WASHINGTON – President Bush embraced Barack Obama's election victory Wednesday, saying he understands the message of change that was the centerpiece of his campaign.
Bush promised Obama his "complete cooperation" during the Democrat's 76-day transition to the White House. The president said he would keep Obama informed on all his decisions between now and Jan. 20, and said he looked forward to the day — soon, he hopes — that Obama and his family would take him up on his offer of a pre-inauguration White House visit.
But perhaps most striking about the Republican president's brief Rose Garden remarks was the stream of compliments he paid to Obama and the multiple nods to the history-making nature of his ascension.
Bush called Obama's win an "impressive victory" and said it represented strides "toward a more perfect Union." He said the choice of Obama was "a triumph of the American story, a testament to hard work, optimism and faith in the enduring promise of our nation."
The defeated leader of his own party, John McCain, won accolades as well, but not nearly so glowing.
"The American people will always be grateful for the lifetime of service John McCain has devoted to this nation, and I know he'll continue to make tremendous contributions to our country," Bush said.
To a country with monumental civil rights battles in its past, Bush said: "All Americans can be proud of the history that was made yesterday."
He recalled the millions of blacks who turned out to vote for one of their own, saying he realizes many never fully believed they would live to see this day. But he also hinted that he has personal feelings of high emotion at this moment, representing the end of a controversial eight years in the Oval Office during which he tried, but failed, to attract more blacks to his party.
"It will be a stirring sight to see President Obama, his wife, Michelle, and their beautiful girls step through the doors of the White House," the president said. "I know millions of Americans will be overcome with pride at this inspiring moment that so many have waited so long."