Afterward, he escorted his predecessor to a helicopter and Bush flew with his family first to Andrews Air Force Base for a private departure ceremony, then on to a welcome rally in Midland, Texas and finally, by nightfall, his ranch near Crawford, Texas. As the architect of two unfinished wars and the man in charge at a time of economic calamity, the now ex-president left Washington under the cloud of approval ratings hovering at historic lows. People in the crowd booed when Bush's image was flashed on jumbotrons and one contingent near the Capitol sang "Na-na-na-na, hey, hey, goodbye" in a jeering farewell.
For all the new president's call to joint effort, it is political reality that it will largely be up to Obama himself to meet soaring expectations -- both those he has created for himself and those others have placed on him unbidden.
In the Oval Office awaits the workaday, hard-nosed business of the daily governance of a nation of 304 million. And while Washington celebrated, events kept moving: Wall Street slid, news surfaced that U.S. carmaker Chrysler could be purchased in part by Italian auto giant Fiat, and prosecutors at the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, sought to suspend all war-crimes trials pending Obama's guidance.
Congress already has given Obama $350 billion in new financial-industry bailout money and is fast-tracking a massive economic stimulus bill to be worth $825 billion or more. And Bush has ordered 30,000 more U.S. troops to go to Afghanistan this year, adding to 32,000 already there. But these moves are hardly the last word on the big issues of the day.
And some of Obama's attention to those things will undoubtedly be deferred to crises -- a natural disaster, an overseas conflagration -- that can pop onto the scene unexpectedly and consume enormous amounts of White House energy.
His transition also produced some missteps that raised questions about whether Obama's highly disciplined, perfectionist organization that proved brilliant at winning an election will be equally brilliant at governing.
Obama's team overlooked known problems in the backgrounds of two Cabinet nominees -- Bill Richardson for Commerce and Timothy Geithner for Treasury. They also flubbed the introduction to Congress of Leon Panetta as CIA director. Obama also was tripped up by controversy surrounding the appointment of his successor in the Senate.