Bush seeks seamless transition to Obama

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WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Bush says he'll meet with President-elect Barack Obama next week as his administration works to achieve a seamless transition of power to the Democrat.

Bush talked outside the White House as he gathered with a host of Executive Mansion and administration workers to urge cooperation with the Obama team on the transition that will take place over the next 75 days.

Bush said that "this peaceful transfer of power is one of the hallmarks of our democracy." And he warned that the United States would be vigilant against any attempts by enemies to take advantage of the country during its period of transition.

The Bush administration is providing security clearances, working space and policy briefings to President-elect Obama's team as the transformation of the White House gets fully under way. World leaders are calling for Obama, and the White House is helping to get them connected.

"All of us here at the White House have a special responsibility to ensure that the next president and his team hit the ground running," White House press secretary Dana Perino said Thursday.

Preparation for the complex transition process has quietly been unfolding for about a year, but only accelerated with the nation's election on Tuesday of Obama, the Democratic senator from Illinois. He will be sworn in as the country's 44th president in 75 days.

President Bush addressed about 1,000 employees from his executive office - a combination of a thank-you and an admonition to ensure a smooth transfer of power. He and his wife, Laura, also have invited Obama and his family to visit the White House as soon as they can.

Obama on Thursday was receiving the first of what will become regular briefings on highly classified information from top intelligence officials. The process of getting White House security clearances for staff members of Obama and McCain, depending upon who won, already had begun long before the election took place.

Perino said world leaders are reaching out to the White House, the State Department and other federal agencies to get in touch with Obama.

"People are very excited about our next president," she said. "They're interested in getting to meet him and putting their ideas and their agenda in front of him to make sure that they continue to have a good, seamless relationship with the United States of America. And we're going to help facilitate that."

Meanwhile, officials at the Department of Homeland Security warn that the U.S. is in a heightened state of alert against terrorism. The fear is that enemies could exploit the transition period to test the country's defenses.

"That is something that we're very concerned about," Perino said in underscoring the seriousness of a smooth transition.

During the campaign, Obama relentlessly blistered the Bush administration for what he called failed, tired policies that have harmed the country. The White House has sought to make clear that politics will not affect the transition in any way.

The transition involves a delicate dance, in which the White House keeps the president-elect in the loop, and even solicits his input, while decisions still remain solely Bush's to make.

"He doesn't change his principles nor his policies," Perino said. "But what we have pledged to do and we are doing is to work and consult with the Obama team on issues as we move forward."

And even as Bush offers advice, he is mindful he can't go too far.

"I don't think that President Bush will be presumptuous in tying to talk to Barack Obama about how he makes his decisions or how Barack Obama should make decisions," Perino said. "The American people decided that this is the man that they want to be president of the United States and that he'll be the one that they trust to make decisions."