The transfer of powers

Starting tomorrow, the whole world will be able to get hold of the first volume of Barack Obama’s memoirs, A promised land. The newspaper obtained an excerpt from the book before he arrived in bookstores, where the 44th President of the United States details his first meeting with George W. Bush in the Oval Office, just days after his election. A courteous and elegant handover … which contrasts strikingly with the current political climate, where Donald Trump still refuses to admit his defeat against Joe Biden almost two weeks after the American election.

Extract from the memoirs of Barack Obama

“My first visit to the Oval Office came just days after the election, when, in a long tradition, the Bushes invited us, Michelle and I, to show us what would soon be our home.

In a Secret Service vehicle, we drove along the arc of the southern lawn to the entrance to the White House, both trying to get used to the idea that, in less than three months, we move there.

It was a sunny day, it was hot, the tree foliage was still intact, the rose garden was overflowing with flowers. We appreciated the extended Washington fall all the more as in Chicago the weather quickly turned cold and gloomy, an arctic wind stripped the trees, as if the unusually mild weather on election night had been nothing but an element of the decor, quickly dismantled once the ceremony is over.

President and First Lady Laura Bush greeted us at the South Portico and, after the inevitable salutes to reporters, President Bush and I made our way to the Oval Office as Michelle joined Ms. Bush for tea at the residence. . After a few more photos and an offer of refreshments from a young valet, the president invited me to sit down.

“So,” he asked me, “what does it do?

– did a lot, I said. I’m sure you remember it.

– Yep. Perfectly. Like it was yesterday, he confirmed, nodding his head vigorously. I’ll tell you one thing. You are going to embark on a funny adventure. Something very unique. You just have to think about enjoying it every day. ”

Respect and tradition

Was it out of respect for the institution, was it the lessons his father had taught him, the bad memories of his own transition (some rumors claimed that members of the Clinton team had removed the W key from all computers? from the White House when leaving), or was it just simple etiquette, President Bush would do everything possible, during the eleven weeks between my election and the end of his mandate, that things are going smoothly. Each White House department had provided my team with detailed “how-to guides”. The members of its staff had made themselves available to meet their successors, answer questions, and had even agreed to be followed in the exercise of their functions so that the new ones learn the trade. His two daughters, Barbara and Jenna, who were then young adults, arranged their schedules to introduce Malia and Sasha to the sides fun of the White House. I promised myself that when the time came, I would do the same with my successor.

The President and I touched on a wide range of subjects during this first visit – the economy and Iraq, the press and Congress – never denying his reputation as a jovial and somewhat restless man. He then passed blunt judgments on a few senior foreign politicians, warned me that it would be people from my own party who would end up causing me the biggest problems, and elegantly agreed to organize a lunch with all the former presidents alive before inauguration.

I was aware that there were necessarily limits to the frankness of a president speaking to his successor – especially when the latter had so criticized his record. I was also aware that, despite President Bush’s apparent good humor, my presence in the soon-to-be vacated office was bound to stir conflicting emotions in him. I followed his example by avoiding going into too much detail. Overall, I mostly listened.

A success

At one point, however, he said something that surprised me. We were talking about the financial crisis and Secretary Paulson’s initiatives to structure the bank bailout after TARP had been adopted in Congress. “The good news, Barack,” he said, “is that by the time you take office, we will have dealt with the most difficult issues. You can start off on a good basis. ”

At the time, I was speechless. I had spoken to Paulson regularly and knew that cascading bank failures and a global crisis were still to be seriously considered.

Looking at the president, I imagined all the hopes and beliefs he must have carried the first time he stepped into the Oval Office as the newly elected president, no less dazzled by his brilliance, no less determined to change things to work for a better world, no less convinced that History would judge his presidency as a success. “

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