Bush, Obama Meet Today at White House
Updated 11:35 a.m.
By Michael D. Shear and Dan Eggen
President Bush will play host today to the man who plans a quick repudiation of his policies, providing President-elect Barack Obama a tour of the White House before meeting with him in private in the Oval Office.
The current and future presidents will smile for the cameras as Obama and his wife, Michelle, visit to the house they and their two daughters will occupy for the next four years.
But the smiles will likely mask the tension between the two men. Obama won by campaigning against Bush as much as he did by campaigning against Sen. John McCain. He condemned Bush's "failed policies" and urged voters to reject "another four years" of a Bush presidency.
Now, Obama is likely to move rapidly to undo some of Bush's legacies: His transition chief, John Podesta, said over the weekend that Obama may use executive orders to ease restrictions on stem cell research, change torture policies that Democrats opposed and slow down plans to drill for oil offshore.
And in the longer-term, Obama has pledged to end the Iraq war, reverse almost a decade of Bush economic policy and take a dramatically different approach to health and social policy.
That reality will hang between the two men today. But Obama said Friday that he will not "anticipate problems" before the meeting. And Obama will need Bush's help and guidance as the current occupant of the Oval Office prepares to hand over responsibility for terrorism, war planning and the economic crisis.
At the same time, officials and outside experts have said in recent days that the Obama team and the Bush White House are working with exceptional cooperation to prepare for the transition.
From the public perspective, the visit is likely to be purely symbolic, with any substance concealed behind the well-guarded doors. The official White House schedule indicates there will be only a brief chance at photographs and video footage as the Obamas arrive.
White House press secretary Dana Perino said this morning that the meeting is "very private," adding that "I'm sure that this won't be the only time that they speak."
The president and first lady will greet their successors at the South Portico of the White House at 2 p.m., according to the schedule. After the initial greeting, the couples will move into the Diplomatic Reception Room to meet with the chief usher of the White House, Perino said. Bush and Obama will then stroll along the Colonnade on their way to the Oval Office to meet alone, with no aides present; Laura Bush and Michelle Obama will peel away for their tour.
There are no planned remarks from the Bushes or Obamas listed on the schedule, though it's possible that one or more of them might say a few words. The event is known as "pool only," meaning that only a limited number of pre-assigned reporters, photographers and camera crews may attend.
The Oval Office meeting itself is scheduled to begin at 2:20 p.m. There are no public events on the schedule, though both the White House and Obama campaign are likely to release statements afterwards.
Obama has never set foot in the Oval Office before, and has had only a handful of direct interactions with Bush. In his book, "The Audacity of Hope," Obama describes one of his earliest meetings with Bush, at a 2005 White House event for new lawmakers shortly after Obama was elected to the Senate. Here's how Obama tells the story:
"'Obama!' the President said, shaking my hand. 'Come here and meet Laura. Laura, you remember Obama. We saw him on TV during election night. Beautiful family. And that wife of yours--that's one impressive lady.'
"'We both got better than we deserve, Mr. President,' I said, shaking the First Lady's hand and hoping that I'd wiped any crumbs off my face. The President turned to an aide nearby, who squirted a big dollop of hand sanitizer in the President's hand.
"'Want some?' the President asked. 'Good stuff. Keeps you from getting colds.'
"Not wanting to seem unhygienic, I took a squirt."
According to Obama's account, Bush went on to offer the new U.S. senator from Illinois a little advice. "You've got a bright future," Bush said, according to the book. "Very bright. But I've been in this town for a while and, let me tell you, it can be tough. When you get a lot of attention like you've been getting, people start gunnin' for ya.
"And it won't necessarily be coming from my side, you understand," Bush continued. "From yours, too. Everybody'll be waiting for you to slip, know what I mean? So watch yourself."
"Thanks for the advice, Mr. President," Obama responded.
Michelle Obama will also spend time in Washington today scouting schools for the couple's two daughters, Malia, 10, and Sasha, 7, according to sources familiar with her plans. Both official and unofficial Washington have been buzzing with speculation since the election about where the girls -- currently in 2nd and 5th grade -- will be hitting the books come January.
Posted at 8:41 AM ET on Nov 10, 2008
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