DAR ES SALAAM, Tanzania (AP) — Democratic President Barack Obama and Republican predecessor President George W. Bush found common ground in Africa on Tuesday, honoring the victims of a terrorist attack in an unprecedented chance encounter a world away from home.
The U.S. presidents had a brief, silent appearance together at a monument to victims of the 1998 embassy bombing here in the east African city where Bush coincidentally happened to be as Obama wrapped up a weeklong tour of the continent. While the two U.S. leaders didn't say anything publicly, their wives engaged in a warm and chatty joint appearance at a summit on African women.
Initially the two presidents weren't even planning to meet while in town, but first lady Michelle Obama joked as she sat next to her predecessor: "They're learning from us."
The Obamas departed Africa for home shortly after crossing paths with the Bushes, who were hosting the summit promoting the role of African first ladies in bringing change to their countries. Bush ended up joining the current president for the wreath-laying ceremony honoring the Tanzanian victims of the simultaneous attacks at the U.S. embassies here and in Kenya masterminded by Osama bin Laden.
The two presidents bowed their heads as a Marine placed the wreath of red, white and blue flowers in front of the large stone memorial on the grounds of the new U.S. Embassy. After a few moments, they shook hands with survivors of the attack and relatives of those killed before walking back into the embassy together in private discussion.
At that very moment, their wives were putting on a public display of mutual affection in a discussion moderated by American journalist Cokie Roberts. Mrs. Obama said she wanted to appear with Laura Bush because "I like this woman."