Bush exits White House, goes home to Texas
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - George W. Bush bid farewell to Washington politics on Tuesday, leaving with little fanfare as the United States turned its attention to its new president, Barack Obama.
After eight years in office, Bush flew home to Texas, where he was welcomed at a rally in Midland, before ending the day at his Crawford ranch.
"The presidency was a joyous experience, but as great as it was, nothing compares to Texas at sunset," Bush said. "It is good to be home."
He started the day at the White House with a stroll around the grounds and telephone calls in the Oval Office.
Bush greeted Obama on the steps of the White House with "Sir." The soon-to-be first lady, Michelle Obama, handed Bush's wife Laura a gift box wrapped in red ribbon and they all entered the White House for coffee.
When they emerged, Bush and Obama got into the limousine with the presidential seal to head to the inauguration. As the motorcade pulled out, Bush blew a kiss toward the White House, his home for the past eight years.
Workers spruced up the executive mansion for the new residents. Offices in the West Wing received a fresh coat of paint, windows were washed and moving boxes arrived.
Bush leaves office with public approval ratings in the basement. Signs of discontent with his presidency were evident around the inauguration festivities.
A crowd in grandstands in front of the White House taunted the outgoing president by chanting the chorus of a song, "Na Na Hey Hey (Kiss Him Goodbye)," often used by fans of a winning sports team to taunt the losers.
Some spectators waved "Arrest Bush" signs along the motorcade route and chanted "No more Bush" shortly before the swearing-in ceremony began.
Back in the Lone Star State, Bush said that "popularity is as fleeting as the Texas wind," and that he had never shied away from taking on big issues.
"I always felt it was important to tackle the tough issues today and not try to pass them on to future presidents and future generations," he said.
Obama is entering office having to contend with a U.S. economy in recession and wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
During his inauguration address, Obama offered kind words to his predecessor: "I thank President Bush for his service to our nation as well as the generosity and cooperation he has shown throughout this transition."
But he also alluded to some of the most controversial national security policies of Bush's presidency, saying, "as for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals."
Bush plans to open a presidential library and a public policy center called the Freedom Institute in Dallas, from which he is expected to defend the policies of his presidency.
He also plans to write a book. "I want people to be able to understand what it was like in the Oval Office when I had to make some of the tough decisions that I was called upon to make," Bush said.
(Additional reporting by Matt Spetalnick and Will Dunham; editing by Patricia Zengerle)
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