President Barack Obama complimented former President George W. Bush by name Monday.
The compliment came when he answered a question at a press conference in Tanzania about generous U.S. funding to counter the damage wrought by AIDS in Africa.
“President Bush deserves enormous credit for that,” Obama said. “This is one of his crowning achievements. … Millions of people’s lives have been saved.”
Bush and Congress established the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, or PEPFAR, in 2003. The program spent $15 billion from 2003 to 2008 to counter the spread and damage of AIDS in Africa. The program saved 1 .1 million lives, according to a 2009 report.
In 2008, Congress tripled the size of the program, and authorized spending of $48 billion by the end of 2013.
Throughout his first term and into his second term, Obama has been reluctant to name or credit Bush for his policies, even when Obama continues or intensifies the same policies. For example, Obama has continued Bush’s policy of using drones to target jihadis, and he’s used Bush’s “No Child Left Behind” education law to centralize federal direction of states’ education policies.
But Obama also suggested today that his administration has improved the PEPFAR program. “We’re serving four times as many people,” and spending money to curb tuberculosis and malaria, he said today.
Earlier in the trip, on Friday, June 28, Obama complimented Bush during an informal meeting with some reporters aboard Air Force One.
“First of all, if you look at a program like PEPFAR, President Bush deserves enormous credit for that,” he told the reporters. “It is really important. And it saved lives of millions of people. But even on PEPFAR, for example, what we’re doing is transitioning so that it’s not just a matter of delivering antiviral drugs; it’s also how do we create a health infrastructure in these countries that’s sustainable.”