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2 Months Left, Bush Says Goodbye, Quietly

CBS' Mark Knoller covers the White House and Washington politics.
Tick tock, tick tock.

Two months from today, the White House packs up the Bush Family belongings and moves in those of the Obama's.

And it seems President Bush is accepting the ever-nearing end of his term in good spirits.

"He's usually in a good mood," said Press Secretary Dana Perino on Monday.

There are no indications he's trying to hold back the calendar as did predecessor Bill Clinton, who was repeatedly heard to say about the presidency during his last months in office that "even the bad days are good days."

When we see Mr. Bush at the increasingly-few public events on his daily schedule, he appears upbeat and even good humored, as was the case Tuesday when he spoke to officials at the Department of Transportation.

"You have done a terrific job, as far as I am concerned. The past eight years, I have not seen a traffic jam, waited for an airplane, or had my bags lost," he said to hearty laughter from a decidedly supportive audience.

And last week in New York: "You know, oftentimes they ask me, what are you going to miss about the presidency? And first reaction is, I say, no traffic jams in New York."

That's true enough. The size of his motorcades will decrease significantly once he's dropped off at Andrews Air Force Base for the flight home to Texas on January 20.

Conscious of the calendar, he has started to express his gratitude to key groups. He used his speech on Veteran's Day for that purpose.

"The truth of the matter is I will miss being the Commander-in-Chief of such a fabulous group of men and women - those who wear the uniform of the United States military."

But in recent weeks, it sometimes seems President Bush has got a case of "senioritis." It would be wrong to say he's pulling a Ferris Beuller's Day Off, but his daily schedule in recent weeks has been thin. Take this week:

Monday: He flew back from Camp David just before noon, and then presided over a ceremony bestowing his final batch of National Medals of Arts and Humanities. He also did a photo-op with the U.S. Ryder Cup Team.

Tuesday: He visited the Transportation Department to announce new steps to ease holiday air travel.

Yesterday: His only public event was the re-opening of the National Museum of American History.

And when his schedule for today was issued last evening, it only proclaimed "no public events."

/>It should also be noted that Mr. Bush hasn't held a formal White House news conference since July 15.

He deliberately avoided reporters' questions all through the campaign season, and doesn't seem in a hurry to subject himself to the travails of a news conference now that the finish line to his presidency is within sight. Usually, one is expected within a couple of days of the election.

Perino says she "wouldn't be surprised" if Mr. Bush does a news conference before he leaves office. But maybe not.

"It's just as possible that there might not be any," she said Tuesday, covering her tracks.
By Mark Knoller

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