By Christi Parsons
9:29 AM EDT, April 25, 2013
DALLAS -- President Obama is in the heart of George W. Bush country to pay tribute to the former president he describes as “concerned about all people in America, not just those who voted Republican."
Obama kicked off his Texas visit at a fundraiser where he urged wealthy donors to help elect Democrats for the good of the country, but Obama was complimentary of his Republican predecessor as he prepared to attend the opening of the Bush presidential library on Thursday.
“One of the things I will insist upon is, whatever our political differences, President Bush loves this country and loves its people,” Obama told the donors late Wednesday.
That’s far cry from Obama’s past pronouncements about Bush, whom he has blamed for everything from running a “dumb” war in Iraq to crashing the economy. In his first term, Obama routinely began the story of his administration by enumerating the problems he inherited from Bush.
The passage of time has softened the criticism. As White House Press Secretary Jay Carney puts it, “there’s a special bond between those who have served their country from the Oval Office. There’s no job like it.”
Obama takes on one of the tougher parts of that job later in the day, when he speaks at a memorial service for people killed and injured in last week’s deadly explosion at a fertilizer plant in West, Texas.
First Lady Michelle Obama will join him as he speaks with families of victims, a somber duty Obama performed this winter after the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School and again last week after the Boston Marathon bombing.
In his fifth year in office, Obama speaks more gently of the man who did that job just before him. Speaking to fellow Democrats on Wednesday night, Obama said that the Democratic Party “doesn’t always get it right.”
Their feelings of concern for the country are not “unique to Democrats.”
Bush shares their concerns, he said, adding, “I think that’s true about him and I think that’s true about most of us."
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