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Rite of passage as once and future presidents meet

Published:

Published - Nov 10 2008 03:27AM EST | AP

By NANCY BENAC - Associated Press Writer

The first meeting of incoming and outgoing presidents has been arite of passage fraught with emotion, surprises and the rare exchangeof secrets between leaders of opposite political parties.

OnMonday, President Bush will welcome President-elect Obama to the WhiteHouse, and the 43rd and 44th presidents will make nice. This, after ahard-fought campaign in which one of Obama's most effective strategieswas to rail against the "failed policies" of the current president.

It'soften an emotional moment for both the incoming and outgoingpresidents. Although the formal transfer of power is still more thantwo months away, the "psychological transfer occurs then," former vicepresident Walter Mondale once said.

As significant as the first meeting can be, it isn't even mentionedin the Constitution or federal law, so there are no rules governing howto do it.

Putting Campaign '08 in the rearview mirror, "Bush willturn on his boyish charm, and I think he's enough of a political pronot to take the campaign criticism seriously," said presidentialhistorian Leo Ribuffo of George Washington University.

As forpast meetings between once and future presidents, Ribuffo said,"they've been bad, and they've been good and they've been in themiddle."

One of the most analogous transfers of power to theBush-Obama transition occurred when 70-year-old Dwight Eisenhower, aRepublican, made way after two terms for 43-year-old John F. Kennedy, aDemocrat whom the president had derided as a "young whippersnapper" and"this young genius."

After the three-hour meeting, an aide laterdescribed Eisenhower as "overwhelmed by Sen. Kennedy, his understandingof the world problems, the depth of his questions, his grasp of theissues and the keenness of his mind."

It wasn't all about weighty matters of policy, though.

Eisenhoweralso took time to show Kennedy how to use the panic button that wouldbring a helicopter to the back lawn. Eisenhower demonstrated its use,and "Kennedy watched the fluttering helicopter coming down outside thewindows within a few minutes," Kennedy aide Kenneth P. O'Donnell laterwrote.

When Republican Richard Nixon arrived to meet with departingDemocratic President Johnson, the two plunged into deep conversationabout the Vietnam War and the social unrest gripping the country.

"Onthat day our political and personal differences melted away," Nixonwrote in his memoir. "As we stood together in the Oval Office, hewelcomed me into a club of very exclusive membership, and he made apromise to adhere to the cardinal rule of that membership: stand behindthose who succeed you."

As they walked to one in a series ofWhite House meetings, Johnson pulled Nixon into his bedroom, and toldhim, "I wanted you to know about this." He showed Nixon a small safehidden in the wall.

Bush, for his part, setthe stage for an amiable meeting with Democrat Obama when he praisedhis election as "a triumph of the American story, a testament to hardwork, optimism and faith in the enduring promise of our nation." Bushhas promised to help make "America's first wartime presidentialtransition in four decades" as seamless as possible.

"I can'tremember as generous a statement about a winner of the opposite partythan that of Bush on the historic significance of Obama's win," saidFred Greenstein, a professor of politics at Princeton University.

Bush,the son of a president, was no stranger to the White House when he metwith President Clinton in the Oval office for two hours as thepresident-elect in 2000. At the outset, Bush seemed tense, sittingstraight in a wing-backed armchair, his hands clasped in his lap as herubbed his thumbs and tapped his foot. Twice he thanked the presidentfor his hospitality and said, "He didn't need to do this."

Not all meetings between once and future presidents have been a success _ or even come to pass.

PresidentCarter carefully prepared for his meeting with Ronald Reagan, accordingto Mondale, but "it all went over Reagan's head and Carter really wasshaken by it."

Franklin Roosevelt "did not respond to overturesfrom the discredited Hoover," according to Greenstein. "He wanted tomake a fresh start." As a result, Greenstein said, "Hoover was verychilly to him on the ride to the inauguration."

President Truman,who had the presidency thrust upon him without any transition periodafter Roosevelt's death, was eager to provide a smooth transition forhis successor, Eisenhower. Truman arranged for troops to line bothsides of Pennsylvania Avenue for Eisenhower's arrival.


Truman wrote later, "When the general and his aides left, I wastroubled. I had the feeling that, up to this meeting in the WhiteHouse, General Eisenhower had not grasped the immense job ahead of him."
Entry #154

Comments

1.
Comment by Piaceri - November 10, 2008, 1:09 pm
Obama is not the second coming of John Kennedy. Only time will tell us this.

Let's hope the outgoing Bush administration is classy enough to not take the O's off the keyboards like the outgoing Clinton administration did with the Ws.

I will pray for a smooth transition, and that Obama proves to be a strong and successful leader. In these times, Obama will need all of our prayers.
2.
TenajComment by Tenaj - November 10, 2008, 1:19 pm
You are talking out both sides of your mouth. You can't smear and pray at the same time. The next time you offer prayer - make it sincere.
3.
ToddComment by Todd - November 10, 2008, 1:51 pm
Obama is no John F. Kennedy.

I don't believe Kennedy would have said our troops are "air raiding villages and killing innocent civilians," as Obama did.

You will also notice the vast difference in the way Bush staffers handle the transition, as opposed to the disgusting way the Clinton administration handled it when Bush won. I don't believe you'll find all the "O"s missing from the keyboards and all the china and silverware raided.
4.
Rick GComment by Rick G - November 10, 2008, 1:56 pm
I also pray for Obama. Foremost for the safety of him and his family, but also, he is coming to power in a time of worldwide turmoil. No matter what our political affiliation is we have to pray that we as a people have the courage and leadership to see our country through it's most difficult times ahead. I truly urge that we unite and put our country first.
5.
justxploringComment by justxploring - November 10, 2008, 2:23 pm
Notice how so many people take a few words out of context? You can do that in every conversation. You can ask me if I've taken drugs. I can answer "Sure I've taken drugs, but only prescription medication, not illegal drugs." Then someone who wants to accuse me of being a drug addict will say... Nancy said to me "sure I've taken drugs."

Todd, I'm sure you (and Hannity) know that Obama was talking about the need for more troops in Afghanistan and explaining how we have worn our military thin by concentrating on Iraq. It was said after Defense Secretary Gates apologized to the Afghans. Here's some of what Gates stated:

"I offer all Afghans my sincere condolences and personal regrets for the recent loss of innocent life as a result of coalition airstrikes. While no military has ever done more to prevent civilian casualties, it is clear that we have to work even harder. I have asked for a detailed briefing this afternoon about our close air support as well as our intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance operations."

A U.S. airstrike killed 37 civilians. It was a wedding celebration for God's sake!

Just last week there were 2 more attacks of innocent civilians in Afghanistan which are currently under investigation.

Obama has always praised our troops. However, war should not be sanitized.



6.
TenajComment by Tenaj - November 10, 2008, 3:15 pm
Justx, what amazes me is that they try to play you stupid. It's aimed at stupid people. You throw it out there to 100 people 80 will believe it. They don't know any better so they will believe anything from a person they admire. You must admit Todd is good at it. I want him on the democrat side. LOL
7.
NBey6Comment by NBey6 - November 10, 2008, 5:03 pm
With an approval rating of 24%, I think Bush and his staff know better than to remove keys from the keyboard. LOL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
8.
Comment by Piaceri - November 10, 2008, 9:17 pm
Tenaj - there is no smear in my post below.

To pray that Obama is a good President is not the same as thinking he won't be. I honestly think he has secrets he has kept from his supporters and they will prove detrimental to this country. However, there is nothing wrong with praying that I am wrong. It's not talking out both sides of my mouth. Sheesh, lady. Get a grip. I want what's best for this country of ours. I don't think Obama is that. You do. I can pray all day long that I am wrong and you are right without believing that is true until I see that it is true.

FOR THE SAKE OF OUR COUNTRY, I WILL PRAY EVERY NIGHT THAT I AM WRONG ABOUT OBAMA. I LOVE THIS COUNTRY, AND I WILL ALWAYS, ALWAYS PUT THIS COUNTRY FIRST.

When you can understand what it means to put America first, you will understand what I say.
9.
TenajComment by Tenaj - November 10, 2008, 10:51 pm
ok ok, you're right. That's between you and God. David indeed prayed to God to slew all his enemies without any mercy and he was made after God's own heart because he was honest about it.
10.
Comment by chowchow - November 11, 2008, 7:20 am
Piaceri, I finally agree with something that you posted. In other words, I feel you are giving Obama a chance and you hope in well. Prayer is what he needs. He needs it from the whole country not just half. He has a rough road ahead of him. We all have to pray that he takes the right one. No man is without fault. Just think about yourself. Have you done everything right all of your life? If so, your name should be St. Piaceri. But anyway I respect your opinion.

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