How Presidents Pass the Torch

The Bush-Obama handover has been notably civil. (F.D.R. considered his predecessor a fat capon)

Illustration by Jon Krause for TIME

The torch passes on election day; the power follows in January. But in between comes a personal transaction, like the one that just took place at the White House. It's not simply ego that has a way of fouling up this moment. Both parties have an eye on the history books, as the outgoing President airbrushes the epilogue, and the arriving one prepares the prologue.

By historical standards, George W. Bush and Barack Obama were remarkably civil in their Oval Office summit. They had never engaged in hand-to-hand combat. Despite the loathing for Bush that animates many in his party, Obama...

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