George W. Bush's claim that he'd fix the financial crisis by the end of his presidency left Obama 'at a loss for words,' according to his memoir

  • Former President Barack Obama writes in his new memoir that then-President George W. Bush wrongly predicted in November 2008 that he would sort out the financial crisis before Obama took office.
  • "The good news, Barack, is that by the time you take office, we'll have taken care of the really tough stuff for you," Bush told Obama in the Oval Office. "You'll be able to start with a clean slate." 
  • Obama writes that Bush's comment left him speechless, but he eventually praised his predecessor for passing the Troubled Asset Relief Program to help ameliorate the crisis in the fall of 2008. 
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Former President Barack Obama writes in the first installment of his memoir, "A Promised Land," that then-President George W. Bush made an unrealistic prediction when the two met at the White House following the 2008 election.

Obama recalls the outgoing president claiming that his administration will have largely sorted out the financial crisis, which was the worst since the Great Depression, by the time Obama took office a few months later in January 2009. 

"The good news, Barack, is that by the time you take office, we'll have taken care of the really tough stuff for you," Bush told Obama in the Oval Office, according to Obama. "You'll be able to start with a clean slate." 

Obama writes that he was "at a loss for words" for a moment.

Beginning in September, Bush had directed his Treasury Secretary, Hank Paulson, to regularly brief both Obama and Republican presidential nominee John McCain on the escalating crisis. Paulson warned both candidates that the country would plunge into a massive depression if Congress didn't act quickly to bail out the banks and stimulate the economy — both in the fall of 2008 and into 2009. 

"I'd been talking to Paulson regularly and knew that cascading bank failures and a worldwide depression were still distinct possibilities," Obama wrote. 

But instead of pushing back on Bush's unrealistic prediction, Obama praised the president's successful passage of the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), which created a $700 billion emergency fund the government used to buy up bad mortgages. Obama helped cement Democratic support behind TARP during the last months of the election even as Republicans and McCain viewed the legislation as a political disaster. 

"'It took a lot of courage on your part to get TARP passed. To go against public opinion and a lot of people in your own party for the sake of the country,'" Obama recalled saying. 

"That much at least was true," Obama wrote. "I saw no point in saying more." 

Obama argued in his book that while the Bush administration and anti-regulation Republicans deserved the bulk of the blame for the Great Recession, Democrats were also to blame for cheering on "rising homeownership rates throughout the subprime boom." 

Over the years, Obama and former first lady Michelle Obama developed a friendly personal relationship with Bush and his family. It sparked when Obama first ran for president. 

"I disagreed with just about every one of George W. Bush's major policy decisions, but I'd come to like the man, finding him to be straightforward, disarming, and self-deprecating in his humor," Obama wrote of his predecessor. 

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