- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 14, 2000

AUSTIN, Texas George W. Bush's appeal last night for cooperation with Democrats was both an attempt to live up to a campaign pledge and a recognition of the enormous political challenge that lies ahead for him.
Mr. Bush spoke from the chamber of the state House and emphasized his track record of working with Democrats.
"Here, in a place where Democrats have the majority, Republicans and Democrats have worked together to do what is right for the people we represent," the Texas governor said. "We had spirited disagreements, and in the end, we found constructive consensus. It is an experience I will always carry with me, and an example I will always follow."
Even as he worked on his first speech yesterday as the undisputed president-elect, Mr. Bush moved his transition team into high gear, planning a trip to Washington, when he will meet with Mr. Gore on Tuesday, and will pay a courtesy call on President Clinton and confer with congressional leaders
People in the Bush camp also predicted a fast-paced introduction of nominees for top jobs in the administration to begin as early as today. "It's really going to pick up steam," one adviser said.
Also yesterday, Mr. Bush worked on the transfer of the governorship to Republican Lt. Gov. Rick Perry. That process had been on hold for the past 35 days while the presidential contest in Florida played out.
Mr. Bush's nationally televised call for bipartisanship in Washington carried over from his campaign, in which he promised audiences that he was "a uniter, not a divider." In that sense, his appeal was no surprise.
"He ran on that for a year and a half," said Charles Black, a Washington lawyer and Bush adviser.
But mindful of the close election and lingering hard feelings over the outcome, the Bush camp was careful last night to display symbols of bipartisanship.
Mr. Bush said in his speech that he chose the state House chamber for his speech "because it has been a home to bipartisan cooperation. The spirit of cooperation I have seen in this hall is what is needed in Washington, D.C."
Seated in the audience with Mr. Bush's family and staff were Republican and Democratic state legislators. And Mr. Bush was introduced by the state's highest-ranking Democrat, House Speaker Pete Laney. Mr. Laney had refrained from endorsing either presidential candidate but has enjoyed a good working relationship with Mr. Bush.
The state Capitol was such a gloat-free zone for Mr. Bush's speech that aides posted signs asking the audience to observe a tone of "dignity and respect."
In his first act as president-elect, Mr. Bush will attend a prayer service this morning in Austin.
Insiders said the deliberate show of togetherness also reflects Mr. Bush's recognition of a looming political reality: Congress will be more evenly divided in January. Republicans lost one seat in the House, where they hold a nine-seat advantage. The GOP lost four seats in the Senate, which is split 50-50, but retains control because Vice President-elect Richard B. Cheney will break tie votes.
"We need to bring the country together," said Bush adviser Ralph Reed. "We may have campaigned as Republicans and Democrats, but we must govern as Americans."
Despite the talk of bipartisanship, some of the most difficult challenges for Mr. Bush could come within his own party.
Minutes after Mr. Bush completed his speech, Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona was on national television calling for campaign finance reform, a subject over which the two men clashed in the Republican presidential primary.
Last night's speech capped a tumultuous election contest in which aides say Mr. Bush somehow managed to remain calm and focused on becoming only the second president in U.S. history to follow his father into the White House.
"He has a great deal of inner strength based on his faith and love for his family," said Bush spokeswoman Karen Hughes. "He has a firm conviction that ultimately, what happens is what should happen."
That faith was put to the test with the release Tuesday night of the final Supreme Court ruling that ended recounts in Florida. Bush campaign chairman Don Evans called Mr. Bush from Florida but, as lawyers tried to decipher the ruling, an exasperated Mr. Evans reportedly told Mr. Bush, "Buddy, I'll have to call you back."
It was more than 15 minutes before word came back to the governor's mansion that Mr. Bush had won the case and with it, the presidency.
Mr. Gore's withdrawal last night brought Mr. Bush full circle from election night, when Mr. Gore conceded and then retracted his concession in a tense, terse phone call to the Republican. That episode prompted Mr. Bush at the time to lament privately with deadpan humor, "First I'm president, then I'm not president."
Last night, finally, there was no question Mr. Bush was president-elect in the eyes even of Democrats. He received another phone call from Mr. Gore shortly before the vice president spoke to the nation at 9 p.m. Washington time.
The clinching day for Mr. Bush began with a 45-minute national security briefing by a CIA official at the governor's mansion. One adviser said the mood of the Bush camp was "more relief than celebration" as news came of Mr. Gore's impending withdrawal.
Mr. Bush also telephoned his parents, Barbara and former President George Bush, and woke them up.
The president-elect also met at the state Capitol with Mrs. Hughes and media adviser Mark McKinnon. He left for a noontime workout at the University of Texas, pausing to sign autographs for a handful of supporters who had braved a freezing drizzle.
One of those supporters was Philip Lamb, 25, a law school student who also had attended the election night party in Austin at which Mr. Bush never appeared.
"I thought I had to come out here one more time," Mr. Lamb said, displaying the autograph of the brand-new president-elect.
Mr. Bush also spoke on the phone yesterday with former Secretary of State James A. Baker III, leader of the legal team in Florida; Mr. Cheney; and White House chief of staff designate Andrew Card. Mr. Cheney also met with congressional Republicans.
Sources say Mr. Bush wants to visit Capitol Hill twice before his inauguration on Jan. 20, believing two such visits are customary during the transition for Washington "outsiders."

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