WASHINGTON (AP) — Continuing a White House ritual, President George W. Bush left a note in the Oval Office for President-elect Barack Obama, wishing him well as he takes the reins of the executive branch.
"I won't provide any details, but the theme is similar to what he's said since election night about the fabulous new chapter President-elect Obama is about to start, and that he wishes him the very best," White House press secretary Dana Perino said Tuesday.
She said the two-term Republican incumbent wrote the message to his Democratic successor on Monday and left it in the top drawer of his desk, which was crafted from timbers from the H.M.S. Resolute and given to the U.S. by Great Britain in 1879.
Bush was in the office before 7 a.m. EST. He spoke on the phone with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley, former White House chief of staff Andy Card and T.D. Jakes, the pastor of a megachurch in Dallas who will preach at a private church service that Obama is attending before the Inauguration.
"He's good," Perino said, describing the president's mood. "He's the president of the United States, the way he always is. He hasn't changed. He gave me a big kiss on the forehead."
She said he took one last stroll around the south grounds of the White House and would spend the rest of his final morning at the White House with first lady Laura Bush; their daughters, Barbara and Jenna; and his mother and father, former President George H.W. Bush and former first lady Barbara Bush.
During his last moments at the White House, former President Ronald Reagan scribbled a note for his successor on a notepad with a turkey insignia that said, "Don't let the turkeys get you down." He, too, slipped the note in the presidential desk for his successor, the elder Bush.
Four years after that, he left a note for President Bill Clinton. And eight years after that, Clinton wrote a note for Bush, and included a copy of the message he had received from Bush's father.
Bush's final half-day as president includes a goodbye to Washington and a hello from fellow Texans.
Before heading to the Capitol for the swearing-in ceremony, the Bushes will welcome Obama and his wife, Michelle, to the White House. The Bushes, the Obamas, Vice President-elect Joe Biden, his wife, Jill, and leaders of the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies will have coffee in the Blue Room.
From the Capitol, Bush will take a helicopter to Andrews Air Force Base, where he'll make private remarks inside a hangar.
The Bushes then will fly to Midland, Texas, on the familiar blue-and-white presidential aircraft, although it will be called Special Air Mission 28000 instead of Air Force One because Bush will no longer be president.
While the inauguration frenzy continues in Washington, thousands of well-wishers are expected to greet the Bushes at Centennial Plaza in Midland — the same place the president stopped on his way to the nation's capital for his own inauguration in 2001. While Bush was born in New Haven, Conn., he spent his childhood in Midland. He returned there as an adult in the 1970s and met the future first lady.
After the rally, the Bushes are flying to Waco, Texas, on their way to their 1,600-acre ranch in nearby Crawford.