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

Bush, African host deflect Obama query

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i.l.cnn.net/cnn/2008/images/02/17/art.bushafrica.ap.jpg caption="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. Ryan

    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?

    February 17, 2008 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
  2. Tim T.

    "...for me..." Grow up, Boy George.

    February 17, 2008 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |
  3. Gary

    Bush is the worst president in decades, and John McCain only represents more of the same failed policies this country has been under for the last 7 years. I'm an independent voter, and I'll be voting for Barack Obama in November.

    February 17, 2008 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  4. G. Berry

    topic-failed politics- It seems crystal clear that for over two hundred years,the political process has never addressed the issue of a true
    voting process to establish and consumate the the coined phrase,
    "We The People" I feel that given the opportunity that America
    enjoys now by deciding the next American Idol, by way of telephone
    votes, is a concept that should be implemented in every new law
    being considered–but wait? you mean let America vote? and decide it's own fate on sensitive issues even national security issues and taxes.... absolutely! The point is simply this- If anybody running for
    president really cared about their loyal subjects in even the smallest
    measure of it's word, they would decree and deploy this concept
    into United States Law,so that We the People would'nt be left out!!

    February 17, 2008 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  5. mary

    Who is Larry Sinclair? and what are his connections to Obama? and is what I was told true?

    February 17, 2008 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  6. Amy, Kazoo

    so it CAN be about race in the media? I notice no one is going to Europe and asking Hillary's ancestoral lines how they feel about the possibility of electing a woman president. Double standards all the way.

    February 17, 2008 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  7. Jenny

    Hahahaha, this just made me laugh.

    February 17, 2008 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  8. John G Charleston SC

    "...literally thousands of screaming fans lining a red carpet to get a chance to shake his hand."

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

    Wait a gosh darn minute here...I thought the whole world hated us and especially Bush. I thought Hillary's first act in office would be send a goodwill delegation around the world to repair our image and get people back on our side. These folks seem to be on our side. What's going on here?

    February 17, 2008 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  9. Holly B

    Well no one asked about Hillary, did they? Only Obama can restore our reputation overseas!

    Hillary is NOT the solution, she is just unelectable!!

    February 17, 2008 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  10. Com-n-sense

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

    With friends like this you don't need enemies.

    February 17, 2008 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  11. Mick

    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?

    February 17, 2008 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  12. Janet

    Africa continues to become endebted to other countries instead of picking themselves up by the bootstraps. What have the majority of African nations accomplished on their own since the colonial powers left 40-50 years ago. Let's not forget that African nations are the second largest contributors of oil to the U.S. and the Bush family monies come largely from big oil.

    February 17, 2008 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  13. Sparkle, MO

    Of course he would interject and deflect the question with a joke. This is what he has done for the last 8 years and what he & his father hope to continue doing through John McCain. McCain has sold out so much since his last presidential campaign. I actually voted for McCain in the last election he competed in because I felt that he was a better representative of the people than any of the other Republican or Democrat candidates. I would never vote for him again with all of the shuffling and changes of opinion he has made.

    I would have loved to hear what the African leader would have replied

    February 17, 2008 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  14. james

    Bush didn't comment because he is a Hillary Clinton fan. By the way, so is John McCain. I think that should be a message for democrats and independents. We dont want anybody in the oval office for the next 4 to 8 years that Bush and McCain support.

    February 17, 2008 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  15. Janet

    I wonder what kind of under-the-table deals Bush and the Republicans are trying to make with Tanzania before he gets booted out of office.. We'll wait and see

    February 17, 2008 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  16. Deogwon

    The focus on abstinence in Bush's AIDS plan just show how out of touch he and the Republican party are with the realities of the world.

    February 17, 2008 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  17. Bri

    Ryan on February 17th, 2008 11:55 am ET said:

    "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?? "

    Are you sure this is a RULE rather than a practice?

    February 17, 2008 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  18. jershom

    Holly B

    No one asked about Hillary because it was AFRICA. OBAMA"S father is a ntive of Kenya. Why would they bother about Hillary??

    February 17, 2008 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  19. La Raza

    Bush is horrible.

    February 17, 2008 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  20. Sparkle, MO

    Newsflash everyone: to the rest of the world having a woman as the president/prime minister is nothing new. Only in our backward "democracy" is this such a big new idea. Life exists outside of the U. S. of A!

    February 17, 2008 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  21. Leslie

    "...our excitement is that President Bush is at the end of his term..."

    They're not the only ones who are excited about that.

    February 17, 2008 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  22. Puddytat

    The excitement in Africa is about OBAMA . He tapped a message from Iowa to Kenya for broadcast on "THE VOICE OF AMERICA" because of the bloody murders and violence after the alleged fixed election. ..."Despite irregularities in the vote tabulation,... NOW IS NOT THE TIME to throw that strong democracy away . ......

    Diane Sawyer, "If you were president at this time would you do more ... would you send in troops to end the violence?"

    "Obama , Well, I don't think we're at that stage yet ."

    Obama wants to bring our troops home . THEN WHAT ?

    February 17, 2008 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  23. Carrie

    Even the world loves Obama! Love it!

    Obama 08!

    February 17, 2008 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  24. Puddytat

    Hey Ryan ! How many homes do ANY of the candidates have ??? And guess what ?? we have to spend lots of money on security and upkeep for them even after they leave office ... for the rest of their lives .

    Vote for Huckabee ... he has one little house and lots of sense if he isn't beat up like the rest of us for the love of big money interests. ..

    February 17, 2008 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  25. Charlotte

    What will Obama do for his homeland?

    February 17, 2008 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
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