- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 17, 2001

George W. Bush will use his brief inauguration speech Saturday at noon to call for unity and healing, but he will not revisit the divisive presidential election.

The speech will emphasize "that the United States is one nation," Bush spokesman Ari Fleischer said yesterday. "It's going to be a speech that talks about unity, that talks about healing. That will be the gist of his remarks.

"He's pretty well done with [the speech] except for the practice now." While some new presidents have spoken for more than an hour, Mr. Bush's speech will "be anywhere between 10 and 12 minutes, depending on how quickly or slow he reads."

Mr. Bush told USA Today that he will not mention Vice President Al Gore or the overtime election in his address.

"I'm not going to talk about politics," Mr. Bush said.

Speech writer Mike Gerson wrote a draft of the address. Mr. Bush and top aides Karl Rove and Karen Hughes have honed the speech, which Mr. Bush practiced over the weekend at his ranch in Crawford, Texas.

In taking the 35-word oath of office 39 if one counts the four words, "so help me God," not in the Constitution but added by President Washington and nearly every president since then Mr. Bush will put his left hand on a 1767 copy of the King James version of the Bible.

The same Bible was used for Washington's inauguration on April 30, 1789. Presidents Warren G. Harding, Dwight D. Eisenhower and Jimmy Carter used the same Bible during their own ceremonies, as did Mr. Bush's father in 1989.

In his address, the new president, who campaigned as "a uniter, not a divider," is expected to repeat his call for strong public schools that will "leave no child behind."

"It favors George W. to make the speech short," said Democratic strategist Scot Segal.

"Because he is best when he communicates with you're going to laugh when I say this but with elegance and simplicity. I think that's his strongest suit."

Mr. Segal, once a speech coach at the University of Texas, predicted that Mr. Bush will deliver "a relatively formal speech that sounds themes of healing and bipartisanship."

He added that Mr. Bush's bipartisan vision needs some repair work following protests over several of his Cabinet nominees, including Attorney General-designate John Ashcroft and Gale A. Norton, his nominee for secretary of the interior.

"He's got to reinforce this notion of bipartisanship," Mr. Segal said. "And he's got to find some new reiteration [of] George [W.] Bush as uniter.

"Because I think that he has learned the hard way that trying to serve all masters in the Republican Party can come at the expense of harmony."

Republican strategist Ed Rollins said Mr. Bush will avoid contentious issues, such as the post-election debacle in Florida.

Instead, he said it is important for the new president to acknowledge "how important the office is and what great respect he has for the office. And that he hopes to follow in the traditions of his father, and Ronald Reagan, and that he clearly hopes that he can work closely with the Congress to accomplish some very significant things."

The new president's second inaugural address as governor of Texas could offer some insights into Saturday's speech.

In that January 1999 address, Mr. Bush stressed racial healing, but said he was unafraid of making moral judgments.

Mr. Bush praised racial diversity and said it is appropriate "to draw a clear line between right and wrong."

"Some people think it's inappropriate to make moral judgments anymore," the Texas governor said. "Not me."

Mr. Bush, who reads the Bible each morning, invoked God three times during the speech. He also called for unity.

"We must not become two societies one that believes in the American dream and one without such hope," he said. "As we do to the least of us, we do to ourselves."

Mr. Bush emphasized bipartisanship throughout his presidential campaign. On Saturday he might echo the call for cooperation in his father's 1989 inaugural address.

Mr. Bush's father said: "A new breeze is blowing and the old bipartisanship must be made new again."

President Clinton and first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton will host Mr. Bush and his wife, Laura, at the White House on Saturday morning before the ceremony.

"It's not a working meeting by any measure," White House spokesman Jake Siewert said.

The nation's 42nd and 43rd presidents then will ride together in a limousine to the Capitol for Mr. Bush's appointment with history.

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