- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 9, 2000

Texas Gov. George W. Bush and Arizona Sen. John McCain will meet at a Pittsburgh hotel amid lingering tension this morning in their first face-to-face encounter since Mr. Bush won the bitter Republican presidential primary.
Mr. Bush arrived in Pittsburgh last night saying he still intends to ask Mr. McCain if he's interested in the vice presidency. But Mr. McCain is just as insistent that he doesn't want to be Mr. Bush's running mate.
Mr. McCain has said he will give Mr. Bush a "strong endorsement." Yet he also suggested that he wants to use today's talk to hold Mr. Bush accountable for his campaign claim to be a more effective reformer than Mr. McCain.
"He's said he's a reformer with results," Mr. McCain told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "That's his slogan. I'd like to know what those are and how I can be helpful in achieving a reform agenda."
Mr. McCain said today's private meeting, set for 8 a.m., will help determine how enthusiastically he supports the Bush campaign. He said he intends to discuss Social Security and Medicare availability for baby boomers, better conditions for the military, education, health care and campaign-finance reform.
For Mr. Bush, the meeting presents different challenges. Some Republicans are eager to keep Mr. McCain involved in the campaign, given his popularity in the primaries among some Democrats and independents.
Mr. Bush "has talked about reaching out and bringing people together, and that includes vanquished foes," said Republican pollster Whit Ayres. "It's 'Politics 101.' Unified parties are more formidable in the general election than divided parties."
But others in the GOP, mindful of Mr. McCain's attack on Christian conservatives on the eve of Virginia's primary and his equivocal statements on abortion, are urging Mr. Bush to distance himself from the senator. Christian Coalition leader Pat Robertson said Sunday that Mr. Bush should choose a running mate who is a "balanced leader," a swipe at Mr. McCain's temper.
Mr. Bush said yesterday of the meeting with Mr. McCain: "I look forward to talking to John about education and campaign-funding reform," he added. "I don't anticipate any changes on his part or my part, but there's a lot of area for us on which to agree and I look forward to having that discussion."
As the two camps prepared for the meeting, Democrats posted a reminder on the Democratic National Committee's Web site of one particularly nasty episode in the Republican campaign.
Prior to the pivotal South Carolina primary in February, Mr. Bush appeared at a campaign stop where supporters criticized Mr. McCain for betraying Vietnam veterans. Mr. McCain, an ex-Navy pilot, spent 5 and 1/2 years in a Hanoi prison during the war.
The DNC reminded people that the day after Mr. Bush defeated him in South Carolina, Mr. McCain called the event "one of the more disgraceful chapters in this campaign."
"Governor Bush did not repudiate that," Mr. McCain said at the time. "That's shameful."
Another rift developed between the two men in Michigan, where the McCain campaign reminded voters that Mr. Bush had spoken in February at Bob Jones University, an institution that has been accused of an anti-Catholic bias. Mr. Bush complained angrily that Mr. McCain was smearing him as a religious bigot.
Mr. McCain said those moments are behind them.
"There is no point in me looking back in rancor or anger or bitterness in the campaign," Mr. McCain told the Post-Gazette. "It's over. There are more things that we agree on than we disagree on, and I believe he would be a good president of the United States."
The senator has suggested retired Gen. Colin Powell as Mr. Bush's running mate and has not ruled out serving in Mr. Bush's Cabinet, possibly as secretary of defense.
This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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