- The Washington Times - Monday, December 18, 2000

What a country. Except for a few malcontents, soreheads and rabble-rousers, Americans feel confirmed in their belief that democracy works. Vice President Al Gore conceded graciously, urging his supporters to unite behind the winner. George W. Bush invited Americans to work with him on the details of the issues we all care about excellence in schools, security in health care and retirement, lower taxes, a stronger military and a higher tone to our culture.

If the devils are in those details, so are the "better angels of our nature" invoked by Abraham Lincoln. It's time to reach for reconciliation. We can start the healing process by ceasing to talk about "the healing process." We've grown so dependent on a therapeutic vocabulary that we define every problem as a disease.

Americans are not suffering from any physical or emotional disorder. In fact, we've never been in such robust health, if you insist on using that metaphor. Our public institutions are strong. There were no tanks in the street, no barricades to storm, no conspiracies to uncover. We debated, we didn't destroy. We may be sick of words, and words may cut and wound metaphorically, but wounded metaphors don't bleed real blood.

We could drop the language of war, too. That may work in a campaign, but not for the transition. The inauguration is about to begin and we should look forward with hope and promise. It doesn't last long.

For all of the hatred and ridicule heaped upon lawyers (much of it deserved), the law itself is not, as Dickens observed, "a ass." We can join Al Gore in his observation that whether we agree or disagree with the Supreme Court's decision we can accept the "finality of this outcome." We listened to powerful and carefully crafted arguments of each contested issue, but that time has passed and we have to move on. George W. Bush, echoing Thomas Jefferson, was right: We must be guided by purpose and principle in the cause of freedom and harmony.

Naturally, not everybody's happy, but as long as we have opposing candidates that will be true after every election. Lincoln spoke of a far more wrenching factional division in his Second Inaugural Address: "The prayers of both could not be answered; that of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has His own purposes."

We can't always understand those purposes, but we have to deal with them nonetheless. One way of dealing would be to stop slamming George Bush as a moron, the mantra of angry Gore partisans. If he used his political lineage to move up through connections, he proved himself in the jobs he undertook. He's got an MBA from Harvard and he knows what it's like to be "out there" doing business. He's worked with Democrats in Texas and won their respect. And if he's such a moron how did he outsmart so many Democratic smart guys?

We know considerably less about him than we know about Al Gore. Familiarity can breed contempt, but it can beget trust and affection as well. Al Gore never seemed to invite either trust or affection after eight years as vice president amidst a roaring economy. If the sharp focus during the month after the election yields any clues to why he lost it may be that he tried too hard. He wasn't a natural. But as the eloquence of his concession speech suggested, he knew how to yield with grace and honor.

The president-elect, by contrast, brings a refreshing naturalness of demeanor to the office. It's less apparent in formal speeches than in his down-to-earth working relationships, confirmed when Texas House Speaker Pete Laney, a Democrat, introduced him as his friend, a leader and a partner, to the applause of many Texas Democrats.

Al Gore said he regrets that he can't fight for those "who feel their voices have not been heard." George W. Bush hears that challenge, too. "The president of the United States is the president of every single American of every race and every background," he said. "Whether you voted for me or not, I will do my best serve to your interests, and I will work to earn your respect." The eyes of Texas are upon you, Governor. Ours, too.

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