What Will Obama And Bush Discuss? President-elect Barack Obama has never really been into the typical Washington political life, says analyst Juan Williams. The president-elect's family has always lived in Chicago and he's generally preferred to dine with friends from law school rather than fellow politicians. But all that is about to change. We consider what President Bush is likely to tell him.
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What Will Obama And Bush Discuss?

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What Will Obama And Bush Discuss?

What Will Obama And Bush Discuss?

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This is Day to Day. I'm Alex Chadwick.


And I'm Madeleine Brand. In a few minutes, a 96-year-old woman fights eviction from Carnegie Hall.

CHADWICK: First, Barack Obama's transition to the White House office - powerful, political and personal. NPR news analyst Juan Williams joins us again. Juan, welcome back to the show.

JUAN WILLIAMS: Good to be with you, Alex.

CHADWICK: And you know, think about this. Senator Obama's Washington career started in January of 2005, now almost four years ago, but he never really made a big move to Washington.

WILLIAMS: No, he didn't. His family stayed in Chicago. He had a basement bachelor pad, if you will, on Capitol Hill, only a few blocks away from his office in the Hart Senate Office Building, and he had a gym. But that's about it. He would go home often on Thursday nights and not return until Monday.

CHADWICK: And then the last two years he's been out campaigning, so, not spending a lot of time in Washington then.

WILLIAMS: No. And you know, a lot of people mentioned that he never made the friendships, the relationships, on Capitol Hill or around Washington that are often typical especially for the older generation of Senate and congressmen. He is not the kind of guy who goes out to dinner even with other members of the Congress. Usually, it was with law-school buddies, some of the friends that he had around here from, you know, liberal causes, and not a guy who was associating a lot with his political peers.

CHADWICK: Have you seen this letter from Alice Walker, the writer, an open-letter to Barack Obama? It's dated Wednesday. Here is she writing in that letter, a primary responsibility that you do have is to cultivate happiness in your own life, to make a schedule that permits sufficient time of rest and play with your gorgeous wife and lovely daughters. You know, you wonder if that's going to be possible for him as president.

WILLIAMS: Well, you know, this is a very difficult thing. The president, unlike someone who's up on Capitol Hill, doesn't get to go away on the weekends. Saturday is a full working day at the White House. And he's going to have to find a way to control the schedule, especially early on, when there are going to be so many pressures - pressures for ceremonial events, people who want to meet him, requirements in terms of foreign travel - it's going to be an intense schedule, and oftentimes that's when big errors take place.

I think that's one of the reasons that he's brought Rahm Emanuel. Rahm Emanuel, I should note, is the kind of guy that goes out to dinner with reporters, lobbyists, his political peers. He knows Washington. He's been in the White House under President Clinton, been on Capitol Hill as a top aide to Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House. So, he knows how the game is played. And I think that's why that appointment was so important for President-elect Obama.

CHADWICK: What is the president-elect's greatest vulnerability at this point?

WILLIAMS: To be in a cocoon. The White House really separates you out. And you know, it's so difficult to stay in touch with people now. President Bush has a private email address for his friends, and his secretary is told to let through a certain number of friends everyday to talk with the president. But then, of course, people, even your friends, start to use you, and they want something, et cetera, and suddenly you find yourself way out of touch with just what people are up to, what people are doing.

CHADWICK: Well, maybe this is something that two men can talk about. President Bush and President-elect Obama meeting on Monday, what is that conversation going to be like?

WILLIAMS: I suspect that what President Bush and Senator Obama have to talk about is dealing with the pressures of the job, how you stay informed and how you handle staff. The problem there can be very quickly the staff becomes your friends. It's hard for them to say no to you, and hard for you to say no to them. Took a long time for President Bush to deal with the fact that many people felt his White House staff was out of control under his White House Chief of Staff Andy Card, who became just about his best buddy because they spent so much time together.

CHADWICK: Your best political conversation of this week? And what a week.

WILLIAMS: What a week. You know, Alex, this one is not with anybody official or inside the political game. There is a friend of mine who sits behind me at basketball. He's an elderly man in his mid-80s, and he stopped coming to the games now because it's hard to get up and down to the bathroom, that kind of thing. But he called me this week, and he said, you know, I'm trying to get a front page of the Washington Post and the New York Times. Can you help me? And I said, why do you want the front page? He said, well, you know, that special front page with Obama, the one that says he won the presidency. And this is an elderly black man, and for him - he's from Alabama - to see black people on the front page as president-elect brought tears to his eyes, and he wanted that front page. So, Alex, I was sent on a mission like a little kid, and I gladly did it.

CHADWICK: Juan Williams, in the news business never fail you and still delivering papers. Juan, I'm not going to be able to talk with you next week, but this has been a pleasure these five years. Thank you so much.

WILLIAMS: Alex, you don't know what you've meant all of us. Thank you.

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