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WASHINGTON — President-elect Barack Obama hailed a rare Oval Office gathering of all U.S. presidents as extraordinary on Wednesday, while President George W. Bush wished him well and pledged that the office "transcends the individual."
"I just want to thank the president for hosting us," the president-elect said, flanked by former President George H.W. Bush on one side and his son on the other.
Presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter, both smiling broadly, stood with them.
"All the gentlemen here understand both the pressures and possibilities of this office," Obama said. "For me to have the opportunity to get advice, good counsel and fellowship with these individuals is extraordinary."
In a swift photo opportunity, the current president wished Obama well before all five men headed off for a private lunch.
"I want to thank the president-elect for joining the ex-presidents for lunch," Bush said, even though he's not quite a member of that club yet.
"One message that I have and I think we all share is that we want you to succeed, whether we're Democrat or Republican we care deeply about this country," Bush said. "All of us who have served in this office understand that the office itself transcends the individual."
Bush and Obama also met privately for roughly 30 minutes.
And if you think that decorating and the Presidency don't go together, then watch this clip of Bill Clinton telling Bush, "I love this rug." Either Clinton really does "love" that rug or he was trying to find something... anything... to say to Bush.
See a slideshow from today's meeting:
Bush, acting on a suggestion by Obama, invited the former Presidents and President-elect for lunch, the first time since 1981 that all living presidents have been together at the White House.
Bush shakes hands with President-elect Barack Obama. as former President Bill Clinton, and former President George H.W. Bush look on in the Oval Office January 7, 2009 in Washington, DC.
Bush speaks to the press, "I want to thank the president-elect for joining the ex-presidents for lunch."
President-elect Barack Obama, flanked by President George W. Bush, and former President George H.W. Bush, speaks in the Oval Office.
The press snaps photos of Obama, Bush and former presidents after their meeting.