November 10, 2008
OF1 was wheels up about 5:15 p.m. DC time and landed in Chicago at 6 p.m. local time (7 p.m. DC time). We're now motorcading into the city.
Robert Gibbs came back on the plane to gaggle. Among other tidbits, he said President-elect Obama made three phone calls while the plane was on the tarmac, one of which was to Senator Dick Lugar (but not the one that was overheard from the back of the plane).
Other small bits: The president and president-elect discussed the proposed stimulus package, the travails of the auto industry and housing foreclosures, but Gibbs would not elaborate on what was said. And the president-elect thought the Oval was "a pretty nice office."
Here are details:
Gibbs said that the president and president-elect met alone, with no aides or note-takers, in the Oval for about an hour, then joined their wives for a tour of the mansion, looking at the living quarters, the upstairs office space, the Lincoln Bedroom, the rooms that will presumably be used for the Obama daughters and the gym. Then the president and president-elect returned to the Oval for more conversation.
"The first thing that the president-elect said to me afterward was he found the president to be extremely gracious with his time and with his invitation today," Gibbs said. "They talked extensively about both the economic situation as well as foreign policy."
He said President-elect Obama said the Oval was "a very, very nice office." Describing the sense of history, he added: "It was a bit of a momentous day. I don't know that I would characterize him as awe struck. What he said to me is it's a really nice office."
Gibbs went out of his way to praise the Bush team for its handling of the transition. "Everybody universally says the administration has been nothing but completely cooperative in helping get things done," he said.
The rhetoric of the past, he said, was in the past. Reminded of Candidate Obama's description of President Bush's "failed policies," Gibbs said with a smile, "I don't think he tried that line out again to see how it would work."
He added: "Obviously there's a time for politics. The election's over. Now it's a time for governing. I think both sides had things to say about the other side. But again, nothing but cooperation and graciousness on the part of the administration."
While the current and future presidents met, John Podesta and Josh Bolten got together and Gibbs met separately with Dana Perino.
Gibbs said the president-elect would not meet with foreign leaders coming to the United States for the economic summit on Saturday, though he said it was a "possibility" that others affiliated with the Obama team might. "He's very interested and thought it was very good to have the meeting. But in a phrase you'll hear in exceedingly large numbers of times between now and the 20th of January, there's only one president at a time."
On the stimulus package, Gibbs cautioned that it might not be possible for Congress to deliver during the lame-duck session. "It's important to bear in mind that Congress was wrestling with issues like an economic recovery program prior to the election and didn't come to a conclusion," he said. He added: "We believe it needs to happen. If it doesn't, it will be the first priority."
Gibbs said President-elect Obama has not spoken with Senator John McCain since Election Night. He brushed off a question about speculation over Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton joining the Cabinet, saying there would be so much speculation that it was not worth commenting on each report.
Looking ahead, President-elect Obama will likely be in Chicago the rest of the week. He is talking with John Podesta several times a day, and Rahm Emanuel frequently also. As previously noted, he does not plan to announce any cabinet selections this week, although some White House staff appointments may be released. He's likely to do some sort of wreath-laying or other commemoration of Veterans Day tomorrow.
Beyond that, Gibbs said the president-elect may do some shorter trips over the next few weeks and most likely will go to Hawaii around Christmas time.
Gibbs said he believes Vice President-elect Biden is back in Chicago after his football game over the weekend and would be here for much of the week. Gibbs said he too was surprised to see the vice president-elect shown on television in the stands for the game. "My wife said, 'What's he doing there?'" he recounted jovially. "And I said, 'That's a darn good question.'"
No word on whether Vice President Cheney will host Vice President-elect Biden any time soon.