Obama-Bush Meeting Another Painful Reminder That No One's President Right NowPresident Bush basically checked out six months ago, leaving the country rudderless and lost. We were distracted from this by a diverting election for a while, but now that's over. As President-elect Obama painfully explained in his first post-election press conference, we only get one president at a time. Except right now we get none! So maybe Obama should use today's White House transition meeting to figure out how to seize power, maybe? A coup, anyone? What else are they gonna do with the afternoon? Usually White House transition meetings are taken up with impressing upon the successor the awesome task ahead of him, but Obama probably understands that better than Bush does. So today Bush will probably just share some awesome White House secrets. The gold standard of terrible presidential transitions? The 1933 handover from Herbert Hoover to Franklin Roosevelt. Back then, the new president didn't take office until March, so there were four months of lame duck Hoover trying to fix the economy, and the banking crisis, while FDR just passive-aggressively let him fuck things up and promised to undo everything Hoover did, once in office.
It didn't help in 1932 that the two men neither liked nor trusted each other: Hoover called Roosevelt "a chameleon on plaid," while FDR preferred the image of Hoover as "a fat, timid capon."
The meeting itself was lame, because FDR showed up for the tour and instead he got some Paultard shouting at him:
Their first visit after the election was not promising: Roosevelt came for what he thought was a personal call at the White House on November 22, 1932 — only to find Hoover's Treasury Secretary on hand to help the outgoing president deliver a lecture on the importance of the gold standard, the stability of the banking system and the problem of Europe's war debt.
Hoover left office the most hated man in America. So hated was he, that Americans actually thought he'd be arrested on his way out of Washington, for looting all the gold in Fort Knox. In 1952, Truman was annoyed that his old friend Eisenhower had sold his soul by not denouncing Joe McCarthy. In 1960, Ike was convinced the keys to the nation had been handed over to some punk kid who didn't know what was what, but Kennedy impressed Ike with his intellect. That didn't happen when Bush II took over from Bill Clinton:
At the outset, Bush seemed tense, sitting straight in a wing-backed armchair, his hands clasped in his lap as he rubbed his thumbs and tapped his foot. Twice he thanked the president for his hospitality and said, "He didn't need to do this."
Another trend in transition meetings? The outgoing guy is convinced the incoming guy has no idea what he's in store for. Sometimes the outgoing guy is probably right:
President Carter carefully prepared for his meeting with Ronald Reagan, according to Mondale, but "it all went over Reagan's head and Carter really was shaken by it."
Today's transition meeting between Barack Obama and George W. Bush will probably go smoothly, as Bush is thrilled to be leaving office and has had only kind words for the incoming president, and Barack Obama has been surprisingly gracious about the disastrous presidency of his predecessor, using his name as shorthand for "How Fucked Up America Is" but seldom attacking the man personally. So we are guessing that this transition will follow the other model. Not the "you're not prepared for the job ahead of you" thing, but something more like this:
Eisenhower also took time to show Kennedy how to use the panic button that would bring a helicopter to the back lawn. Eisenhower demonstrated its use, and "Kennedy watched the fluttering helicopter coming down outside the windows within a few minutes," Kennedy aide Kenneth P. O'Donnell later wrote.
AND:
As they walked to one in a series of White House meetings, Johnson pulled Nixon into his bedroom, and told him, "I wanted you to know about this." He showed Nixon a small safe hidden in the wall.
Yes! The White House is an awesome place, full of neat surprises, and being President means you get to eat candy whenever you want! Bush will presumably show Obama the secret passageway between the observatory and the billiard room, and show off how he gets free cable. When New President Meets Old, It's Not Always Pretty [TIME] Rite of passage as once and future presidents meet [AP]