- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 5, 2008

President Bush on Wednesday hailed Barack Obama’s election to the presidency as the fulfillment of the civil rights era and a high point in American history.

“No matter how they cast their vote, all Americans can be proud of the history that was made yesterday,” Mr. Bush said to reporters during a brief statement in the Rose Garden.

“This moment is especially uplifting for a generation of Americans who witnessed the struggle for civil rights with their own eyes, and four decades later see dream fulfilled,” Mr. Bush said, in a reference to civil rights leader Martin Luther King’s famous “I have a dream” speech.

The president said the election of a black man to the nation’s highest office “showed a watching world the vitality of our democracy and the strides we have made toward a more perfect union.”

Mr. Obama’s triumph, Mr. Bush said, was “the triumph of the American story.”

“It will be a stirring sight to watch President Obama, his wife Michelle and their beautiful girls step through the doors of the White House,” Mr. Bush said.

“I know millions of Americans will be overcome with pride at this inspiring moment that so many have awaited so long.”

The president also pledged a smooth transition into the next administration over the next 11 weeks.

“A long campaign has now ended, and we move forward as one nation,” he said.

Mr. Bush said that during a “warm” conversation with Mr. Obama Tuesday night, “I told the president-elect he can count on complete cooperation from my administration as he makes the transition to the White House.”

It was the first time that Mr. Bush had appeared at a public event since last Thursday, as he tried to blunt the effect of his low popularity ratings on Republican candidate John McCain.

But Mr. Bush’s transition into a posture of support for Mr. Obama was immediate Tuesday night. The president called the president-elect to congratulate him on an “awesome” win less than 15 minutes after Mr. Obama was declared the winner.

The president now sees a successful transition as the last part of his legacy that he can wield control over.

The president “really wants to leave the White House better than when he came in,” one former White House staffer said Wednesday.

Mr. Bush’s response to the economic crisis will also shape his last 76 days. All eyes will now be on the upcoming Nov. 15 economic summit with leaders from Group of 20 nations here in Washington, and on the Obama transition team’s involvement in the summit.

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