Length of trip: 6 days
Objective: Trumpeting his programs to reduce poverty, illiteracy and disease. More importantly, Bush wants to show that while he may have screwed up the Middle East, ignored the genocide in Darfur and destroyed America’s international prestige, a few African countries still like him.
Travel posse: First Lady Laura Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice (until she got shipped off to Kenya on Monday to play negotiator between that country’s warring factions). Dick Cheney had to stay home because his tendency to scare children would ruin too many charter-school photo ops.
Best gift given: $698 million in aid to fight poverty and disease in Tanzania.
Worst gift given: A pair of Shaquille O’Neal’s size-23 shoes – an obvious afterthought that he probably picked up at a sweatshop on his way from the airport.
Best gift received: An official George W. Bush Day in Benin. It’s a day when everyone wears cowboy boots, tries not to listen to themselves when they talk, makes gut decisions and liberates as many things as possible – unless it is sexual liberation, and then there is only abstinence. Fortunately for Americans, we’ve enjoyed seven years of that kind of non-stop fun.
Worst gift received: A stuffed leopard and lion doll from Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete – an obvious afterthought that he probably picked up at a sweatshop on his way from the airport.
Best possible outcome: Bush doesn’t go all Dick Cheney or Ernest Hemingway and shoot any people or endangered animals.
Length of trip: 14 days
Countries visited: South Africa and Ghana
Objective: Improving health care systems, championing the Internet as a way to make heath resources more available, strengthening study-abroad programs and learning a bit about how African heritage is preserved.
Travel posse: Gary Krenz, special counsel to the president, and 12 University professors and administrators.
Best gift given: A wide variety of University paraphernalia, including pens, desk clocks and books. It’s just like picking up a bunch of stuff from Steve and Barry’s for your grandparents – people love it. What member of African royalty wouldn’t want a “Michigan King” T-shirt?
Worst gift given: An honorary Doctor of Laws degree for the vice chancellor of the University of Cape Town. The University of Michigan seems to be giving these honorary titles out to people like candy – even Mos Def is a visiting professor. Steve and Barry’s should look into making “Michigan Doctor of Laws” T-shirts. Now that’s something the vice chancellor could actually use.
Most likely outcome: A “Discover Africa” theme semester