It’s something we’ve never seen before, let alone in Africa: first ladies Michelle Obama and Laura Bush sharing the stage for a conversation in Tanzania. And ABC News’ Cokie Roberts had the best seat in the house—the only other seat on stage, in fact—moderating a discussion between the two women.
Roberts, who has written a book on American first ladies, caught up with Politics Confidential shortly after the first-of-its-kind meeting and remarked on the bond that the two first ladies share.
“They genuinely like each other--that's clear--that they genuinely like each other,” Roberts said of the relationship between the two first ladies.
The historic meeting came together by chance, Roberts said, after Laura Bush discovered that President Obama’s tour of Africa overlapped with a trip that she and her husband, former President George W. Bush, had planned to take to Africa for their own humanitarian work on the continent.
“Mrs. Bush invited Mrs. Obama when she realized she was going to be in the country to come,” Roberts said. “Mrs. Obama could have pretty much trumped this event, but she said she wanted to have a conversation with Mrs. Bush.”
In comparing the two women, Roberts pointed out that Laura Bush took a more activist role as first lady, especially during President Bush’s second term, than Michelle Obama has so far.
“One of the things I can't get over is that people think of her as some sort of a prim librarian--and she hates that of course--but she's the only first lady to come to the White House press room, come grab the microphone, and use it to call for the overthrow of the Burmese government,” she said, also noting that Laura Bush traveled to 75 countries as first lady.
It’s likely that the Michelle Obama will become more outspoken now that her husband isn’t up for reelection, Roberts said.
“It's very possible that we will see a different Michelle Obama in the second term,” Roberts said. “I think we will really see a different one after the president leaves office..she will be out there making her opinions more widely known, when they can't be damaging to him.”
For more of the interview with Cokie Roberts, and to hear about how the Bush’s initiatives in Africa have improved the lives of millions, check out this episode of Politics Confidential.
ABC's Mary Bruce, Eric Wray, Alexandra Dukakis, James Mitchell, and Bjorn Rudner contributed to this episode.