- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 4, 2004

An often jocular and occasionally emotional President Bush, exuding the kind of confidence that comes from winning the most popular votes in history, yesterday held a press conference that illustrated the changing mood that a second Bush administration will bring.

From the beginning, it was clear that the president sees a new power flowchart in Washington, one that puts him in control of an America in which nearly 59 million voters chose him over Democratic rival Sen. John Kerry.

“Yesterday, I pledged to reach out to the whole nation, and today I’m proving that I’m willing to reach out to everybody by including the White House press corps,” Mr. Bush said to a tired but laughing press corps that had hopscotched the country covering his campaign.

But after the first reporter’s question — which was actually three rolled into one — the president, only half jokingly, said: “Now that I’ve got the will of the people at my back, I’m going to start enforcing the one-question rule. That was three questions.”

When another reporter in a small auditorium in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building tried the same trick, the president said: “Again, he violated the one-question rule right off the bat. Obviously, you didn’t listen to the will of the people.”

Over the past two days, the president steadfastly has avoided using the word “mandate.” But his mood yesterday — buoyant, self-assured, occasionally stern and often wry — pointed to a man who clearly has been changed by his re-election, which came after bitter criticism that he has botched the war in Iraq and has failed to improve the economy.

“After hundreds of speeches and three debates and interviews and the whole process, where you keep basically saying the same thing over and over again, that when you win, there is a feeling that the people have spoken and embraced your point of view,” he said.

A plain-spoken Texan, the president yesterday turned introspective and emotional when asked about his father, who had to return to Houston before Mr. Kerry called Wednesday to concede.

“There was some uncertainty about that morning as to when the election would actually end. And it wasn’t clear at that point in time, so I never got to see him face to face to watch his, I guess, pride in his tired eyes as his son got a second term,” Mr. Bush said. “So, I haven’t had a chance to really visit and embrace.”

The relaxed president made several jokes about the grueling campaign — especially the repetition that White House reporters endured when forced to listen to his stump speech time after time.

“I don’t know if you know this or not, but 90 percent of the businesses are sole proprietorships or subchapter S corporations,” he said in answer to one question, hitting a talking point he had uttered hundreds of times across the country.

At another point, when he corrected his grammar after saying, “the revenues is exceeding projections,” he trotted out another line from the campaign.

“Sometimes I mangle the English language. I get that,” he said to laughter.

“Inside joke,” NBC News reporter David Gregory called out.

“Yes, very inside,” said the president, who needled Mr. Gregory, one of his favorite targets, when another reporter also tried to violate the one-question rule, as the NBC reporter had.

“It would hurt Gregory’s feelings,” Mr. Bush said. “He is a sensitive guy. Well-centered, though.” The press corps burst out in laughter.

At the end of the press conference, Mr. Bush turned the table on reporters.

“I’ve got a question for you. How many of you are going to be here for a second term? Please raise your hand.” About half did.

“Good,” the president said to laughter.

Before striding out the door, he said: “Gosh, we’re going to have a lot of fun.”

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