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Bush to Obama: A private letter

January 20, 2009 |  8:08 am

About to be ex-president George W. Bush and his wife Laura arrive to greet the new incoming first family

WASHINGTON -- It's a tradition that dates back to Ronald Reagan, who scribbled a note to his successor, George H.W. Bush.

On a notepad with a turkey graphic, the Reagan-to-Bush note said, "Don't let the turkeys get you down."

Four years after that, Papa Bush left a note for incoming President Bill Clinton. And eight years later, Clinton wrote a note for George W. Bush, in which he included a copy of the note Clinton had received from his father.

In keeping with the tradition, said White House Press Secretary Dana Perino, Bush 43 left a confidential letter in the top drawer of the so-called Resolute Desk -- made from timbers of the British ship HMS Resolute. By the way, some in the design world have urged Barack Obama, a new president for a new generation, to choose a lighter desk without all that heavy history.

In any event, Perino was coy about providing details of the letter, but said "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."

Perino said that in his last hours before greeting the Obamas and Vice President-elect Joe Biden and his wife for the traditional coffee before the transfer of power, Bush, in the office at 7 a.m., phoned Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, national security advisor Stephen Hadley, former White House Chief of Staff Andy Card and T.D. Jakes, the pastor of a Dallas megachurch who preached at St. John's Church, which the Obamas attended this morning before going to the White House.

Then, Perino said, Bush "gave me a big kiss on the forehead, which I will never forget."

-- Johanna Neuman

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Photo credit: Joyce N. Boghosian / White House

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