Obama v Bush: A tale of two state visits

Barack Obama and George Bush

Barack Obama has completed his three-day state visit to the UK. But how did it compare with the last state visit by a US president, when George Bush came to the country eight years ago in 2003?

Obama v Bush


Obama's entourage was believed to consist of about 500 people - including 200 secret service agents. The Obamas, whose US security codenames are Renegade and Renaissance, were also reportedly joined by a team of medics, chefs and White House staff.

The Bushes, whose alternate US identities were Trailblazer and Tempo, were thought to have had an entourage of about 700. As well as secret service agents, national security advisers and government officials, there were also 15 sniffer dogs and five cooks on hand.


Obama's bomb-proof Cadillac is known as "the Beast"

Obama's bomb-proof Cadillac is known as The Beast.

Bush's armoured Cadillac de Ville

Bush's Cadillac de Ville was sometimes called the Stagecoach.

Police security

The Metropolitan Police Service said the policing operation for the entire duration of the state visit involved 5,000 officer shifts. The full cost of policing Obama's visit won't be confirmed until later this year, but it's expected to fall well short of the cost of the state visit by Pope Benedict - £6.9m.

Bush's state visit to London cost police more than £4.1m, according to the former Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir John Stevens. All police leave was cancelled during the visit and the salaries for officers' shifts cost about £2.5m, while overtime, transport and catering came to more than £1.6m.


A Woman protests before U.S. President Barack Obama arrives to visit Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron in London

A small group of radical Muslims gathered outside Downing Street to protest against the visit. Next to the anti-Obama protest, a few members of the right-wing English Defence League staged a counter-demonstration, with police separating the two sides when they threatened to come to blows.

Effigy of Mr Bush

Tens of thousands of people marched against the Iraq war, which climaxed with the toppling of an 25ft effigy of Mr Bush, in a symbolic echo of the destruction of Saddam's statue in Baghdad. One protester also delivered a parting shot by throwing an egg at the presidential cavalcade, but the egg missed.

Casual dining

Obama and Cameron ditched their jackets and dished out burgers at a barbecue in the garden of No 10, in an event hosted by their wives for families of UK and US servicemen. British bangers, Kentish lamb chops, corn on the cob, Jersey Royal potatoes and caesar salad were also on the menu. Dessert was summer berries and ice cream.

Much was made of Blair and Bush and their wives eating fish, chips and mushy peas at the Dun Cow Inn in Tony Blair's Sedgefield constituency. The starter was cream of potato and leek soup and dessert was a lemon creme brulee. Mr Bush washed it down with a non-alcoholic lager. Mrs Bush and the Blairs sipped soft drinks.

Moment of rapport

US President Barack Obama and UK PM David Cameron playing table tennis Playing table tennis in a visit to a south London academy Former US President George Bush  and former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair Having a beer (albeit non-alcoholic) in a pub in Sedgefield

Formal dining

On the state banquet menu for the Obamas was sole with watercress, lamb in basil, roasted radish and courgettes, green beans and roast potatoes. It was followed by vanilla charlotte with morello cherries.

The Bushes' Buckingham Palace menu was consomme with sorrel, roast halibut with herbs, breast of chicken with basil, roast potatoes and Savoy cabbage, followed by vanilla praline and coffee ice-cream.

Banquet VIPs

President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama with the Queen

Famous names included actors Tom Hanks and Kevin Spacey and actress Helena Bonham Carter.

Bush, the Queen and Laura Bush arrive in the White Drawing Room of Buckingham Palace for the State dinner

Celebrity guests included actor Sir Michael Caine and entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson.


The Queen gave Michelle Obama an antique gold and red coral brooch in the form of roses, while Obama received a book containing a selection of letters, from the royal archives, between past US presidents and British monarchs. The Queen received a leather-bound album containing photographs of her parents' trip to America in 1939.

The Queen gave Laura Bush a jewellery box made by her nephew Viscount Linley and Bush a solid silver rule engraved with the royal cypher and the US presidential seal, and a specially-bound copy of The Royal Treasures, A Gold Jubilee Celebration. Meanwhile, the Bushes gave the royal couple a specially commissioned set of china.

Talking points

Libya and the developments across the Middle East, in Syria and Yemen and the fight against terrorism were discussed during 90 minutes of talks between Obama and Cameron. Other issues included the global economy, climate change and international security.

Iraq featured heavily in the Bush-Blair talks but it did not totally dominate. International terrorism, the terror attacks against British targets in Turkey, Guantanamo internees and free trade were among the other key issues discussed.

First Lady

Michelle Obama

As well as co-hosting a barbecue with Samantha Cameron, Michelle Obama spoke to schoolgirls at Oxford University. The trip - arranged at her suggestion - aimed to encourage the girls to think about studying for a degree. All eyes were also on Michelle when she met the Queen but there was no repeat of her "faux pas" hug two years ago.

Laura Bush in 2003

Former First Lady Laura Bush kept a relatively low profile during the 2003 three-day state visit, seemingly happy to let her husband have the limelight. Laura and Cherie Blair watched a children's Shakespeare performance together, and the pair were also treated to a menu prepared by British celebrity chef Nigella Lawson.

Slip up

Obama suffered an awkward moment during the palace banquet when he proposed a toast "to the Queen" - which prompted the orchestra to start playing the national anthem. Obama carried on talking and raised his glass to the monarch before the music had finished.

There was no widely reported mishap by Bush in 2003, however during the Queen's state visit to the US in 2007, the former president slipped up in a speech on the lawn outside the White House. He suggested the Queen had been on the throne since the 18th century. Then when he realised his mistake, he turned to the monarch and winked at her.

Newspaper headline

The Daily Mirror's headline on 25 May 2011 was a picture of the Queen and Obama, saying: "The Best of Buddies".

The Daily Telegraph's headline on 20 November 2003 was a picture of Bush and the Queen, saying: "Bush: You're our closest friend".

Trips abroad

Number of visits to various countries at the same point in their presidencies - two years in.

Number of visits to various countries at the same point in their presidencies


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