Three times Michelle Obama and George W. Bush proved friendship can cross party lines

Astrid Riecken/Getty ImagesFormer first lady Michelle Obama embraces former president George Bush at the opening of the National Museum of African American History and Culture in September 2016.
  • Former First Lady Michelle Obama and former President George W. Bush have a surprisingly warm friendship, especially for a pair who hold different worldviews in a time of deep partisan and cultural divisions.
  • Obama called Bush “a beautiful, funny, kind, sweet man,” despite their political differences.
  • A few public moments of affection between the two have have gone viral, an indication of the country’s “hunger” for leaders who can rise above political divides.

Former First Lady Michelle Obama and former President George W. Bush have a surprisingly warm friendship, especially for a pair who hold different worldviews in a time of deep partisan and cultural divisions.

In recent years, Obama has repeatedly praised her husband’s predecessor, even calling Bush her “partner in crime.” And a few public moments of affection the two have shared have gone viral.

In a Wednesday interview with Bush’s daughter, Jenna Bush Hager of NBC News, Obama called the former president “a beautiful, funny, kind, sweet man,” though she added, “I don’t know that I agree with him on everything.”

Bush Hager said the feeling is mutual.

“I got a text from my dad this morning that said, ‘Send Michelle my love,'” she told Obama.

Obama said that the relationship is evidence that what separates Republicans and Democrats is disagreement on policy, not fundamental differences of character.

“We’ve become a culture where the nasty sells,” Obama said. “But the truth is much more complicated and complex than that. And I’d love if we as a country could get back to the place where we didn’t demonize people who disagreed with us.”

She went on, “We’re all Americans. We all care about our family and our kids, and we’re trying to get ahead. We have different ideas about what’s the best way to get there. You know? But that doesn’t make me evil. And that doesn’t make him, you know, stupid.”

Obama said the gesture may have struck a chord because people are “hungry” for leaders who can rise above the political fray.

“Party doesn’t separate us. Colour, gender – those kinds of things don’t separate us. It’s the messages that we send,” Obama said. “If we’re the adults and the leaders in the room and we’re not showing that level of decency, we cannot expect our children to do the same.”

The two have a friendship stretching back since Barack Obama’s first inauguration.

“She kind of likes my sense of humour,” Bush told People magazine last year. “Anybody who likes my sense of humour, I immediately like.”


Transitioning into and out of power

Getty ImagesFormer Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush and former First Ladies Michelle Obama and Laura Bush.

Beginning with President Barack Obama’s first inauguration, the Bush and Obama families have put on a public show displaying their friendly relationship. And by all appearances, the former first couples have gotten along famously since then.


Coming together in tragedy

Obama and Bush share a moment during a memorial service for five police officers who were killed during a shooting in Dallas in July, 2016.


“The hug that went around the world,” Jenna Bush Hager called it.

Astrid Riecken/Getty Images

Obama embraces Bush at the opening of the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington in September 2016.

“When I saw her, it was a genuine expression of affection,” Bush told People magazine of the moment last year.


Sharing candy

Screenshot/CNN

Bush was caught on camera passing Obama a cough drop during Sen. John McCain’s funeral service in Washington, DC in September.

A clip of Obama mouthing “thank you” as Bush passed her the cough drop while Sen. Joe Lieberman was giving his eulogy went viral online – and became a symbol of bipartisanship and human decency at a time of deep political and cultural division.

“He is my partner in crime at every major thing where all the ‘formers’ gather,” Obama said of Bush in an interview on the “Today” show last month. “So we’re together all the time, and I love him to death. He’s a wonderful man. He’s a funny man.”

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