- The Washington Times - Monday, November 27, 2000

AUSTIN, Texas George W. Bush, president-elect at last, moved swiftly after winning Florida last night to lay out his agenda in a nationally televised address and called on the Clinton administration to turn over the keys to transition offices for a smooth transfer of power.
"The election was close, but tonight after a count, a recount and yet another manual recount, Secretary Cheney and I are honored and humbled to have won the state of Florida, which gives us the needed electoral votes to win the election," Mr. Bush said.
"We will therefore undertake the responsibility of preparing to serve as America's next president and vice president."
Mr. Bush named his running mate, Richard B. Cheney, as chairman of his transition team and Andrew Card, a Cabinet member in his father's White House, as his chief of staff.
He pledged to work with both parties in Congress to reform Social Security and Medicare, and to pass a broad program of tax cuts.
"We have a duty to find common ground to reform these vital programs for the greatest generation and for future generations," Mr. Bush said. "I will work to unite our great land."
The General Services Administration in Washington, subject to the supervision of the White House, said it would not assist in the transition while court contests of the election remain unresolved.
In a speech that was both sympathetic and stern with Vice President Al Gore, and was made under the shadow of unresolved court cases, Mr. Bush urged his opponent to concede for the good of the nation.
"The vice president's lawyers have indicated he will challenge the certified election results," Mr. Bush, flanked by U.S. flags, said in remarks from the Texas Capitol. "I respectfully ask him to reconsider."
"Now that [the results] are certified, we enter a different phase. If the vice president chooses to go forward, he is filing a contest to the outcome of the election," he said. "That is not the best route for America. Now we must live up to our principles. We must show our commitment to the common good, which is bigger than any person or any party."
Mr. Bush's speech came after he heard the news last night that aides say he never doubted the words of Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris, delivered at 7:33 p.m. Washington time, that Mr. Bush had won Florida. And with it, he had won the presidency.
As Mrs. Harris made her announcement, hundreds of Bush supporters outside the governor's mansion in Austin erupted in cheers and jubilation.
"I've felt like he's been the president for about three weeks already," said Jill Lay of Austin. "Even some of the Democrats have to believe this is the end."
Those developments in Florida last night allowed Mr. Bush to finally deliver a victory speech that had been on hold for 19 days, ever since Mr. Gore took back his concession on election night and robbed Mr. Bush of a victory celebration.
An adviser to Mr. Bush said last night that the extraordinary events of the past three weeks led Mr. Bush to give a speech that was more conciliatory than what he would have given on election night had he received a clear-cut victory then.
Last night's speech also was muted by court challenges on both sides that will prolong the election dispute until at least Friday, when the U.S. Supreme Court hears the Republican's appeal of a ruling by the Florida Supreme Court to allow hand recounts in Democratic counties.
By losing no time in calling for an orderly transition, Mr. Bush also put President Clinton and Mr. Gore in a political quandary whether to cooperate with him on transferring power to a Republican administration.
Such a move would, in the view of the Bush camp, fatally undercut Mr. Gore's claim to the presidency, yet resisting the transfer would make Mr. Gore appear to be working against the nation's interests.
"Once our elections are behind us, once our disagreements are expressed, we have a responsibility to honor our Constitution and laws and come together to do the people's business," Mr. Bush said. "I've asked Secretary Cheney to work with President Clinton's administration, to open a transition office in Washington. And we look forward to a constructive working relationship throughout this transition."
Even before Mr. Bush delivered his address to the nation last night, his team was working carefully throughout the day to put pressure on Mr. Gore to give up for the good of the nation.
Former Secretary of State James A. Baker III, Mr. Bush's emissary in Florida, said Americans do not want further legal wrangling and court rulings in this election.
"At some point, at some point, there must be closure," Mr. Baker said in Tallahassee, Fla. "At some point, the law must prevail and the lawyers must go home. We have reached that point."
Mr. Baker said it is "extraordinary" in the history of the United States for the Gore team to contest a presidential election in court.
"Now, after almost three weeks of turmoil, we as a country have another opportunity to step back, to pause, and to think about what's at stake," Mr. Baker said. "I don't believe that the people of America want this national election turned over to lawyers and court contests. I can certainly understand the pain and the frustration of losing an election so very, very narrowly."
Mr. Baker then turned a favorite Gore phrase.
"But it is time to honor the will of the people," he said. "It is time to let the orderly process of transitioning go forward. I would hope that the country would not be put through the trauma of contest of the election results."
The Republicans' 1996 presidential nominee, Bob Dole, said on CNN's "Larry King Live" of the election last night that "I think it's probably over."
Spokesmen for Mr. Bush emphasized the harm to the nation if Mr. Gore persists in contesting the election.
"There really is a strategy here which could be very problemsome for the office of the presidency, said Sen. Arlen Specter, Pennsylvania Republican. "We're talking about transition, we're talking about appointments, we're talking about personnel background investigations by the FBI or security clearances.
"That all takes some considerable time. Enough is enough."

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