Bush sets White House meeting with Obama
US President George W. Bush and Barack Obama on Monday will hold their first substantive talks about the daunting US priorities as the transition to a Democratic administration accelerates. Bush, soon to return to the state Texas after two terms in office, ordered employees yesterday to ensure a smooth transfer of power to Obama. The transition is a delicate dance in which the White House keeps the president-elect in the loop, and even solicits his input, but the decisions remain solely the president's. On Monday's discussion list for the current and future presidents: the financial crisis and the war in Iraq. "We face economic challenges that will not pause to let a new president settle in," Bush told a gathering of hundreds of employees from the presidential bureaucracy, gathered on the back lawn of the White House. "This will also be America's first wartime presidential transition in four decades," he said. "We're in a struggle against violent extremists determined to attack us, and they would like nothing more than to exploit this period of change to harm the American people." That sobering depiction came as Bush and Obama firmed up plans for their first meeting since Obama defeated Republican John McCain in Tuesday's election. Bush and first lady Laura Bush will greet Obama and his wife, Michelle, at the White House on Monday afternoon. Bush and the president-elect will meet in the Oval Office while the first lady gives Mrs. Obama a private tour of the White House residence. "I thank him for reaching out in the spirit of bipartisanship," the president-elect said of Bush in a statement. The Obamas' two children will not be there, but White House press secretary Dana Perino said, "We very much look forward to meeting them." Bush's comments to his staff, under a gray sky on the South Lawn, also had the feel of an early goodbye with 75 days left in office.