- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 28, 2000

Two hours after Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris declared him to be, for all practical purposes, president-elect, George W. Bush, the presumptive 43rd president of the United States, hit the ground running. In a brief speech delivered from the Capitol building in Austin, Texas, Mr. Bush sounded all the right themes. "This has been a hard-fought election, a healthy contest for American democracy," the president-elect observed in a clear understatement. "But now that the votes are counted, it is time for the votes to count." Well said.

As a president-elect who officially did not acquire a majority of electoral votes until 19 days after election day, Mr. Bush is already operating nearly three weeks behind schedule. "Time runs short," he matter-of-factly declared, "and we have a lot of work to do."

It certainly isn't helping that Vice President Al Gore has mounted a fierce legal assault on the legitimacy of Mr. Bush's victory in Florida. Nevertheless, Mr. Bush seemed undeterred in his resolve to make up for lost time. Selecting Vice President-elect Dick Cheney to chair the transition effort of the next Bush administration was an outstanding choice; Mr. Cheney has participated in no fewer than five presidential transitions. Mr. Bush also named former Secretary of Transportation Andrew Card as his White House chief of staff. As White House deputy chief of staff in the previous Bush administration, Mr. Card oversaw the smooth transition between the Bush-Quayle administration and the Clinton-Gore administration in late 1992 and early 1993.

Regrettably, though predictably, the Clinton-Gore administration seems determined to be far less cooperative in relinquishing power to the Bush-Cheney team. The General Services Administration, which has the power to disburse the congressionally appropriated $5.3 million in transition funds and to hand over the keys to two floors of office space near the White House to the president-elect and his transition team, refused to do so Sunday evening after Mr. Bush finally emerged as president-elect. Not missing a beat, Messrs. Bush and Cheney immediately let it be known through their campaign offices that they were prepared to raise private money and contract for private quarters to conduct their transition business.

The sooner Vice President Gore and his running mate Sen. Joe Lieberman realize it is over, the better it will be for the nation. As President-elect Bush made clear Sunday evening, the challenges confronting the new administration are many and varied, including the need to reform Social Security and Medicare and the need to reduce the oppressive federal tax burden. Mr. Bush also clearly demonstrated his determination to spend whatever political capital was necessary to achieve these goals in a bipartisan way. However, rather than accept that challenge, Messrs. Gore and Lieberman, despite having lost the Florida statewide vote for the fourth time in less than three weeks, remain determined to pursue presidential power regardless of what it costs the nation and its political system.

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