WASHINGTON, November 11 – US President George W. Bush said on Tuesday that he had reached out by telephone to his predecessor, Bill Clinton, before talks with president-elect Barack Obama at the White House on Monday.,
"’Bill, I’m getting ready to meet with the new president and I remember how gracious you were to me. And I hope I can be as gracious to president-elect Obama as you were to me,’" Bush told CNN in a description of the call.
But the US president, who leaves office January 20 after eight years, declined to give details of the Monday meeting with the 44th US president following his decisive November 4 victory.
"To the extent that he asked my advice and he may want to ask it again, and the best way to make sure he feels comfortable asking it again is for me not to tell you in the first place what I advised him," he said.
Among things he said he regretted during his presidency, Bush listed the "Mission Accomplished" banner that served as the backdrop to his May 1, 2003 speech announcing the end of major combat in Iraq, where about 152,000 US troops remain.
"They had a sign that said Mission Accomplished. I regret that that sign was there," said Bush, who also reaffirmed he also regretted using rhetoric some saw as brash, such as calling for Osama bin Laden "dead or alive."
"It was a sign aimed at the sailors on that ship however it conveyed a broader knowledge. To some it said ‘well Bush thinks the war in Iraq is over’ when I didn’t think that. But nevertheless it conveyed the wrong message," he said.
Bush expressed minimal regret that his chosen successor John McCain lost to Obama, saying "my choice didn’t win," and saying that the Democrat’s victory was "good for the country" — and that his success was in America’s interest.
"It is good for our country that people have hope in the system and feel vested in the future and president-elect Obama has a great opportunity. I really do wish him all the best," said Bush.
"It is good for our country that the president succeeds. The transition that we are working with him on is a genuine effort to help him be able to deal with the pressures and the complicated issues of the presidency," he said.
Bush detailed how Obama, after their policy discussion, had raised "his little girls, how would they like the White House" and that during a tour of the residence section of the mansion "he wanted to see where his little girls were going to sleep."
"Clearly this guy is going to bring a sense of family to the White House," said the president.
"I know his girls are on his mind and he wants to make sure that first and foremost he is a good dad. I think it’s going to be an important part of his presidency."