- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 28, 2000

AUSTIN, Texas George W. Bush yesterday moved forward with assembling his administration over resistance from the Clinton administration, which refused to make official transition money and office space available to the president-elect.
Bush running mate Richard B. Cheney, who traveled to Washington yesterday, called the General Services Administration's refusal to turn over $5.3 million and the keys for the government's official transition offices "unprecedented."
"This is regrettable, because we believe the government has an obligation to honor the certified results of the election," the vice president-elect told reporters in Washington. "Despite the decision, we feel it is our obligation to the American people to honor their votes by moving forward and assembling the administration they have chosen in this election."
Mr. Cheney said the Bush team would rent space and work to assemble their administration anyway, paying expenses with private contributions.
Moving forward the day after Florida awarded him the state's 25 electoral votes and therefore the presidency Mr. Bush and his top aides met to discuss Cabinet appointments. Former Gen. Colin Powell is still Mr. Bush's choice to be secretary of state, but senior advisers to the governor said Gen. Powell didn't want his selection to be injected into the political tumult on Sunday.
As the Bush team moved into transition mode, Vice President Al Gore went on national television just before 9 last night to say that his election challenge as a fight for principle, not just a personal quest for the presidency.
"Ignoring votes means ignoring democracy itself. And if we ignore the votes of thousands in Florida in this election, how can you or any American have confidence that your vote will not be ignored in a future election?" Mr. Gore said in his five-minute address.
Earlier in the day, Mr. Gore and running mate Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman took part in a televised conference call with House Minority Leader Richard A. Gephardt and Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle. "There are more than enough votes to change the outcome," said Mr. Gore.
Mr. Gore also filed a "contest" in Florida court to protest the results, in which he lost by 537 votes.
But a new poll commissioned by The Washington Post and ABC News showed 60 percent of Americans say it is time for Mr. Gore to concede the presidential race.
And Mr. Cheney said his and Mr. Bush's responsibility as the certified winners is to begin the transition process. "Whatever the vice president's decision, it does not change our obligation to prepare to govern the nation."
In Austin, Mr. Bush met with his designated White House chief of staff, Andrew Card, and other top aides. He also announced two transition jobs: Mr. Bush's chief of staff in the governor's office, Clay Johnson, will become executive director of the transition team, and campaign spokesman Ari Fleischer will become press secretary for the transition.
With less than 60 days to go before the presidential inauguration Jan. 20, Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney must focus on staffing their administration.
There are some 6,000 appointments to make, 3,000 of them full-time positions and 600 of those subject to Senate confirmation. Another 3,000 jobs are part-time advisory positions on boards and commissions, most of which do not require Senate confirmation.
They must decide quickly on the top 100 or so people to run an administration. FBI background checks are necessary for most of these positions.
On Capitol Hill, Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott called for Senate committee chairmen to start hearings on Jan. 4 for Mr. Bush's Cabinet appointees.
"Given the protracted contest to determine the presidential victor, it is critical that we move expeditiously and be prepared to confirm the new Cabinet on Jan. 20 after the president has been sworn in to office," said Mr. Lott.
As the clamor grew from several quarters for a prompt transition, President Clinton yesterday denied any involvement in the GSA's refusal to turn over the keys to presidential transition offices or transition funds to the Bush team.
"I was not involved in it at all, and as far as I know, no one else here was," Mr. Clinton told reporters at a Cabinet meeting. "I think they're doing what they think the law requires. I was personally not involved in it."
Mr. Clinton said he had signed an executive order creating a "Transition Coordinating Council," which would provide what he called "coordinated services" on personnel matters to the president-elect.
But Republicans dismissed that action as a smokescreen because its implementation still hinged on a president-elect that both parties could agree on. And 30 minutes after the president spoke, Mr. Cheney announced the Bush team was forging ahead with its own plans.
"At the direction of Governor Bush, we will proceed drawing on other sources" of money, he said. The Republican team will file as a Texas nonprofit corporation and accept contributions from private individuals only, up to $5,000 each.
"We will not accept contributions from corporations or political action committees," Mr. Cheney added.
Mr. Cheney, on his first day back to work after recuperating over the weekend from a mild heart attack, said the Bush administration has already lost three weeks of its transition period due to the prolonged contest in Florida. He said further delay would be even more harmful to the administration's relations with Congress, its legislative agenda, the ability to respond to crises, and personnel decisions, calling on his own experiences in five transitions since 1969.
"The quality of the transition has a direct bearing on the quality of the administration," said Mr. Cheney. "There's a whale of a lot of work to do, and we've got to get started."
A Republican source close to the campaign said the Bush team feels "a sense of frustration and a feeling that [the GSA] were awfully quick to come to this conclusion." Another Republican adviser to Mr. Bush said the GSA's action was "petty but not surprising."
Mr. Card said his boss was acting responsibly.
"We know how important it is to keep moving," Mr. Card told reporters. "The governor is doing a terrific job leading not only as the governor of Texas but he's also a great leader during this transition. He knows how important it is to keep moving forward and he's getting ready to be a great president."
Mr. Card, a former Cabinet member in President Bush's White House, said "It's a great privilege" to be selected chief of staff.
Ed Gillespie, a Republican strategist who worked with Mr. Card for more than two months preparing for the Republican National Convention, said Mr. Card, 53, is a superb choice for the job.
"He is a very effective manager, and he brings out the best in people," Mr. Gillespie said. "He knows the names of everyone on the team in Philadelphia [at the GOP convention], he even knew the name of the housekeeping woman who came in at the end of the day to clean out the garbage cans."
A crowd of perhaps 100 supporters greeted Mr. Bush in midmorning as he came out of his office, with one man hollering "You are the man." Mr. Bush signed autographs and shook hands as the crowd cheered.
Asked by a reporter for the local Austin newspaper what others should call him now, Mr. Bush told the reporter with a grin, "Sir, at least in your case."
His spokeswoman, Karen Hughes, said Monday the governor prefers for now to be called "Governor Bush." Nevertheless, with the certification, Mr. Bush is, until a court of competent jurisdiction says otherwise, the president-elect.
Aides tried to emphasize the closure of the ruling on Sunday night in Florida.
"I think the American people saw a moment of finality," said Mrs. Hughes. "I think they realized that this is an important moment we went from counting votes to the fact that votes have been certified and they showed that Governor Bush and Secretary Cheney won."
Bush supporter Anne Markham of Austin agreed yesterday.
"If the Democrats are trying to put the spin that people are going to be really patient [with court appeals], they're totaling wrong," said Mrs. Markham. "According to our Constitution, this man, George W. Bush, is the president-elect of the United States of America."

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