The outgoing president has welcomed the incoming president to the White House.
It was the first time back in Washington for President-elect Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, since the election. Their White House visit, coming some 10 weeks before Inauguration Day, mixed hospitality with business. While first lady Laura Bush gave Michelle Obama a tour of the second-floor residence of the Executive Mansion, President Bush and Obama talked for nearly two hours.
The long motorcade, presidential in every way except for officially, entered the White House grounds at 1:46 p.m. The black limousine carrying the president-elect and his wife stopped beneath a sun-bathed Truman Balcony.
Photographers captured the moment as the Obamas stepped from the car and exchanged greetings with the president and the first lady.
There were smiles, handshakes and pats on the back — and then a turn to pose for the cameras before stepping inside.
There was no on-camera statement.
Just before the arrival, White House Press Secretary Dana Perino noted that it would be the first one-on-one meeting between the two men.
"And, obviously, there's the Mrs. Obama and Mrs. Bush meeting, which is going to talk about how they will make their life here and how they will make the house a home, and all the help that will be at their disposal in order for them to do that," Perino said.
On their way to what would also be Obama's first visit to the Oval Office, Bush and Obama walked along the White House Colonnade, which runs along the north edge of the Rose Garden.
Towson University presidential scholar Martha Joynt Kumar says it is significant that this meeting is taking place less than one week after the election.
"Usually a president meets the president-elect later in the transition period," she says. "This time it's different, and it's different because of the realities of two wars and an economic crisis."
Joynt Kumar says the Bush White House put procedures in place well before the outcome of the election was known to ensure the transition at this critical time in U.S. history would go smoothly. Congress also passed a law four years ago to make it possible for incoming teams to get security and other necessary clearances, so they can be better prepared on the first day of the new administration.
Perino was asked if there would be any awkwardness, given the strong criticisms Obama had of Bush during the campaign.
"It's always amazed me how President Bush is able to let heated rhetoric like that just slide off his back and move forward and do what he thinks is right for the country," she said. "Obviously, right now, the most important thing we can do is ensure a smooth transition to Barack Obama and his team. And that's what he's committed to doing."
And, Perino stressed, this won't be the only conversation that Bush and Obama will have.