President Bush Welcomes The Obamas To White House

(CBS/ AP) President-elect Barack Obama and President Bush gathered for their first face-to-face meeting Monday, an Oval Office session that came during a historic shifting of power to a new administration.

Neither the incoming nor the current president spoke to reporters at Obama's arrival or departure Monday afternoon. Bush walked Obama to his limousine as he left.

The Obamas spent just under two hours at the White House.

Mr. Obama and his wife, Michelle, arrived at the South Portico 11 minutes early with President Bush and first lady Laura Bush waiting for them. Mrs. Bush and Mrs. Obama enjoyed a warm greeting, while the president and his successor exchanged smiles and a handshake.

Taking a bit of prerogative, the president-elect put his left hand on Mr. Bush's back as the two couples entered the Diplomatic Reception Room.

Mr. Bush and Mr. Obama strolled along the Colonnade and waved for their cameras while their wives began a meeting of their own. The president and the president-elect then headed into the Oval Office to talk about the future of the country, with topics likely including the financial crisis and the war in Iraq. Mr. Bush allowed Mr. Obama to enter the historic office first.

It was the president-elect's first visit to the White House since his landslide election victory - and his first visit ever to the Oval Office.

Prior to the meeting, there were few indications as to how it might be structured.

"They are treating it as a very private function," said CBS News correspondent Chip Reid.

The scene was a sunny fall day with moderate temperatures and colorful - but fading - autumn leaves.

The Obamas' arrival had the look of a foreign head-of-state state visit - although there were no fife and drum bands, speeches or official pageantry.

Mr. Bush invited Mr. Obama for the private talk, a rite of passage between presidents and successors that extends for decades.

If there are any lingering bad feelings from nearly two years of Mr. Obama hammering Mr. Bush on the campaign trail, the president has been careful to keep them very well hidden, reports CBS News chief White House correspondent Jim Axelrod.

The moment is steeped in history, part of a symbolic changing of a guard to Democratic leadership and the country's first black president.

"I'm going to go in there with a spirit of bipartisanship, and a sense that both the president and various leaders of Congress all recognize the severity of the situation right now and want to get stuff done," Obama said last week when asked about his meeting with Bush.

Obama won the presidency in an electoral landslide on Tuesday. He ran a campaign in which he relentlessly linked Republican opponent John McCain to Mr. Bush and presented his ideas as a fresh alternative to what he called Mr. Bush's failed policies.

Yet the tone changed almost immediately after Mr. Obama's win.

Bush, who had endorsed McCain, lauded Mr. Obama's victory as a "triumph of the American story." He warmly invited the Obama family to the White House.

Mr. Obama, in turn, thanked Mr. Bush for being gracious. The president-elect has made clear to the people of the United States and those watching around the world that there is only one president for now, and that's Mr. Bush. Mr. Obama is in the transition to power but does not assume the presidency until Jan. 20.

"There’s a lot of play-acting involved when a President-elect of the opposition party is received at the White House by the outgoing President," writes CBS News White House Correspondent Mark Knoller. (Read more from Knoller.)

Josh Bolten, Bush's chief of staff, predicted Bush and Obama would be the only ones in the room when they met.

"I'm sure each of them will have a list of issues to go down," Bolten said, interviewed on C-SPAN by reporters from The Associated Press and The Washington Post. "But I think that's something very personal to both of them. I know the president will want to convey to President-elect Obama his sense of how to deal with some of the most important issues of the day. But exactly how he does that, I don't know, and I don't think anybody will know."

Mrs. Bush and Mrs. Obama met privately as well. Mrs. Bush was to give Mrs. Obama a tour of the first family's living quarters, including the bedrooms used by children of past presidents, according to White House press secretary Dana Perino. Perino said the two women were expected to talk about living in one of the world's most famous building, from family life to the help provided by executive staff.

Unlike the incoming president, Bush knew his way around the Oval Office by the time he was elected in 2000 - his father had been president. Still, like many before them, President Clinton and President-elect Bush had their own private meeting, keeping up a tradition that temporarily puts the presidency above politics.

Obama has been to the White House before, including an emergency leadership session to deal with the financial crisis in September.

But an Obama spokeswoman said the president-elect has never been in the Oval Office.

© MMVIII, CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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