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Eileen O'Connor: Bush meeting with Clinton strikes historic, personal note

Eileen O'Connor
Eileen O'Connor  

CNN Correspondent Eileen O'Connor is in Washington covering the transition process of President-elect George W. Bush.

Q: What are we expecting from George W. Bush and Bill Clinton when they meet face-to-face?

O'CONNOR: It will be interesting to see how Clinton and Bush will relate. Dick Cheney has talked about how presidents can end up with a good relationship, even though they may have had bitter dealings in the past.

George W. Bush criticized President Clinton a lot on the campaign trail when he talked about restoring honor and dignity to the Oval Office.

There were very bitter feelings between the Bush family and the Clintons at the end of the elder Bush's administration. Some analysts say there's bad blood between the two families.

The elder Bush was irked about the criticism he got from the 1992 Clinton campaign on various issues, especially the economy and the campaign slogan "It's the economy, Stupid."

Former President Bush felt he never got credit for the economy that began turning around (toward the end of his tenure). Right after he left office, the economy really started to recover.

That was what was really interesting about the meeting between George W. Bush and Alan Greenspan Monday. George Sr. had really wanted Greenspan to cut rates during 1992 and Greenspan wouldn't.

There's a lot of history underneath these meetings -- history both figuratively and literally. This is a traditional, historic meeting that the president-elect has with the current president. In this case, there's personal history as well.

Q: What will the two sides discuss?

O'CONNOR: Bush aides say it will be a traditional meeting and that they will talk about various elements of transition business. They've signed at least three ‘memorandums of understanding,' which enable the transition team to access privileged and sensitive information.

Traditionally, the president takes the president-elect into the family quarters and gives him a tour of the White House into parts of the White House the president-elect may never have seen before. But in this case, George W. Bush knows the White House quite well because of his father. As Laura Bush said Monday, "I've slept in the Lincoln Bedroom."

So, that kind of (tour) they won't have to dwell on.

Bush was involved in his father's presidency and his transition, and he knows what's at stake here.

Q: Bush will also meet with Al Gore. What sort of message does the Bush team hope that meeting will portray to the nation?

O'CONNOR: The meeting with Vice President Al Gore is very important. The Bush team has been very thankful and appreciative of the concession speech Al Gore gave. They believe he struck exactly the right chord. They feel the speech went a long way of healing the wounds and that it went a long way in bringing the country together.

The meeting is really important because of the image of the two men together burying the hatchet. It will be interesting to see what the vice president says to the president-elect. We will likely hear themes of unifying the country and getting behind this new president, and conveying to Gore supporters that this is a legitimate presidency.

That for the Bush team is a very important image, so they can move beyond the recount and the post-election drama.


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Tuesday, December 19, 2000

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