President Obama went to the press cabin on Air Force One to say he doesn't need a "photo-op" with the ailing Nelson Mandela, who's currently in a Johannesburg hospital. President Obama himself will land in South Africa shortly and says he doesn't want to be "obtrusive" to the Mandela family.
Via the Twitter account of Hans Nichols, Bloomberg White House reporter:
UPDATE: Here's the transcript, via the White House:
Q Sir, looking forward to your trip in South Africa comes at a time when, obviously, a lot of people in the region are focused on the ailing health of Nelson Mandela. I know you have a relationship with him -- do you hope to visit him? Do you think that your message there will change?
THE PRESIDENT: I think the message will be consistent because it draws on the lessons of Nelson Mandela’s own life -- that if we focus on what Africa as a continent can do together and what these countries can do when they’re unified, as opposed to when they’re divided by tribe or race or religion, then Africa’s rise will continue. And that’s one of the central lessons of what Nelson Mandela accomplished not just as President, but in the struggle to overcome Apartheid and his years in prison.
We’ll see what the situation is when we land. I don’t need a photo-op, and the last thing I want to do is to be in any way obtrusive at a time when the family is concerned about Nelson Mandela’s condition. I’ve had the opportunity to meet with him. Michelle and the girls had an opportunity to meet with him. Right now, our main concern is with his wellbeing, his comfort, and with the family’s wellbeing and comfort.
So when we get there we’ll gauge the situation, but I think the main message we’ll want to deliver if not directly to him but to his family is simply our profound gratitude for his leadership all these years and that the thoughts and prayers of the American people are with him, and his family, and his country. I think in that sense, the sentiment of Americans is universally shared around the world.
Q Have you gotten an update on his condition or talked to his family lately?
THE PRESIDENT: We’ll find out more when we land.