WASHINGTON â€“ Inside the Oval Office, the president and his soon to be successor pose awkwardly for the cameras. The first question shouted to the President-elect, "Are you going to inherit a recession from the President?" The president in that scenario was Bill Clinton and standing next to him was George W. Bush.
That was how the scene unfolded eight years ago when Bush made his first visit to the White House as President-elect on December 19th, 2000. At the time, both Bush and Clinton brushed aside the question about the "R-word." But Clinton did offer this advice, "He'll have economic challenges and we ought to give him a chance to meet them, not try to figure it all out in advance."
Fast forward to the present, Bush's own successor won't have the same luxury of time. Thursday's report that the economy shrank 0.3 percent in the July-September period provides further evidence for economists who say the country is in a recession and probably has been for several months.
Even the president's top economic advisor, Edward Lazear, chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors, recently weighed in that parts of the country are in a recession.
The White House tried to downplay today's GDP number, saying that while weak, it was not unexpected. Press Secretary Dana Perino said in a statement, "The President is taking forceful actions to return the economy to growth and job creation by early next year. While we continue to face serious challenges, the United States remains the best place to do business, and we're positioned to bounce back."
Although Bush did not answer the question in the Oval Office back in 2000, he's often talked about how he did inherit a recession when he took office.
According to the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), the country slipped into a recession in March 2001 and came out of it in November of that year, and that the downturn was prolonged due to the September 11th attacks.
When President Bush poses for the cameras with his successor, the question for the next president won't be whether he's inheriting a recession, but likely how deep and how long will it last and what he plans to do to get the country out of it.