ABOARD AIR FORCE ONE (AP) — A joint wave from the Air Force One, a shared dinner, and a long flight home. President Barack Obama and former President George W. Bush shared quality time Tuesday as they returned from Nelson Mandela’s memorial service in South Africa.
Reconciliation was in the air.
Bush and his wife, former first lady Laura Bush, had round-trip passage with Obama and first lady Michelle Obama for the service, an international “who’s who” of current and former international political leaders.
As Obama and Michelle Obama boarded the presidential jet Tuesday, they waited at the top of the stairs for the Bushes to climb the steps behind them. At the threshold of the plane’s fore cabin Obama encouraged Bush and the two wives to turn and offer a farewell wave in unison.
It was a rare moment of unity for the 43rd and the 44th presidents, whose policy and ideological differences were on sharp display during the 2008 presidential election.
Once aboard, White House spokesman Jay Carney said, the Obamas and the Bushes dined together in the Air Force One conference room. There they were joined by senior Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett, Attorney General Eric Holder, and national security adviser Susan Rice.
Hillary Clinton, who flew to South Africa with the Obamas and Bushes on Monday, was not on the return flight. She traveled separately with former President Bill Clinton and their daughter Chelsea.