have ideas (just google it and you will see things like selling insurance across state lines, tort reform, and many other ideas) but they weren't considered and repubs were told that elections have consequences. 85% of people were satisfied with their healthcare before the law. I find it hard to imagine that 85% of Americans can agree on anything but they agreed on that. What about the other 15% you might ask? There were some fixes that could have been done to improve those 15% but why should the other 85% suffer due to that? I know you will probably now pick on something I didn't say but focus on what I DID say. Respond to that please rather than something that I might have left out.

    And one last request, can you please stop with the disingenuous "this was your plan" line? Because I believe I could just flip that and say how hypocritical it is of you to support something from the Heritage Foundation. Why are so solidly behind something that comes from a conservative organization? Would you have been for this plan had a repub suggested it? I think not. So just because this was something that came out of Heritage is completely irrelevant because it just make you look hypocritical. I'm just sayin...

    December 9, 2013 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
  25. CryBabies

    Silence DoGood...Not one of your bullet points entered my mind. The glass shouldn't always be half empty SDG.

    December 9, 2013 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |