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George W. Bush: The Next President

Aired December 14, 2000 - 1:00 a.m. ET


ANNOUNCER: This is a CNN Election 2000 Special Report. Words of acceptance.


ALBERT GORE (D), VICE PRESIDENT, PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Tonight, for the sake of our unity as a people and the strength of our democracy, I offer my concession.


ANNOUNCER: Words of invitation.


GEORGE W. BUSH (R), PRESIDENT-ELECT: After a difficult election, we must put politics behind us and work together to make the promise of America available for every one of our citizens.


ANNOUNCER: Tonight the speeches, the second-guessing, the long road ahead. This is a CNN Election 2000 Special Report: "George W. Bush: The Next President."

From CNN Center in Atlanta, Catherine Callaway.

CATHERINE CALLAWAY, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everyone, and thanks for joining us.

It has been a night for speeches Americans ordinarily would have heard 36 days ago, but this was no ordinary presidential election. It was an historically close one that the U.S. Supreme Court effectively resolved just 27 hours ago. CNN's John King now on the speeches -- one a concession, the other an invitation.


JOHN KING, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It is President-elect Bush now, healing priority one.

BUSH: I believe things happen for a reason, and I hope the long wait of the last five weeks will heighten a desire to move beyond the bitterness and partisanship of the recent past. KING: The Texas house chamber was chosen for a reason. Democrats rule here, but have worked hand in hand with their Republican governor.

BUSH: The spirit of cooperation I have seen in this hall is what is needed in Washington, D.C. It is the challenge of our moment.

KING: Better schools and lower taxes, the themes familiar but discussed this night in a tone that made clear the next president knows all too well that more people voted for his opponent.

BUSH: Republicans want the best for our nation, and so do Democrats. Our votes may differ, but not our hopes.

KING: Major staff and cabinet announcements will come soon. It was 36 extra days in the making, but in the end, a familiar ritual brought campaign 2000 to a close. The vice president called the governor, then went public to concede.

GORE: And I promised him that I wouldn't call him back this time.

KING: It was a humorous reference to his election night concession, later retracted, the opening salvo in a recount battle ultimately settled in the nation's highest court.

GORE: Let there be no doubt. While I strongly disagree with the Court's decision, I accept it. I accept the finality of this outcome.

KING: Mr. Gore will meet with his now former rival on Tuesday, conciliation the theme.

BUSH: And I call on all Americans -- I particularly urge all who stood with us to unite behind our next president.

KING: It's clear some supporters relish the thought of a rematch. The vice president promised not to quit the fight but offered no clues as to whether he might run again. After all, the overriding theme this night was unity.

(on camera): But as one uncertain chapter ends, another begins. There's plenty of talk of bipartisanship in Washington, yet also no shortage of raw Democratic anger. Ask top Gore advisers what's next for the vice president, and the universal answer is "I don't know." But this much is certain. In just five and a half weeks, George W. Bush becomes the 43rd president of the United States.

John King, CNN, Washington.


CALLAWAY: The 54-year-old Texas governor may be best known for his self-described philosophy of "compassionate conservatism." Now, in the days leading to the inauguration, America will be learning more about this son of a president and how he charted his own path to the White House. A closer look from our Candy Crowley, who has been covering the Bush campaign since the beginning.


BUSH: Ready to go?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Good morning, Governor!

BUSH: See you later. You coming?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I just -- I'm coming!

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The first time he remembers hearing it was July 6th, 1996.

BUSH: And Lieutenant Governor Bob Bullock, a Democrat, stood up and said, "I'm -- it's great to be here at the birthday party of the next president of the United States."

CROWLEY: George Walker Bush looked around the room.

BUSH: I was trying to find "Who might that be?"

CROWLEY: Four and a half years later, Bush is poised to become the 43rd president of the United States. He has his father's looks, his mother's attitude. He may govern like Ronald Reagan.

BUSH: Because I'm such a positive person. See, I'm an optimistic person. I would rather talk about the right things that are happening.

CROWLEY: The nation is getting a big-picture guy with a sunny personality and a stubborn streak. He is focused on results, disinterested in process, impatient with details, a delegator.

BUSH: Leaders get things done, and they realize they cannot do it alone, so they surround themselves with good people and build a strong team.

CROWLEY: Consider that while the networks aired the tape of the Supreme Court hearing that could decide his political fate, George Bush went to the gym. It was enough that lawyers he trusted were on the job.

BUSH: Got a good briefing from our team.


BUSH: I would call them cautiously optimistic.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And how about yourself? Are you cautiously optimistic?

BUSH: If they are, I am.

CROWLEY: The coin of the realm in the Bush inner circle is loyalty. The president-elect both demands and returns it. In the lowest moments of his campaign, Republican insiders sniffed that Bush needed to deep-six his Texas-centric staff. He did not. A study in contrasts, Bush talks endlessly about changing the partisan tone in Washington but never hesitates to use brass knuckles.

BUSH: They are going out as they came in, their guide the nightly polls, their goal the morning headlines, their legacy the fruitless search for a legacy.

CROWLEY: He is a conservative Republican who literally took the road less traveled.

BUSH: I like to be seen in neighborhoods sometimes where Republicans aren't seen. I like to fight that stereotype that somehow we don't have the corazon (ph) necessary to hear the voices of people from all political parties and all walks of life!

CROWLEY: He is a laid-back, "Let the chips fall where they may" Texan with a nervous intensity, a kind of cat-like edginess behind the good ol' boy. Though an easy, often electric retail campaigner, Bush lacks Reagans way with the camera and ease with the written word. Teleprompter speeches are stilted, and minus a script, he can butcher the language.

BUSH: When I was coming up, it was a dangerous world, and we knew exactly who the "they" were. It was us versus them, and it was clear who them was. Today we're not so sure who the "they" are, but we know they're there.

CROWLEY: His tangled syntax, less than firm grasp on some issues and CEO approach fueled the toughest question of the campaign: Is this graduate of Andover, Yale and Harvard Business School smart enough for the job?

BUSH: I remember what they did to Ronald Reagan. They belittled him, and they said he can't possibly be smart enough to be president of the United States. He's simply an actor. The man turned out to be a great president. And you know, I think it's partly because those of us who don't spend our adult life in Washington, D.C., are seen to be somehow be deficient.

CROWLEY: Defenders say Bush is no more gaffe-prone than the average person, and he did work his way through three presidential debates against an opponent a lot of people thought would wipe the floor with him. Bush has acute people skills, an innate ability to size up an opponent and read the dynamics of a room. He is by all accounts a good listener and facilitator who prides himself on the number of Democrats in Texas who call him friend.

BUSH: I've got a reputation in my state as a uniter, not a divider.

CROWLEY (on-camera): Of the things he brings to the table, Bush may be best served in rough-and-tumble Washington by his underlying confidence in his judgment and his capabilities. Asked once what should be written on his tombstone, the governor replied, "He was comfortable in his own skin." Candy Crowley, CNN, Austin.


CALLAWAY: And now comes the transition. The White House of William Jefferson Clinton soon becomes the working residence of George Walker Bush. Eileen O'Connor gives us a behind-the-scenes look at how the change is scheduled to occur.


EILEEN O'CONNOR, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): They will now get the keys to the official headquarters for this presidential transition and permission to spend $5.2 million for salaries, consultant fees, travel costs, even printing and postage. The office space may never get used. Locked out, the Bush team raised $1.5 million of its own money, rented space, albeit on a weekly basis, given the roller-coaster ride of recounts, and even whipped up a Web site, taking in 18,000 resumes, mostly on line, applying for everything from clerk to cabinet secretary, attempting to fill 1,125 posts that need Senate confirmation and over 5,000 other jobs, by their count. The result: a partially filled dance card already for the Bush administration.

BUSH: I've been taking the transition very seriously. I've been in constant contact with people on my team who are in Washington, D.C.

O'CONNOR: There are lists and lists -- jobs like attorney general, directors of bureaus and services, ambassadors, undersecretaries, assistant secretaries or just plain secretaries. A new president has the option to change people on boards, commissions and all sorts of advisory panels. Many need to be checked by the FBI and give complete financial disclosures to clear government ethics hurdles. All of it takes time, time that this year has been cut in half, from 10 weeks to about 5.

PAUL LIGHT, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: Then you go to the FBI, where they investigate the answers to your forms. Then you go up to Capitol Hill for Senate confirmation. All of these choke points can only handle so many names at a time.

O'CONNOR: And if you're considering one of those jobs, remember you might have to face this and this, and in Washington, a lot of this. After all, it is a hot property market.

Eileen O'Connor, CNN, Washington.


CALLAWAY: And just ahead on our special report: Some call it confusing, others downright murky. We'll explore the impact the Supreme Court's ruling may have on its own future.

Plus the "What ifs." Now that the battle has ended, the second guessing begins and so does the call for change. Will there be standardized ballots the next time you head to the polls? Our special report continues in just a moment.


CALLAWAY: Yesterday's Supreme Court decision was historic, to say the least, a ruling that effectively decided the presidency of the United States. But the court of public opinion is apparently divided on whether it was the right decision. A CNN/"USA Today" Gallup poll finds 52 percent of Americans polled agree with the high court's decision, while 42 percent disagree. The poll also found that 54 percent of Americans believe the Justices voted to end the recount based on the legal merits of the case, while 35 percent believe their decision was based on their own desire to have Bush as the next president.

And with that said, it appears the Supreme Court could be facing some backlash from its decision. CNN's Charles Bierbauer examines the ruling and looks ahead to how it might affect the high court's future.


CHARLES BIERBAUER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Supreme Court, in its decision effectively halting Florida's recount, split philosophically and ideologically. But Justice Clarence Thomas says this is not a political Court.

JUSTICE CLARENCE THOMAS, U.S. SUPREME COURT: I plead with you that whatever you do, don't try to apply the rules of the political world to this institution. They do not apply. Now, you can criticize, and there are bases for disagreeing. But it's not the model that you use across the street. They're entirely different worlds.

BIERBAUER: "Across the street" is Congress. Chief Justice Rehnquist, encountering reporters after Thomas's remarks, concurred. "Absolutely. Absolutely." Justice Thomas told visiting high school students the Court's 5-4 opinion was difficult.

THOMAS: The last few weeks have been exhausting, I think, for the entire Court. But in a lot of ways, it shows the strength of our system of government.

BIERBAUER: Justice Thomas said there was passion in the Court's deliberation but no self-interest. The passion was most evident in the four dissents to the ruling. Justice Stevens: "The identity of the loser is perfectly clear. It is the nation's confidence in the judge as an impartial guardian of the rule of law."

RICHARD LAZARUS, GEORGETOWN LAW CENTER: This Court itself is divided quite often, but there's no question division among the Justices in this case was as intense as we've seen in recent years.

BIERBAUER: But is it lasting?

DANIEL MERON, FORMER KENNEDY CLERK: They have a lot of respect for each other, and there's not going to be any lasting damage to the internal workings of the Court. The Justices often decide very difficult cases, and then they move on.

BIERBAUER: The lasting impact may lie in public and political arenas.

LANNY DAVIS, FORMER WHITE HOUSE SPECIAL COUNSEL: That is going to be very bitter for many people who believe that this was all about stopping the count from taking place to begin with.

BIERBAUER (on-camera): That bitterness could be reflected when the next president names a new Supreme Court Justice, who must be confirmed by an intensely political Senate split 50-50.

Charles Bierbauer, CNN, the Supreme Court.


CALLAWAY: People are not questioning only the Supreme Court's decision, they're also looking at all of the places where the vice president or his attorneys might have gone wrong. CNN's Bob Franken now on the inevitable onslaught of all the "What ifs."


BOB FRANKEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It wouldn't be politics without second-guessing, and it's already begun. What mistakes did the Gore team make with its legal strategy? The key questions being whispered: Why didn't Gore's lawyers formally petition the courts right away for a complete manual statewide recount? Instead Gore made a televised offer to George W. Bush.

GORE: If this happens, I will abide by the result. I will take no legal action to challenge the result, and I will not support any legal action to challenge the result.

FRANKEN: But that was just PR, and Bush rejected the offer. At the time, the Gore lawyers were merely seeking recounts in areas that were considered Democratic strongholds. Not only, say Democratic critics, did that look opportunistic, but Republican attorneys were able to pounce all over it, charging that different treatment of the voters in different Florida counties amounted to a violation of the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution.

Even at the Supreme Court, Gore's attorney couldn't offer standards for a statewide recount.

JUSTICE DAVID SOUTER, U.S. SUPREME COURT: I think we would have a responsibility to tell the Florida courts what to do about it. On that assumption, what would you tell them to do about it?

DAVID BOIES, GORE CAMPAIGN ATTORNEY: Well, I think that's a very hard question.

JUSTICE ANTONIN SCALIA, U.S. SUPREME COURT: You'd tell them to count every vote.

(LAUGHTER) SCALIA: You'd tell them to count every vote, Mr. Boies.

BOIES: I'd tell them to count every vote.

FRANKEN: Question: Why did Gore's lawyers emphasize the need to determine the intent of the voters, getting all tangled up in the meaning of "chads," hanging, dimpled and pregnant? Democratic attorney Lanny Davis emphasizes he has the benefit of hindsight.

DAVIS: There is no doubt that early on, it would have been better had we just defended punctured ballots and not dimples.

FRANKEN: And why, the critics ask, was so much time spent by Gore's lawyers focusing on the recount phase of the battle at the expense of the time needed to contest the results?

UNIDENTIFIED JUDGE: Do we know how long it's going to take to do these things?

FRANKEN (on-camera): Five U.S. Supreme Court Justices ruled that time had run out on the Democrats. Now, Republican lawyers were also criticized for some of the risks they took along the way, such as the attempt to avoid a statewide recount. But they won.

Bob Franken, CNN, the Supreme Court.


CALLAWAY: And Americans know more about chads, recounts, appeals and safe harbors than perhaps they ever wanted to. CNN's Brooks Jackson has more now on the impact election 2000 could have on the case for reform.


BROOKS JACKSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The impact is going to be felt for months and years: new machines, new laws and more court fights. Experts say all are likely. Some legal experts say the Supreme Court's emphasis on equal treatment of all voters may encourage new federal lawsuits, especially by minorities.

PAUL BUTLER, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY: There seems to be a new standard now that invites judicial intervention and litigation in federal courts in every election, whether it's for local dog catcher or president of the United States. There's no way to keep this genie in the bottle.

JACKSON: The Court's seven-member majority said, quote, "Having once granted the right to vote on equal terms, the state may not by later arbitrary and disparate treatment value one person's vote over that of another." Some see a new federal standard anybody can use to challenge a state election, particularly minority voters and especially those saddled with error-prone punchcard ballot systems.

KEN GROSS, CNN ELECTION LAW ANALYST: If your voting has thousands of overvotes or undervotes and the next voting machine down the road doesn't have a lot of overvotes or undervotes, then you might have a legal case.

JACKSON: But state and local officials aren't waiting to be sued. They're acting now.

LARRY NAAKE, DIR., NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF COUNTIES: Unfortunately, when the 747 goes down, then everybody all of a sudden becomes interested in air safety and reform.

JACKSON: County officials run elections. Through their national association, they've already set up a special commission to study election reform.

NAAKE: We want to look at the ballots, the possibility of standardization of ballots. Obviously, we want to look at voting machines -- what works, what doesn't work, what are the best machines. We want to look at poll workers, how they're funded, how they're educated, how they're trained. We want to look also at things like whether we ought to standardize the hours for voting and change the days for voting.

JACKSON: Also under consideration, weekend voting. State legislatures aren't waiting for any commission. All 50 meet next month, with election reform very much in mind.

WILLIAM POUND, NATIONAL CONFERENCE OF STATE LEGISLATURES: It's going to be a big issue. I think there'll be bills in every state. I've been told that there's one state already with more than 100 introductions in election reform.

JACKSON: That state is California. States will be considering granting money to replace punchcard voting devices still used by 31 percent of U.S. voters despite increasingly obvious problems. Also on state agendas, wholesale review of recount laws to provide the uniform standards the high court now demands and avoid another meltdown.

POUND: Because every legislator, I think, knows this could happen in their state.

JACKSON (on-camera): It's too early to know how far election reforms will go. But we do know, from the statehouse to the courthouse, they're coming.

Brooks Jackson, CNN, Washington.


CALLAWAY: Up next on this CNN special report, another look at the night's historic statement, Al Gore speaking in Washington, giving up his run for the White House and promising support for the new administration.


CALLAWAY: Welcome back.

Just over four hours ago, Vice President Gore walked to the microphone, admitted he didn't agree with the decision of the U.S. Supreme Court, but effectively ended his race for the White House, but said he would accept it and support George W. Bush as the next president of the United States. Here is Vice President Gore's address to the nation.


AL GORE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Good evening. Just moments ago, I spoke with George W. Bush and congratulated him on becoming the 43rd president of the United States, and I promised him that I wouldn't call him back this time.

I offered to meet with him as soon as possible so that we can start to heal the divisions of the campaign and the contest through which we just passed.

Almost a century and a half ago, Senator Stephen Douglas told Abraham Lincoln, who had just defeated him for the presidency, "Partisan feeling must yield to patriotism. I'm with you, Mr. President, and God bless you."

Well, in that same spirit, I say to President-elect Bush that what remains of partisan rancor must now be put aside, and may God bless his stewardship of this country.

Neither he nor I anticipated this long and difficult road. Certainly neither of us wanted it to happen. Yet it came, and now it has ended, resolved, as it must be resolved, through the honored institutions of our democracy.

Over the library of one of our great law schools is inscribed the motto, "Not under man but under God and law. That's the ruling principle of American freedom, the source of our democratic liberties. I've tried to make it my guide throughout this contest as it has guided America's deliberations of all the complex issues of the past five weeks.

Now the U.S. Supreme Court has spoken. Let there be no doubt, while I strongly disagree with the court's decision, I accept it. I accept the finality of this outcome which will be ratified next Monday in the Electoral College. And tonight, for the sake of our unity of the people and the strength of our democracy, I offer my concession.

I also accept my responsibility, which I will discharge unconditionally, to honor the new president elect and do everything possible to help him bring Americans together in fulfillment of the great vision that our Declaration of Independence defines and that our Constitution affirms and defends.

Let me say how grateful I am to all those who supported me and supported the cause for which we have fought. Tipper and I feel a deep gratitude to Joe and Hadassah Lieberman who brought passion and high purpose to our partnership and opened new doors, not just for our campaign but for our country.

This has been an extraordinary election. But in one of God's unforeseen paths, this belatedly broken impasse can point us all to a new common ground, for its very closeness can serve to remind us that we are one people with a shared history and a shared destiny.

Indeed, that history gives us many examples of contests as hotly debated, as fiercely fought, with their own challenges to the popular will.

Other disputes have dragged on for weeks before reaching resolution. And each time, both the victor and the vanquished have accepted the result peacefully and in the spirit of reconciliation.

So let it be with us.

I know that many of my supporters are disappointed. I am too. But our disappointment must be overcome by our love of country.

And I say to our fellow members of the world community, let no one see this contest as a sign of American weakness. The strength of American democracy is shown most clearly through the difficulties it can overcome.

Some have expressed concern that the unusual nature of this election might hamper the next president in the conduct of his office. I do not believe it need be so.

President-elect Bush inherits a nation whose citizens will be ready to assist him in the conduct of his large responsibilities.

I personally will be at his disposal, and I call on all Americans -- I particularly urge all who stood with us to unite behind our next president. This is America. Just as we fight hard when the stakes are high, we close ranks and come together when the contest is done.

And while there will be time enough to debate our continuing differences, now is the time to recognize that that which unites us is greater than that which divides us.

While we yet hold and do not yield our opposing beliefs, there is a higher duty than the one we owe to political party. This is America and we put country before party. We will stand together behind our new president.

As for what I'll do next, I don't know the answer to that one yet. Like many of you, I'm looking forward to spending the holidays with family and old friends. I know I'll spend time in Tennessee and mend some fences, literally and figuratively.

Some have asked whether I have any regrets and I do have one regret: that I didn't get the chance to stay and fight for the American people over the next four years, especially for those who need burdens lifted and barriers removed, especially for those who feel their voices have not been heard. I heard you and I will not forget.

I've seen America in this campaign and I like what I see. It's worth fighting for and that's a fight I'll never stop. As for the battle that ends tonight, I do believe as my father once said, that no matter how hard the loss, defeat might serve as well as victory to shape the soul and let the glory out.

So for me this campaign ends as it began: with the love of Tipper and our family; with faith in God and in the country I have been so proud to serve, from Vietnam to the vice presidency; and with gratitude to our truly tireless campaign staff and volunteers, including all those who worked so hard in Florida for the last 36 days.

Now the political struggle is over and we turn again to the unending struggle for the common good of all Americans and for those multitudes around the world who look to us for leadership in the cause of freedom.

In the words of our great hymn, "America, America": "Let us crown thy good with brotherhood, from sea to shining sea."

And now, my friends, in a phrase I once addressed to others, it's time for me to go.

Thank you and good night, and God bless America.


CALLAWAY: And there is much more ahead. The man who will be the 43rd president of the United States calls for the country to come together. We will hear what he had to say after this.


CALLAWAY: Governor and now President-elect George W. Bush spoke tonight, calling for the nation to work together, to rise above a house divided. The president-elect spoke from the Texas State House. Here is what he had to say.



Thank you very much. Good evening, my fellow Americans. I appreciate so very much the opportunity to speak with you tonight.

Mr. Speaker, Lieutenant Governor, friends, distinguished guests, our country has been through a long and trying period, with the outcome of the presidential election not finalized for longer than any of us could ever imagine.

Vice President Gore and I put our hearts and hopes into our campaigns. We both gave it our all. We shared similar emotions, so I understand how difficult this moment must be for Vice President Gore and his family.

He has a distinguished record of service to our country as a congressman, a senator and a vice president.

This evening I received a gracious call from the vice president. We agreed to meet early next week in Washington and we agreed to do our best to heal our country after this hard-fought contest.

Tonight I want to thank all the thousands of volunteers and campaign workers who worked so hard on my behalf.

I also salute the vice president and his supports for waging a spirited campaign. And I thank him for a call that I know was difficult to make. Laura and I wish the vice president and Senator Lieberman and their families the very best.

I have a lot to be thankful for tonight. I'm thankful for America and thankful that we were able to resolve our electoral differences in a peaceful way.

I'm thankful to the American people for the great privilege of being able to serve as your next president.

I want to thank my wife and our daughters for their love. Laura's active involvement as first lady has made Texas a better place, and she will be a wonderful first lady of America.


I am proud to have Dick Cheney by my side, and America will be proud to have him as our next vice president.


Tonight I chose to speak from the chamber of the Texas House of Representatives because it has been a home to bipartisan cooperation. Here in a place where Democrats have the majority, Republicans and Democrats have worked together to do what is right for the people we represent.

We've had spirited disagreements. And in the end, we found constructive consensus. It is an experience I will always carry with me, an example I will always follow.

I want to thank my friend, House Speaker Pete Laney, a Democrat, who introduced me today. I want to thank the legislators from both political parties with whom I've worked.

Across the hall in our Texas capitol is the state Senate. And I cannot help but think of our mutual friend, the former Democrat lieutenant governor, Bob Bullock. His love for Texas and his ability to work in a bipartisan way continue to be a model for all of us.


The spirit of cooperation I have seen in this hall is what is needed in Washington, D.C. It is the challenge of our moment. After a difficult election, we must put politics behind us and work together to make the promise of America available for every one of our citizens.

I am optimistic that we can change the tone in Washington, D.C.

I believe things happen for a reason, and I hope the long wait of the last five weeks will heighten a desire to move beyond the bitterness and partisanship of the recent past.

Our nation must rise above a house divided. Americans share hopes and goals and values far more important than any political disagreements.

Republicans want the best for our nation, and so do Democrats. Our votes may differ, but not our hopes.

I know America wants reconciliation and unity. I know Americans want progress. And we must seize this moment and deliver.

Together, guided by a spirit of common sense, common courtesy and common goals, we can unite and inspire the American citizens.

Together, we will work to make all our public schools excellent, teaching every student of every background and every accent, so that no child is left behind.

Together we will save Social Security and renew its promise of a secure retirement for generations to come.

Together we will strengthen Medicare and offer prescription drug coverage to all of our seniors.

Together we will give Americans the broad, fair and fiscally responsible tax relief they deserve.

Together we'll have a bipartisan foreign policy true to our values and true to our friends, and we will have a military equal to every challenge and superior to every adversary.

Together we will address some of society's deepest problems one person at a time, by encouraging and empowering the good hearts and good works of the American people.

This is the essence of compassionate conservatism and it will be a foundation of my administration.

These priorities are not merely Republican concerns or Democratic concerns; they are American responsibilities.

During the fall campaign, we differed about the details of these proposals, but there was remarkable consensus about the important issues before us: excellent schools, retirement and health security, tax relief, a strong military, a more civil society.

We have discussed our differences. Now it is time to find common ground and build consensus to make America a beacon of opportunity in the 21st century. I'm optimistic this can happen. Our future demands it and our history proves it. Two hundred years ago, in the election of 1800, America faced another close presidential election. A tie in the Electoral College put the outcome into the hands of Congress.

After six days of voting and 36 ballots, the House of Representatives elected Thomas Jefferson the third president of the United States. That election brought the first transfer of power from one party to another in our new democracy.

Shortly after the election, Jefferson, in a letter titled "Reconciliation and Reform," wrote this. "The steady character of our countrymen is a rock to which we may safely moor; unequivocal in principle, reasonable in manner. We should be able to hope to do a great deal of good to the cause of freedom and harmony."

Two hundred years have only strengthened the steady character of America. And so as we begin the work of healing our nation, tonight I call upon that character: respect for each other, respect for our differences, generosity of spirit, and a willingness to work hard and work together to solve any problem.

I have something else to ask you, to ask every American. I ask for you to pray for this great nation. I ask for your prayers for leaders from both parties. I thank you for your prayers for me and my family, and I ask you pray for Vice President Gore and his family.

I have faith that with God's help we as a nation will move forward together as one nation, indivisible. And together we will create and America that is open, so every citizen has access to the American dream; an America that is educated, so every child has the keys to realize that dream; and an America that is united in our diversity and our shared American values that are larger than race or party.

I was not elected to serve one party, but to serve one nation.

The president of the United States is the president of every single American, of every race and every background.

Whether you voted for me or not, I will do my best to serve your interests and I will work to earn your respect.

I will be guided by President Jefferson's sense of purpose, to stand for principle, to be reasonable in manner, and above all, to do great good for the cause of freedom and harmony.

The presidency is more than an honor. It is more than an office. It is a charge to keep, and I will give it my all.

Thank you very much and God bless America.




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