All for Mandela: This is how the Obamas, Clintons and Bushes flew to South Africa (See Photos)

A series of intimate behind-the-scenes photos aboard Air Force One have revealed the moment George W. Bush proudly showed off his artwork to Hillary Clinton and Michelle Obama – and they look impressed.

Other images reveal him sharing a joke with the president and casually chatting ahead of dinner as they flew to South Africa for Nelson Mandela’s memorial service.

The luxury aircraft hosted a political reunion on Monday, as the two Presidents and three first ladies – Laura Bush, Michelle Obama and Hillary Clinton – were on board.

The Obamas retired to the President’s office and regular cabin at the front of the plane while former Secretary of State Clinton was given free reign of the senior staff’s cabin. Bush and his wife Laura were given the medical suite

Impressed: Former President Bush shows photos of his paintings to, from left, Michelle Obama, Hillary Clinton, Advisors Valerie Jarrett and Susan E. Rice, Attorney General Eric Holder and Laura Bush on Air Force One
Friendly: Obama jokes with former Bush shortly after boarding Air Force One for their trip to South Africa

Dinner time: Obama and Bush talk as ahead of dinner aboard Air Force One with their wives and advisors

The former president has been perfecting his painting skills since leaving office, famously producing colourful images of horses, dogs and still life scenes after taking lessons from a local artist. And during the long flight to South Africa, he took the opportunity to show the country’s leading ladies his latest work on his iPad.

He is pictured with Michelle Obama, Hillary Clinton, Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett, National Security Advisor Susan E. Rice, Attorney General Eric Holder and former First Lady Laura Bush.

Rice looks particularly impressed – gasping as he scrolls through the images – while Clinton grins and Holder leans over the table to get a closer look.

In the images taken by White House photographer Pete Souza, Obama is also pictured grinning alongside Bush as they board the plane for South Africa.

In a more serious photograph, the president is pictured editing his speech for the memorial with Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes.

Catching up: Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton talks with the Obama's and Advisor Ben Rhodes

Getting ready: Obama and Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes work on his speech for the memorial

Arrival: The Obamas, Bushes and Clinton arrive in South Africa on Tuesday for Mandela's memorial

Ahead of the journey, White House spokesman Jay Carney said the Obamas were looking forward to the political reunion.

‘It’s a very, I think, enjoyable experience certainly for the president and first lady,’ he said. ‘And they’re both grateful to be able to have former president and first lady, former secretary of state on board.’

After landing, the Obamas were stuck in traffic and arrived at the memorial half an hour late – but were met with applause when they finally entered the stadium.

In his emotional tribute on Tuesday, Obama called the South African leader a ‘giant of history’.

‘To the people of South Africa – people of every race and walk of life – the world thanks you for sharing Nelson Mandela with us,’ he said.

On their way: The presidential motorcade encounters stopped traffic on a freeway in Johannesburg, South Africa. Obama was half an hour late to the service but was greeted by applause in the stadium

Waiting: South Africans cheer as Obama waits in a tunnel at the soccer stadium before taking the stage

Gripped: South Africans listen as Obama delivers remarks at the service, calling Mandela 'a giant of history'

Condolences: Obama greets Graca Machel, Nelson Mandela's widow, after his speech at the service

Solemn: President Obama talks with the First Lady with other world leaders seated nearby. He was criticized for posing for a 'selfie' with Danish leader Helle Thorning-Schmidt, pictured to his left

‘His struggle was your struggle. His triumph was your triumph. Your dignity and hope found expression in his life, and your freedom, your democracy is his cherished legacy.’

He continued: ‘Mandela taught us the power of action, but also ideas; the importance of reason and arguments; the need to study not only those you agree with, but those who you don’t.’

He was also pictured sharing his condolences with Mandela’s widow Graca Machel following the speech.

But the trip didn’t go without its hitches; Obama was pictured shaking the hand of Cuban President Raul Castro at the service – sparking anger that he warmly greeted a ‘murderer’.

Members of Congress, including Florida Republican Senator and son of Cuban immigrants Marco Rubio, expressed their anger on Tuesday.

Friends: Bono greets President and Mrs. Obama as they get ready to depart the memorial service

Goodbyes: President Obama bids farewell to former President Bill Clinton and his daughter Chelsea

On the road: The South African flag alongside the U.S. flag as Obama's motorcade speeds to the airport

Heading home: The Bushes and Obama' board Air Force One in Johannesburg on Tuesday

‘If the president was going to shake his hand, he should have asked him about those basic freedoms Mandela was associated with that are denied in Cuba,’ Rubio said.

Obama also sparked annoyance when he posed for a ‘selfie’ photograph with British Prime Minister David Cameron and Danish leader Helle Thorning-Schmidt.

Some viewers criticized the pose, calling it inappropriate behaviour at an event to remember the life of the anti-apartheid hero, who died last week aged 95.

As the trio posed for the snap, Michelle sat alongside her husband looking somewhat stony faced.

Following the service, the Obamas caught up with former President Bill Clinton and his daughter Chelsea, as well as U2 singer Bono, before heading back to Air Force One.

Back home: President Obama and Michelle Obama walk on the South Lawn at the White House on Wednesday night after returning from the memorial service in South Africa

Read more: Daily Mail

Comments (0)

  1. If I were President Bush I wouldn’t of been seen with such a motley crew of liars, thieves, bigots, predators and racist deviants !!
    and I’m no fan of Dubya!!

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