- The Washington Times - Monday, January 19, 2009

A few minutes before noon Tuesday, as Barack Obama is sworn in as the 44th president of the United States, the burden of the office will begin to lift from the shoulders of George W. Bush.

The entire day will be a jarring shift. Mr. Bush will wake up the commander in chief of the U.S. military and go to bed a Texas rancher.

He will still require taxpayer-funded motorcades to travel most places, at least for the first 10 years of his life out of the White House.

Mr. Bush will be the first U.S. president to lose Secret Service protection after a decade - under a law passed in 1997 - unless the Service judges that a serious threat to his safety still exists.

But there will be no more immediate access to a military helicopter. And no more Air Force One.

He will wake up Wednesday with no responsibilities, no meetings, no 8 a.m. national security briefings that makes the hair stand up on the back of his neck.

All of it will be gone. In its place will come a life dominated by a question that Mr. Bush’s predecessors have all grappled with: Now what?

“I’m a type-A personality, you know,” Mr. Bush said at his final press conference last week. “I just can’t envision myself, you know, the big straw hat and Hawaiian shirt sitting on some beach.”

In coming years, Mr. Bush will use his presidential library in Dallas as a launching pad to promote the central ideas of his presidency - namely his attempt to promote democracy in the Middle East and elsewhere - and to keep him involved in the national discussion.

He has said his first project will be to write a book defending his most difficult decisions.

“What’s evident to me is that it is very hard for people to remember what life was like a mere four or five years ago, and it’s going to be very important for me to re-create the environment in which I had to make certain decisions, particularly the environment right after September the 11th, 2001,” Mr. Bush said in a Jan. 11 interview with Fox News.

He and wife Laura will live in Dallas, rather than at their ranch in Crawford - Mrs. Bush’s choice. She has friends in Dallas, dating back to her days as an undergraduate at Southern Methodist University, where Mr. Bush’s presidential library will be built.

The National Archives and Records Administration, which owns all of Mr. Bush’s presidential records and is responsible for preserving them, already has shipped most of the documents, digital media and some 35,000 artifacts to a 60,000-square-foot storage facility in Lewisville, Texas.

The 14 truckloads and two planeloads will be kept at the Lewisville location until the library is built.

On his last morning as president, Mr. Bush will welcome Mr. Obama and his wife, Michelle, to the North Portico of the White House and have them in for coffee, along with Vice President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. and his wife, Jill, and congressional leaders who have overseen the inauguration planning.

About an hour before noon, the Bushes will ride together with the Obamas from the White House to the Capitol for the inaugural ceremony.

Once Mr. Obama concludes his inaugural address, the Obamas will see the Bushes to the east steps of the Capitol, where the former president will take one last ride on the Marine One helicopter. The Bushes will go to Andrew Air Force Base for a private goodbye with former staff, and after a departure ceremony, Mr. Bush will begin his final flight on Air Force One.

Mr. Bush’s flight home will have two legs. He and Mrs. Bush will fly first to the president’s hometown of Midland, Texas, where they will participate in a “welcome home” event. Then they’ll fly to Crawford and go to their ranch.

Mr. Bush’s parents, President George H.W. Bush and Barbara, his twin daughters Jenna Hager and Barbara, and a small group of his closest advisers and friends will fly with him and Mrs. Bush from Washington to Texas. The Bush White House, secretive to the very end, would not release the names of all the people traveling home with Mr. Bush.

They did confirm that chief of staff Josh Bolten, former chief of staff Andrew Card, deputy chief of staff Joel Kaplan, deputy chief of staff Blake Gottesman, former deputy chief of staff Joe Hagin, and Donald L. Evans, a former Commerce secretary and close friend of the president, would be on board.

And the president has invited a few staffers to join up with him in Midland - after guests from the first leg of the flight get off Air Force One - and to fly with him to Crawford.

Mr. Hagin, who served as deputy chief of staff for the entire Bush presidency until he left over the summer, will be one of two members of the Bush political family to fly on the final Air Force One flight with both Mr. Bush and his father.

Mr. Hagin and Mr. Card flew on George H.W. Bush’s final flight to Houston on Jan. 20, 1993, and both will be on board with his son Tuesday.

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