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Obama-Bush Meeting Focuses on Economy, Foreign Policy
    2008-11-11 14:11:40     Xinhua

L-R: U.S. President George W. Bush, First Lady Laura Bush, Michelle Obama and president-elect Barack Obama stand outside the Diplomatic entrance of the White House in Washington. Obama, gearing up for his historic January 20 swearing-in, held his first face-to-face talks with Bush on Monday and got his first look at the Oval Office. [Photo: Xinhuanet/AFP]

U.S. president-elect Barack Obama and outgoing leader George W. Bush discussed the economic situation and foreign policy at their White House meeting Monday.

Both Obama and Bush agreed on "the need to get the economy back on track," and talked about "what's going on in the auto industry," Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs told reporters.

They also exchanged views on foreign policy issues, Gibbs said.

White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said the meeting was held in a "good, constructive, relaxed and friendly" mood, with both sides promising to keep the transition process going well.

The president and president-elect walked together along the colonnade by the Rose Garden before entering the Oval Office together, and briefly waved to reporters along the way.

Neither Obama nor Bush spoke on camera following their meeting, which lasted nearly two hours.

They were "going to let the pictures speak for themselves," said an Obama aide.

Crowds lined the streets of downtown Washington prior to Obama's arrival at the White House, cheering the president-elect as his motorcade made its way to and from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

While Obama had been to the White House quite a few times since winning a Senate seat four years ago, this was his first time inside the Oval Office.

Though the two left no comments, the common guess is that Bush and Obama had a substantive discussion not only about the transition of power, but also on critical issues facing the United States, especially the economy and a proposed stimulus package aimed at easing the country's financial woes.

In fact, the economic crisis is believed to be the reason why their chat came far sooner than usual, less than a week after Obama made history by becoming the first African-American to be elected U.S. president.

Both Laura Bush and Michelle Obama have two daughters each, and the issues surrounding raising them in the public spotlight were a likely topic of discussion.

The Bush twins, Jenna and Barbara, were 18 when Bush arrived at the White House in 2000.

At 10 and 7 years of age, Malia Obama and her sister Sasha will be the youngest children to live there since 9-year-old Amy Carter moved in after Jimmy Carter's 1976 election victory.

The Obama girls were not at the White House with their parents Monday.

They were in school in Chicago, and the first lady-elect is in the process of choosing schools for them in Washington, D.C.

The Obamas flew back to Chicago immediately after the visit.

It is reasonable to assume that the meeting between Bush and the president-elect might have been uncomfortable. After all, Obama has spent much of the last two years assailing just about every facet of Bush's presidency.

Bush, for his part, is said to have remarked privately that Hillary Clinton would have been a better presidential nominee for the Democratic Party due to her wealth of political experience.

Obama is also said to be compiling a list of Bush policies that he will likely reverse immediately upon taking office, although that is not unusual when a new president from an opposition party takes over the White House.

Among the measures Obama is looking at overturning is a proposal that cuts funding to women's groups that counsel abortion in developing countries and reversing a ban on stem-cell research funding.

Obama's advisers are also quietly working on a proposal to ship dozens, if not hundreds, of imprisoned terrorism suspects to the United States to face criminal trial, a plan that would make good on his campaign promise to close the Guantanamo Bay prison.

However, the president-elect has made it clear that there is only one president for now, and that is Bush.

On Monday, his campaign also reaffirmed that Obama will not attend the G20 summit on financial markets and the world economy in Washington, to be hosted by Bush on Nov. 15.

Obama will be inaugurated on Jan. 20.


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