Bush continues with transition of power
WASHINGTON – In an Oval Office rite of passage masking their sharp differences, President-elect Bush listened to the litany of world problems he’ll face from the man who has wrestled with them for the last eight years. President Clinton advised that Bush ”get a good team and do what he thinks is right.”
Sitting where his father led the nation until his defeat by Clinton, Bush said Tuesday, ”It’s such a huge honor to come as the president-elect. I don’t think I’ll really, fully realize the impact until I swear in” on Jan. 20.
Bush seemed tense, sitting straight in a wing-backed armchair, his hands clasped in his lap as he rubbed his thumbs and tapped his foot. Twice he thanked the president for his hospitality and said, ”He didn’t need to do this.” Bush told reporters, ”I’m here to listen” and said it was ”a high-energy moment.” White House officials described the talks as very serious and frank.
After two days of meetings in Washington and interviews with prospective Cabinet members, Bush flew back to Texas. On Wednesday he is expected to name longtime friend and former campaign chairman Don Evans as commerce secretary; Mel Martinez, a former Cuban refugee who is chairman of Orange County, Fla., as housing secretary; and, as agriculture secretary, Ann Veneman, former director of the California Food and Agriculture Department who worked in the previous Bush administration.
Bush, in a gesture of conciliation, also invited black ministers and others to a meeting in Austin to discuss domestic policies. In the Nov. 7 election, Bush received only one of out of 10 black votes.
The president-elect also invited a bipartisan group of education policymakers, including eight to 10 lawmakers, to Austin on Thursday. Bush has promised to make education one of the first items on his legislative agenda.
Clinton and Bush talked by themselves for more than two hours, first in the Oval Office and then over lunch in the family dining room in the residence. Their discussions covered trouble spots such as the Middle East, the Balkans and North Korea, officials said.
Bush paid a 15-minute call on defeated rival Al Gore at the vice president’s mansion. Stepping outside in a light snow without an overcoat, Gore greeted Bush at his limousine with a long handshake and a pat on the back. ”We’re going to have a private discussion,” Gore said.
Gore, who waged a futile five-week battle to count disputed ballots in Florida, emphasized ”the importance of setting differences aside and coming together,” spokesman Jim Kennedy said.
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