WASHINGTON (AP) — With one last handshake with President Barack Obama, George W. Bush boarded a helicopter yesterday at the Capitol and began his post-presidential life, closing a two-term administration marked by war, recession and the biggest terrorist attack on U.S. soil.
Vice President Joe Biden gave Bush a brief salute as the chopper left the Capitol grounds and headed to Andrews Air Force Base, flying over the throngs of supporters who came to Washington for the historic inauguration of the 44th president.
Bush and Obama stood with their wives on the Capitol steps smiling and laughing. If there were any hard feelings between the incoming Democrat and outgoing Republican, they weren't apparent in the Bush send-off at the base of the helicopter. The two men hugged and clasped hands one final time, sealing the transfer of power.
Bush actually began the first few minutes as an ex-president listening to a musical prelude at the swearing-in ceremony. Obama had not yet taken the oath of office, but while the musicians played, he became president at 12 noon EST, according to the Constitution.
Some in the crowd, weary of Bush's eight years in office, booed the president when the large viewing screens near the World War II Memorial flashed an image of the exiting president arriving at the swearing-in. Moments later, rounds of cheers welled up as the same screens showed the incoming first lady, Michelle Obama, and her two daughters, Sasha and Malia.
Unfazed by his unpopularity, Bush smiled and waved throughout the day's activities. He blew a kiss out the window of his limousine as he left the White House with Obama.
After the inauguration ceremony, some in the crowd waved at the aircraft in the sky. Others, however, cheered when they heard a television broadcaster announce, "George Bush is no longer president of the United States." Still others in the crowd, broke into chants of "Na-na-na-nah, hey, hey, hey, goodbye."