Bush, Obama have a “friendly” chat on transfer of power

November 11th, 2008 - 10:04 am ICT by IANS  

Washington, Nov 11 (IANS) Barack Obama, who will be America’s first black president in ten weeks, made his first visit to the White House - his future home and office - to discuss transfer of power with President George W. Bush.Bush had a “relaxed” and “friendly” meeting with Obama, who had sharply criticised what he called the president’s “failed policies” during the just-ended election campaign, after he and first lady Laura Bush welcomed their successors at the historic executive mansion shortly before 2 p.m.

As the first couple greeted the Obamas at the driveway on the South Lawn, the women hugged and their husbands shook hands, with Obama using the two-handed greeting common among senators, with his left hand on Bush’s right arm during the handshake.

The two men were dressed almost identically in dark blue business suits, white shirts and blue ties. Laura Bush wore a brown suit and Michelle Obama a red dress.

A few minutes after the couples entered the White House together, Bush and Obama re-emerged and strolled along the colonnade past the Rose Garden to the outer entrance to the Oval Office for his first look in person at his future workplace.

Obama had never been into the storied workspace, even though he had previously visited the white-painted Aquia sandstone Georgian style building that has been the executive residence of every US president since John Adams.

Michelle Obama too had toured the White House before with daughters Malia, who is 10, and Sasha, who is 7. But the two women had never met.

Obama walked just at Bush’s shoulder and appeared to be speaking animatedly, gesturing with both hands. Both waved several times to reporters and others off camera.

While Laura Bush showed Michelle Obama the White House, their husbands met for just over an hour in the Oval Office, discussing the transfer of power from Bush’s Republican administration to Obama’s Democratic leadership.

When President George H.W. Bush hosted President-elect Bill Clinton after the 1992 election, the two talked for nearly two hours.

“The president and the president-elect had a long meeting, described by the president as good, constructive, relaxed and friendly,” White House press secretary Dana Perino said in a statement. “The president enjoyed his visit with the president-elect, and he again pledged a smooth transition to the next administration.”

Perino said the two discussed both national and international issues but did not provide specifics of the conversation. Bush also gave Obama a tour of the White House’s living quarters, including the Lincoln bedroom.

Describing the meeting as ” productive and friendly”, Obama transition spokesperson Stephanie Cutter said the president-elect thanked Bush for both his hospitality and transition help.

“They had a broad discussion about the importance of working together throughout the transition of government in light of the nation’s many critical economic and security challenges,” she said.

Nether the Bushes nor the Obamas spoke to reporters, and details about their meetings were few.

After the White House meeting, Obama flew back to Chicago to work on setting up the new administration that will take over on Jan. 20. Michelle Obama went out hunting a new school for the kids, visiting two of the capital city’s best-known private schools.

Outside, crowds built throughout the day with people pressing their noses through the fencing around the White House complex in hopes of getting a glimpse of the first family to be. Street vendors operating nearby were already stocked with Obama-related merchandise.

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