Accessibility links

Obama, Bush Meet At White House

  • Paula Wolfson

U.S. President George Bush and President-elect Barack Obama have held their first formal meeting at the White House. VOA's Paula Wolfson reports the historic session between two men with very different political views took place behind closed doors, and followed a tough presidential election campaign.

They walked inside the historic mansion along with their wives, and then strolled alone along a paved walkway to the Oval Office for a private meeting.

It is a formal rite of presidential passage - part of peaceful transition of power as old as the nation itself.

After a long hard-fought campaign, both the Republican in the White House and the Democrat who will replace him are vowing to work together in the coming weeks to make sure the Obama administration is ready to run the country on its first day.

White House Press Secretary Dana Perino says President Bush found their initial meeting to be "good, constructive, relaxed and friendly," noting it focused on both domestic and international issues.

She did not provide details, but earlier she stressed that a successful transition is extremely important because this time it is taking place at a time of economic crisis. It is also the first transfer of power in four decades to occur while the nation is at war.

"I would say the president and the president-elect have both set a tone of cooperation, one of a spirit of partnership to be able to move forward," said Dana Perino. "Of course, they have differences on policies. But they both love their country equally. And their love of country they are going to put first, and then they will work together to make sure they have everything that they need going forward."

During the campaign, Senator Obama often criticized the Bush administration, much as his Republican opponent - Senator John McCain - slammed the views and experience of the Democratic nominee.

Presidential historian Douglas Brinkley says the change in tone may be a reflection of the historic outcome of the election - the selection of an African-American president with an agenda of change.

"I think it will become known as a famous transition for the friendliness of it," said Douglas Brinkley. "I say this because of the early signs that they see this as a historic moment."

A spokesman for the incoming administration says this is the first time Mr. Obama has set foot in the Oval Office.

Meanwhile, his wife, Michelle got her initial look at the first family's living quarters - the top floors of the White House, above the historic state rooms.

First Lady Laura Bush was her guide. Her chief of staff, Anita McBride says Mrs. Bush realizes this is also a big transition for the Obama family as it moves into one of the most famous houses in the world.

"No matter how many times you come here, you realize just how beautiful it is, and the historic nature you feel immediately when you walk in the footsteps of all of those that have preceded you," said Anita McBride.

The Obama family will move into their new home on January 20 - Inauguration Day.