Obamas and Bushes together 16 hours for Mandela

Oh, to be a fly on the wall

Oh, to be a fly on that wall.  President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama flew to South Africa today for Tuesday’s memorial service for Nelson Mandela where Obama is expected to give remarks. On board Air Force One for the 16-hour trip: Hillary Clinton, attorney general Eric Holder, national security advisor Susan Rice, top White House advisor Valerie Jarrett — and former president George W. Bush and Laura Bush. (Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter are flying to Johannesburg separately.)

White House spokesman, Ben Rhodes, told reporters on board the plane earlier today that,

“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.  And I think they all are remembering their different interactions with Nelson Mandela and his family, because again, 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.”


Spokesman Jay Carney said that the crowd had “kind of congregated” in a conference room aboard the president’s specially-equipped aircraft:

“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 former President and First Lady, former Secretary of State on board.”

‘There have been very good conversations in that room,” he added. But it’s not all Bushes, all the time. The president, said Carney, “comes and goes — because he’s also in [his] office doing some work.”