- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 5, 2002

AUSTIN, Texas President Bush, tears in his eyes and a tight smile on his face, yesterday unveiled his painted portrait in the state capitol, joking that the 100 friends and former co-workers had come to "witness my hanging."

The president, in the waning days of a two-week vacation on his 1,600-acre ranch in nearby Crawford, waxed nostalgic about his two terms as governor.

"This was a joyous six years for us here," said a teary-eyed Mr. Bush, wife Laura just behind him. "It kind of reminds me of what Harry Truman said.

He said, 'I've tried never to forget who I was or where I'd come from, and where I was going back to.'

"And that's what this Capitol says to us. And so does Crawford, by the way. It's our home," he said to applause.

Mr. Bush pointed to and winked at longtime political colleagues both Democrats and Republicans before his short speech. But after the first lady and artist Scott Gentling unveiled the portrait that will hang on the statehouse wall, he did take a small swipe at former Gov. Ann Richards, a Democrat Mr. Bush defeated after a somewhat testy and personal race.

"I just hope Governor Richards doesn't mind being my neighbor for eternity," he said.

The portrait shows a slightly smiling Mr. Bush, seated on the edge of a desk, his hands clasped in front of him. He is wearing a dark suit, white shirt and bright blue tie. He is lit from the side, and behind him is a gray background.

His portrait will hang next to Mrs. Richards in the ornate Texas Capitol rotunda. It joins those of predecessors such as Sam Houston, John Connally and J. Pinckney Henderson, the first Texas governor, who served from 1846 to 1847.

"I didn't know Henderson very well," Mr. Bush said to laughter.

The short ceremony took place just down the hall from the large chamber where Mr. Bush made his victory speech after the Supreme Court ruling that asserted his victory in the 2000 presidential contest.

While the president celebrated his Texas tenure, Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle yesterday delivered a speech in which he blamed Mr. Bush's tax code restructuring last year for the current economic slump. Mr. Bush did not directly respond to the South Dakota Democrat's attack.

"I went up to Washington with a wonderful sense of being able to get things done, because of my relationships and my experience here in the State Capitol. I still believe that can happen. But sometimes Washington needs to figure out that politics isn't what's most important, the people are what's most important," he said.

Mr. Bush, who as governor worked closely with a powerful Democrat leader, the now deceased Lt. Gov. Bob Bullock, also said "political labels" have never stopped him from working with others to try to "figure out what was best for our state."

No man whether a governor or a president can go it alone, he said.

"You're only successful if you're able to convince a lot of good folks to join on the team and to empower them to achieve the common objectives."

While the president reminisced about days gone by, he took time to poke a bit of fun at himself and toward the artist, hitherto better known for his depictions of state birds.

"Pretty tough old bird here to paint, wasn't I?" Mr. Bush said. "These guys may seem a little odd when you meet them upstairs, but they're really good at what they do."

Mr. Bush heads today to California for a town hall meeting, then to Oregon to deliver a speech to business leaders before returning to his ranch. He heads to the White House on Monday before making a trip Tuesday to Ohio, Massachusetts and New Hampshire for speeches on education reform.

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