- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 16, 2008

On a day dominated by troubling financial news, President Bush on Monday hosted the president of Ghana and his wife, John Kufuor and Theresa Mensah, for just the sixth state visit and dinner of his presidency.

The day’s festivities were meant to highlight the strong relationship between the two leaders - who both took office in January 2001 and will leave office this winter - as well as Ghana’s commitment to free-market economics and democracy, and U.S. aid to Africa under Mr. Bush.

“Under your watch you have increased the support for the fight against HIV/AIDS, which is devastating many countries on our continent,” Mr. Kufuor said to Mr. Bush. “I believe that’s humanitarian, and you have to be accorded the credit for this gesture.”

Mr. Bush and first lady Laura Bush received the couple at an elaborate arrival ceremony on the White House South Lawn.

The pomp-and-circumstance arrival ceremony has been awarded, in the president’s second term, only to Queen Elizabeth II of Britain and Pope Benedict XVI, although the pope’s visit was not officially a state visit.

In Mr. Bush’s first term, he held state dinners for heads of state from Kenya, the Philippines, Poland and Mexico.

Mr. Bush spoke briefly at the arrival ceremony, lauding Ghana as “a model of entrepreneurship and democracy on the continent of Africa.”

Mr. Kufuor also spoke, thanking Mr. Bush in particular for the $547 million in aid from the U.S., which Ghana will use to “modernize and commercialize agriculture.”

“And my hope is that history would prove kinder to you,” Mr. Kufuor said.

At the state dinner, the heads of state and their guests dined on gratin of Maine lobster, late-summer corn pudding, ginger-scented farm lamb, and graham cracker crumble and cocoa pod shell.

Their guests included former Yankee outfielder David Winfield and his wife, Tonya; Ronald Tschetter, director of the Peace Corps, and his wife, Nancy; Wess Stafford, the president of Compassion International; and Mark Affleck, director of the peace plan at Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church, and his wife, Cindy.

Looming over the day’s celebratory ceremonies, however, was the ominous state of the U.S. economy, as the Dow Jones Industrial Average had its worst day since just after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, falling 500 points.

The president’s demeanor during the arrival ceremony, which took place minutes before the stock market opened, appeared grim and preoccupied.

Mr. Bush was forced by events over the weekend - as one major investment firm collapsed and another was forced to sell itself - to address the economy at the beginning of a joint statement with Mr. Kufuor in the Rose Garden.

“I know Americans are concerned about the adjustments that are taking place in our financial markets,” Mr. Bush said. “In the short run, adjustments in the financial markets can be painful. … In the long run, I’m confident that our capital markets are flexible and resilient, and can deal with these adjustments.”

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