Bush, Obama Upbeat on Talks

Posted November 10, 2008 at 4:58pm

President Bush and President-elect Obama spent about two hours together at the White House on Monday, including a meeting lasting just over an hour in the Oval Office and a tour of the official residence, according to White House officials.

Bush later described his time with Obama as “constructive, relaxed and friendly,” according to White House Press Secretary Dana Perino. “The president enjoyed his visit with the president-elect, and he again pledged a smooth transition to the next administration,” Perino said in a statement. Bush and Obama talked about domestic and international issues, Perino said, but she declined to provide specifics, terming the session “private.” Neither Obama nor Bush spoke substantively to the press.

Obama spokeswoman Stephanie Cutter said Obama and Bush had a “productive and friendly” meeting in the Oval Office. “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.

Obama and his wife, Michelle, arrived at the White House about 10 minutes before their scheduled 2 p.m. arrival time. After being warmly greeted by Bush and first lady Laura Bush, the women went to the residence where Michelle Obama received a tour. Afterward, they discussed raising daughters in the White House.

President Bush and President-elect Obama ducked briefly into the main building before heading along the colonnade to the Oval Office in the West Wing.

The formal Oval Office meeting, scheduled to begin at 2:20 p.m., began just after the Obamas arrived and ended a little over an hour later at about 3 p.m. It was Obama’s first visit ever to the Oval Office.

After the Oval Office session, Bush and Obama headed to the residence, where the president showed Obama the living quarters, including an office in the residence used by the president, the Lincoln Bedroom and the rooms that will be used by Obama’s two daughters. Obama and Bush then headed back to the Oval Office for further consultations.

Obama planned to return to Chicago on Monday afternoon. He had no plans to travel to Capitol Hill or meet with lawmakers who may be in town, an Obama aide said earlier.

With the Obamas at the White House were John Podesta, who is leading Obama’s transition effort, and Robert Gibbs, who is expected to become White House press secretary.

Perino earlier today was mostly silent on what Bush and Obama would discuss. But she noted Bush would want to talk about handing off control of the economy and responsibility for protecting the country.

“The transition of power, this time around, is so critically important, one, in regards to the economy, and two, in regards to … the threat of attack that we currently live under,” Perino said.