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Bush stays focused through first week in office

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- "Here we are in Week One. I hope you're as enthused about your job as I am about mine."

In a cynical city, the new president delivered this line to one of a few Washington audiences that didn't roll its eyes in disbelief -- freshman members of the House of Representatives invited to the East Room of the White House for lunch.

Some of the audiences have been a bit more jaded. Still, there has been praise.

"I just commend the president for putting education first on the national agenda," said Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Massachusetts, earlier this week. "He so in the course of the campaign, and now he's doing so in Congress. And I think he'll get a very positive response."

The president built his first week around education. Unlike his predecessor, Mr. Bush stayed on message.

"The first week in the Clinton White House was a disaster," said James Thurber of the American University. "He didn't control the message that he wanted to control in terms of public policy. They got started on the question of gays in the military by mistake."

Abortion could have tripped up the Bush team, but the White House sent a surrogate to the march against abortion rights, and quietly rescinded taxpayer support for overseas abortion services and counseling.

Leaving these dominant pictures -- the president's ceremonies with Cabinet luminaries and his exhaustive outreach to members of Congress.

"Honeymoons are created by those who agree to be partners, and he has certainly reached out to make this a pleasant honeymoon, a pleasant relationship with Congress on both the far right and far left," Thurber said.

But reaching out has its limits, as Maryland's Democratic governor made plain in his assessment of Mr. Bush's first week.

"It's far too early in the semester to give a grade," quipped Gov. Parris Glendening. "He is attending class and participating fully."

That biting assessment may be a taste of things to come. The Bush charm offensive has bought him some good will on Capitol Hill, but even the White House concedes there be bumps ahead as Congress works over Bush's education and tax plans.


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Friday, January 26, 2001

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