- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 27, 2000

Texas Gov. George W. Bush promised major Republican donors last night that he would respond in kind if attacked by Vice President Al Gore and the Democrats, but also said he plans indeed, prefers a "campaign of ideas."

"Make no mistake, when I am attacked in this campaign, I will respond aggressively, promote my principles [and] set the record straight," Mr. Bush said to more than 1,600 Republicans at a black-tie dinner at the District of Columbia Armory on East Capitol Street.

Mr. Bush, leading Mr. Gore in most national polls, drew waves of applause when he told the Republican National Committee's annual gala: "We will win the White House. We will hold the House. We will hold the Senate."

"And come January, Vice President Al Gore will have one last official duty to swear in Senator Rudolph Giuliani of New York," he said in his keynote address. Mr. Giuliani, the Republican mayor of New York City, is running against first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton for the New York seat held by retiring Democratic Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan.

But Mr. Bush also made a bid for bipartisanship last night, calling for more cooperation between Republicans and Democrats and an end to legislative gridlock.

The theme included harsh criticism of President Clinton and Mr. Gore. He accused the Clinton-Gore administration of being "the most relentlessly partisan administration in our nation's history."

But in the same breath, he chided his own party in Congress for excessive partisanship, saying that "sometimes some in our party have responded in kind."

"Americans have seen a cycle of bitterness, an arms race of anger," he said.

Mr. Bush, out to win the hearts of swing voters and disaffected Democrats who tell pollsters they are eager to see a higher tone in national politics, said this bitter partisanship creates "cynicism, a generic disgust a feeling by too many Americans that it doesn't matter who wins the election, because they're all the same."

"Both parties bear some of the blame," he said.

As if to emphasize that theme, Mr. Bush met yesterday with Sen. Bob Kerrey, Nebraska Democrat, to discuss reforming Social Security by letting workers invest part of their federal withholding taxes.

"We need to work together both as Republicans and Democrats," Mr. Bush said. "That's how we get things done."

The Texas governor helped the RNC break its money-raising record by raising more than $21.5 million for the gala, according to RNC Finance Chairman Mel Sembler.

At noon yesterday, Mr. Bush won a warm reception from several hundred women when he addressed the third annual Republican Women Leaders Forum, the theme of which this year is "For Our Daughters."

Rep. Jennifer Dunn of Washington and Texas Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison introduced Laura Bush, who in turn introduced her husband to the audience at the Ronald Reagan Building.

Mr. Bush participated in three discussions with female leaders on bringing "compassion and responsibility" to education.

Last night, he also went after Mr. Gore's reputation as a dirty fighter.

"My opponent is an integral part of an administration that has waged the same old Washington blame game," he said. "He speaks of the 'extra chromosome right wing.' Anyone who disagrees with him is labeled 'risky' or 'radical' or 'reckless.' He once said he would 'rip the lungs out of anybody else in the race.' "

"But it does not have to be this way," Mr. Bush said. "We are not all the same. I will set a different tone. I will restore civility and respect to our national politics."

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