- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 14, 2001

President Bush yesterday named a U.S. courthouse in Boston for ailing Rep. Joe Moakley in a Rose Garden ceremony to warm the hearts and perhaps win a few votes of congressional Democrats.

Mr. Bush, agreeing to a request to pose for pictures with Mr. Moakley and his Massachusetts congressional colleagues, all Democrats, joked: "They'll never get re-elected."

Democrats insisted, on an occasion when partisanship was put aside, that the president's gesture was driven by nothing so crass as politics. But they acknowledged that it could pay dividends later.

"The president's willingness to recognize the commitment that Joe Moakley has to government helps us not to think of him the way we did those revolutionaries in 1994, who were basically leaving the impression that we were not fully American if we did not agree with them on every issue," said Rep. Edward J. Markey, one of the Massachusetts delegation.

The pointed reference was to Newt Gingrich, the former speaker of the House, and other Republicans who were elected to control of Congress six years ago. Democrats who often characterized those Republicans as mean-spirited say they view Mr. Bush differently.

"This is the kind of political gesture that was more typical when Tip O'Neill was speaker," Mr. Markey said. "This is the way we in Massachusetts conduct politics on an ongoing basis, no matter how acrimonious the debate over the issues may have become."

Rep. Martin T. Meehan agreed. "It's smart politics. You know, just because the president does something that's smart politics, doesn't mean it's not sincere," he said.

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, icon of liberal Democrats, seemed moved by the president's gesture. "I wrote him a note about it," Mr. Kennedy said.

"I think the president was being gracious and that's a powerful factor and a force. And I think he deserves credit for it. And we were very grateful… . I'm delighted to acknowledge it and indicate support."

Rep. Bill Delahunt went out of his way to praise Mr. Bush's outreach to Democrats.

"There was no place for politics here today," Mr. Delahunt said. "And I think the president displayed sincere and genuine emotions.

"Obviously, there are very major differences, particularly between this delegation and the president," he added. "But I think it adds to the respect for the office and to the respect for the president as a person."

Before Mr. Bush emerged from the Oval Office, White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card worked the crowd that had assembled amid the budding trees and sprouting tulips of the Rose Garden. Mr. Card said his boss is bringing that spirit back to the nation's capital.

"It's not rhetoric; it's practice," Mr. Card said. "The president is showing that civility can be practiced in Washington."

Mr. Card received a warm welcome from the assembled Democrats, including Reps. Barney Frank, Markey and Delahunt, all who served with him in the Massachusetts state legislature.

"He's our buddy, we were elected together," Mr. Markey said. "Barney and I and Billy Delahunt we were elected as state reps with him in the early '70s. He's been our buddy for 26, 28 years."

Mr. Card made no attempt to hide the ideological differences between the president, a tax-cutting conservative, and Mr. Moakley, who helped pump $15 billion in tax money into a Boston public works project known as a "big dig."

"Joe is a staunch partisan," Mr. Card said. "The president doesn't agree with him on a lot of issues. But he respects him and he respects the civility that he brings to the job every day.

"The president and I say this not with any spin or anything else respects people who respect the job that they have to do for their constituents."

Mr. Bush singled out Mr. Moakley during his first presidential address to a joint session of Congress last month.

"Our prayers tonight are with one of your own who is engaged in his own fight against cancer, a fine representative and a good man, Congressman Joe Moakley," Mr. Bush said, prompting an extended standing ovation. "I can think of no more appropriate tribute to Joe than to have the Congress finish the job of doubling the budget for the National Institutes of Health."

Yesterday, the president described Mr. Moakley as a "bread-and-butter Democrat" and a "formidable advocate for his party's causes."

Mr. Moakley seemed touched by the president's gesture. "I'm very happy that you felt, Mr. President, that you could sign this legislation," he said. "You know, it's nice to be on the same side of the grass that the monument that honors you is on. And for a while, I didn't think I was going to make it."

The clouds suddenly parted and sunlight bathed the Rose Garden in an amber light. "On a day like this, the good Lord is sharing his sunshine with us and allowed this president to have this in this wonderful, wonderful Rose Garden. And these are memories I'll take with me."

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