George W. Bushsays he was ‘shocked’ by the public’s response to his bipartisan bond withMichelle Obama.
In a new interview with CBS News’ Norah O’Donnell, the 43rd president, 74, spoke about his friendship with the former first lady, 57, recalling the “big hug” they shared at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C. in 2016. Bush noted that the moment that “became more famous” than the hug was when he and Obama exchanged candy at the 2018 funeral of John McCain (see clip below)
“It shocked me,” Bush said of the public reaction. “We got in the car and I think Barbara or Jenna said, ‘Hey, you’re trending!’ The American people were so surprised that Michelle Obama and I could be friends.” Bush added, “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.”
We previously reported, in a 2017 interview with PEOPLE magazine, Bush said of Michelle… “She kind of likes my sense of humor. Anybody who likes my sense of humor, I immediately like.” The ex-prez went on to note that he was regularly seated beside the ex-FLOTUS at official events like Nancy Reagan’s memorial service, an interfaith memorial service for Texas police officers last year, and the September 2016 dedication ceremony in Washington, D.C., to mark the opening of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture. “I can’t remember where else I’ve sat next to her, but I probably have a few wise cracks and she seemed to like it okay,” said Bush to PEOPLE. “I needle her a little bit and around her, I’m fairly lighthearted. [The Obamas] are around serious people all the time and we just took to each other.”
Over the years, Mrs. Obama has spoken about her fondness for Bush. In December 2019, she told his daughter, Jenna Bush Hager, that they share the same values.
“I had an opportunity to sit by your father at funerals, the highs and the lows, and we shared stories about our kids and about our parents,” Obama said during a Today interview. “Our values are the same,” she added. “We disagree on policy, but we don’t disagree on humanity, we don’t disagree about love and compassion. I think that’s true for all of us — it’s just that we get lost in our fear of what’s different.”