Bush, Obama to meet at White House

Rick Moran
The New York Times refers to the potential "awkwardness" of the meeting and that might be an understatement:

For nearly two years on the campaign trail, Senator Barack Obama rarely missed a chance to take a swipe at President Bush. The name George W. Bush invariably followed the phrase “failed policies” in Mr. Obama’s speeches. “When George Bush steps down,” Mr. Obama once declared, “the world is going to breathe a sigh of relief.”

On Monday, Mr. Obama, Democrat of Illinois, may find himself conveniently forgetting those words — or at least delicately stepping around the fact that he had said them. As the president-elect, he will be welcomed at the White House as an honored guest of its current occupant, Mr. Bush, for a meeting that could be as awkward as it is historic.

In a time-honored tradition of American democracy, Mr. Obama and his wife, Michelle, will receive a tour of their new home from Mr. Bush and the first lady, Laura Bush. Then the men will split off to begin the formal transfer of power, all the more urgent this year because of the financial crisis. Mr. Obama has said he expects a “substantive conversation between myself and the president.”

But there will also be a subtext to the session: the personal chemistry between two leaders whose worldviews are miles apart. The ritual visit is occurring uncommonly early this year, less than a week after Mr. Obama handily defeated Senator John McCain of Arizona, who was the Republican nominee and Mr. Bush’s preferred candidate. Emotions may still be raw.


I doubt whether the coolness between the two men (and probably two women as well) could match some of these meetings in history. Consider what happened at Eisenhower's inaugural:

When Dwight and Mamie Eisenhower arrived at the White House to pick up the President for the ride to the Capitol, they not only refused to enter for a cup of coffee with the Trumans, but stayed in the vehicle until Truman came outside. CBS correspondent Eric Sevareid, who observed the incident, wrote, "It was a shocking moment." Head usher J. B. West put it this way: "I was glad I wasn't in that car."



Eisenhower apparently didn't like Kennedy either. Jackie Kennedy described the mood of the car with the two presidents on the trip from the White House to the Capitol for the inaugural as "glacial."

It has been reported that Mr. Bush is very sensitive to criticism. If this is true, wouldn't you like to be a fly on the wall when these two sit down alone?

I have more on this historic meeting at my own site.


The New York Times refers to the potential "awkwardness" of the meeting and that might be an understatement:

For nearly two years on the campaign trail, Senator Barack Obama rarely missed a chance to take a swipe at President Bush. The name George W. Bush invariably followed the phrase “failed policies” in Mr. Obama’s speeches. “When George Bush steps down,” Mr. Obama once declared, “the world is going to breathe a sigh of relief.”

On Monday, Mr. Obama, Democrat of Illinois, may find himself conveniently forgetting those words — or at least delicately stepping around the fact that he had said them. As the president-elect, he will be welcomed at the White House as an honored guest of its current occupant, Mr. Bush, for a meeting that could be as awkward as it is historic.

In a time-honored tradition of American democracy, Mr. Obama and his wife, Michelle, will receive a tour of their new home from Mr. Bush and the first lady, Laura Bush. Then the men will split off to begin the formal transfer of power, all the more urgent this year because of the financial crisis. Mr. Obama has said he expects a “substantive conversation between myself and the president.”

But there will also be a subtext to the session: the personal chemistry between two leaders whose worldviews are miles apart. The ritual visit is occurring uncommonly early this year, less than a week after Mr. Obama handily defeated Senator John McCain of Arizona, who was the Republican nominee and Mr. Bush’s preferred candidate. Emotions may still be raw.


I doubt whether the coolness between the two men (and probably two women as well) could match some of these meetings in history. Consider what happened at Eisenhower's inaugural:

When Dwight and Mamie Eisenhower arrived at the White House to pick up the President for the ride to the Capitol, they not only refused to enter for a cup of coffee with the Trumans, but stayed in the vehicle until Truman came outside. CBS correspondent Eric Sevareid, who observed the incident, wrote, "It was a shocking moment." Head usher J. B. West put it this way: "I was glad I wasn't in that car."



Eisenhower apparently didn't like Kennedy either. Jackie Kennedy described the mood of the car with the two presidents on the trip from the White House to the Capitol for the inaugural as "glacial."

It has been reported that Mr. Bush is very sensitive to criticism. If this is true, wouldn't you like to be a fly on the wall when these two sit down alone?

I have more on this historic meeting at my own site.