- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 23, 2001

President Bush made an early bid for bipartisanship yesterday, meeting with six Democratic elders who he hopes will back his education plan and help him change the tone in Washington.
Mr. Bush said he had "the honor of hosting a group of distinguished folks who have had experience with government here that happen to be of the Democratic persuasion."
The president scribbled notes as he met in the Cabinet Room with former Sens. John Glenn of Ohio and Paul Simon of Illinois; Bob Strauss, a former ambassador to Russia and head of the Democratic National Committee; and William Gray, the former House majority whip who heads the United Negro College Fund.
The other senior Democrats at the meeting were Jody Powell, who was President Carter's press secretary; and Richard Moe, the National Trust for Historic Preservation leader who was an aide to Vice President Walter Mondale.
"We've spent a lot of time talking about education and how to get an education agenda moving forward in this important town," said Mr. Bush, who termed the meeting "an advisory session."
The Democratic veterans said Mr. Bush did not ask them to take any specific actions, but they said they appreciated the invitation.
"It was certainly a gesture, and a nice one," Mr. Powell told reporters after the meeting. "The president said he intended for it to be more than a gesture."
But "the proof will be in the pudding, not his words," he said.
During a hectic first full workday, the nation's 43rd president reinstated an order President Reagan issued in 1984 that blocks U.S. funds to international family-planning groups that use their own money to support abortion. President Clinton suspended the rule in January 1993.
On the 28th anniversary of the Roe vs. Wade decision, Mr. Bush also told pro-life marchers in a statement that "we share a great goal: to work toward a day when every child is welcomed in life and protected in law."
He also ordered his staff to adhere to strict ethics rules, met with Republican congressional leaders, huddled with Secretary of State Colin Powell and met with leaders of successful reading programs.
Mr. Bush's staff announced the time and place of his first foreign trip Feb. 16 to Mexico. The president also called Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien and said he would like to meet soon.
On Capitol Hill, Republican Sen. Phil Gramm of Texas and Democratic Sen. Zell Miller of Georgia introduced a bill that would carry out Mr. Bush's campaign pledge of a $1.6 trillion tax cut over 10 years.
"It is an opportunity to reach across party lines and really practice bipartisanship, not just talk about it," Mr. Miller said.
Mr. Miller said some of his Democratic colleagues prefer "targeted" tax cuts that were touted by Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore.
But Mr. Miller echoed Mr. Bush's call for across-the-board cuts yesterday when he said: "Who are we to pick and choose and select and cull and single out among our taxpayers? Who are we to play eenie-meenie-miney-moe with our taxpayers?"
Mr. Gramm said the bill would cut rates for all taxpayers, eliminate the marriage penalty and phase out the estate and gift taxes.
"We are joining together in a crusade to see this tax cut, in its totality, adopted," Mr. Gramm said. "We want to see it become the law of the land."
Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota said on the Senate floor yesterday that Mr. Bush's tax cut was "excessive," adding that "any tax cut must be affordable and fiscally responsible."
"Our ability to achieve a strong bipartisan compromise on taxes will be the biggest test of our 50-50 Senate," Mr. Daschle said. "I'm confident we can pass that test."
Mr. Bush and Republican leaders talked about their legislative priorities in a noon meeting in the Cabinet Room, House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert told reporters at the White House.
"Education and defense and tax relief for the American people are going to be some of the first things we're going to be working on in a bicameral way and, hopefully, in a bipartisan way in Congress," the Illinois Republican said.
Other than the abortion moves, the day was marked by Mr. Bush's move to court Democratic sages.
"It was a good general conversation today, and I thought the president showed a good willingness to reach out, and we were glad to be here today," Mr. Glenn told reporters after the meeting.
"To bring in some of these outside 'old bulls,' so to speak, is a smart move on his part," Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, Mississippi Republican, told reporters at the White House after Mr. Bush's meeting with Republican congressional leaders.
Bush spokesman Ari Fleischer said more such meetings will happen.
"Get used to it," Mr. Fleischer said in a morning briefing. "He is going to continue to identify those Democrats who will be most willing to work with him."
The Democratic veterans "are people who are known for their good will, their ability to work well with the other party."
In Texas, Mr. Bush cultivated a critical alliance with Bob Bullock, a crusty Democrat and powerful lieutenant governor.
Republicans gloried in the new atmosphere at the White House.
"Life is good," House Majority Leader Dick Armey, Texas Republican, said after meeting with the president.
House Majority Whip Tom DeLay of Texas was effusive about the change in the political atmosphere after meeting with Mr. Bush.
"It was wonderful," Mr. DeLay said. "It was just so different. President Bush wanted to hear what we had to say. Now I don't get up every morning thinking, 'How do I beat Clinton today?' I get up thinking, 'How can I get things done?' "
Mr. DeLay, who largely carried out the Republican agenda against the Democratic White House for eight years, said Mr. Clinton's exit has "unclothed" congressional Democrats.
"Bill Clinton gave them political cover and leverage with the veto," Mr. DeLay said. "They don't have that now. That's a hugely different dynamic."
Of Mr. Bush's meeting with the "old bull" Democrats, Mr. DeLay said, "I think he needs some institutional knowledge. He hasn't served in Congress. He needs to pick their brains. I think that shows a humility and a grand management style."
But he said the collegiality of Texas could set up Mr. Bush for a rude awakening in Washington.
"He's used to everybody being conciliatory and working together everybody working together, including the Democratic leadership," Mr. DeLay said.
"Here, we haven't experienced that in the last six years, though we're hoping for that in the next eight years."
At least officially, House Minority Leader Richard A. Gephardt of Missouri expressed no resentment that Mr. Bush didn't choose to meet with Democrats who currently serve in Congress.
"Mr. Gephardt has already met with him," said spokesman Sue Harvey, who pointed out that Mr. Bush conferred with Democratic leaders of both chambers at the Capitol several weeks ago.
Congressional Democratic leaders will meet with Mr. Bush at the White House tomorrow morning.

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