Face to Face: Obamas meet the Bushes at the White House
United States President-elect Senator Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, met with President Bush and Lady Laura Bush at the White House yesterday.
If first impressions matter, Obama and his wife displayed one similarity to the super-punctual Bushes, pulling up to the White House's South Portico 11 minutes early. The couples traded warm and easy greetings in the crisp autumn sunshine, with the wives exchanging pleasantries about the fall hues each wore - Mrs. Bush in a brown dress and Mrs. Obama in a red one.
While Obama and Bush, in business suits, proceeded waving and smiling down the White House Colonnade for nearly two hours of private talks, Mrs. Obama and Mrs. Bush had their own agenda: talk of raising children in most unusual circumstances. Mrs. Bush conducted a tour of the living quarters of the historic mansion and made introductions to the army of residence staff who look after first families.
Michelle Obama had toured the White House before with daughters Malia, who is 10, and Sasha, who is 7. But the two women had never met.
The 43rd president and the man who will be the 44th - and first black - commander in chief met alone in the Oval Office, with no handlers or staff. It was Obama's first time in the storied workspace, even though he had been to the White House previously for events.
Neither the Bushes nor the Obamas spoke to reporters, and details about their meetings were few.
Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs said the two men "talked extensively" about the economic situation and foreign policy.
"Obviously the topics that came up are what you've seen and heard about in the news recently and about what a number of transition officials spoke about on the Sunday (TV talk) shows," he said.
Topics included "the need to get the economy back on track," Gibbs said, and "what's going on in the auto industry." The discussion on the auto industry wasn't limited to just one of the nation's three largest car makers, he said. "It was a discussion about the broad health of the industry, and they also spoke about the housing industry and foreclosures."
As for Obama's first glimpse of the Oval Office: "He said it was a very, very nice office," Gibbs said...
At the White House, while Bush and Obama talked, parallel confabs went on all around the building.
Bush chief of staff Josh Bolten and Obama transition manager John Podesta, himself a former White House chief of staff under President Clinton, held their own talks after standing off to the side together in the Rose Garden watching their bosses walk by. Obama's likely White House press secretary, Gibbs, got a glimpse of the West Wing digs he probably will occupy _ including a fancy bank of television screens on one wall...
And there was one small but unmistakable sign that it will be Obama who will be in charge before too long: He put his left hand on Bush's back as they went inside the building from Obama's motorcade, as if he was guiding the president into his own house.
Later, as he sat on his plane waiting for takeoff, he was heard to say into his cell phone: "I'm not going to be spending too much time in Washington over the next several weeks."
Video coverage and photo slideshow are available at the link as well.