Picture Post: Dubya does Tanzania, 18.02.08

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The Independent US

Faced with the task of reading a favourite book to a room full of schoolchildren, the second President Bush often seems rather at a loss. Of course, when he gave his ill-fated, leaden recitation of "The Pet Goat" at a Florida elementary school on 11 September 2001, it was because he had rather more important things to think about. But now, as he nears the end of his final term in office, he can sit back and enjoy a few state visits while the rest of Washington focuses on the contest to replace him.

And so, yesterday he found himself in another classroom, this time the Maasai School in Arusha, Tanzania, clutching a copy of that other great American cultural export, The Cat in the Hat by Dr Seuss, and smirking sidelong at a group of nervous schoolgirls.

Bush was in Tanzania to sign a compact for $698m in aid from the United States to help the African nation in its struggle against the spread of malaria. He had also brought Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete, a basketball player in his youth, the gift of a pair of Shaquille O'Neal's trainers.

The brother and sister of Dr Seuss's seminal tale are forced by a "cold, cold wet day" to stay inside, wishing for something to do. President Bush had no such problem, and was entertained, as ever, by the best reception his hosts had to offer. His state visits are often characterised by bemusement, as he grins uncomprehendingly at the performances of local dancers such as these Tanzanians in traditional warrior dress. Sometimes, God help us, he joins in. The native people never seem to know quite what to make of Dubya, and perhaps the feeling is mutual. But, as ever, one thing you can't fault is his enthusiasm.