Former President George W. Bush said he was “shocked” over public reaction regarding his friendship with former First Lady Michelle Obama.
Bush and Obama’s relationship has long intrigued and caused controversy among both Republicans and Democrats, with many not understanding how they can have a relationship when belonging to different political parties.
In an interview with CBS Sunday Morning, Bush recalled the moment when he and Obama embraced at the opening of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, and when he gave her a mint while attending the late Arizona Sen. John McCain’s funeral.
“We got in the car and I think Barbara or Jenna said, ‘Hey, you’re trending!’” said Bush.
“The American people were so surprised that Michelle Obama and I could be friends. I think it’s a problem that Americans are so polarized in their thinking that they can’t imagine a George W. Bush and a Michelle Obama being friends.”
Recently, Bush has been making appearances a variety of programs. He’s openly discussing immigration issues, which he addresses in his upcoming book of paintings.
Bush also published an Op-Ed on the Washington Post calling on Congress to tone down the “harsh rhetoric” on immigration.
“I do want to say to Congress, please put aside all of the harsh rhetoric about immigration, please put aside trying to score political points on either side. I hope I can help set a tone that is more respectful about the immigrant, which may lead to reform of the system,” he said.
Bush and Ms. Obama claim to have developed a relationship over the years. Bush’s wife, former First Lady Laura Bush, calls it a “friendship.”
Obama has said that while they disagree on policies and political parties, “Our values are the same. We don’t disagree about love and compassion. I think that’s true for all of us.”
In an interview with the TODAY show, Bush said he makes it a point to avoid publicly criticizing his predecessors or political rivals since departing the White House.
When asked if he’s been tempted to discuss any of his successors’ actions, he said, “I guess I have been, sure.”
When pressed further, he said: “Anyone in particular? No, I think I’m fine. If I did, Michelle Obama might not be my friend.”