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CNN Today

George W. Bush Focuses on Transition and Reconciliation

Aired December 14, 2000 - 2:05 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: Well, in Washington this hour, the Bush team picks up the keys to its new official transition office. That's got to feel good. CNN journalists are deployed again today as we and the nation shift from election to transition.

White House correspondent Kelly Wallace is in Austin with George W. Bush, and Kate Snow has left Florida. She is back on Capitol Hill.

Kelly, start us off.

KELLY WALLACE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Natalie, transition efforts are really kicking into high gear for a Bush administration. And we understand president-elect Bush has spent much of this day working the phones: a spokesman telling us he spoke several times to vice president-elect Dick Cheney, who is leading the transition efforts.

He has also spoken to congressional leaders, including Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle and House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt. And he is receiving and talking to world leaders. Some of those calls that he has received so far -- or people he's talked to -- include the president of Mexico. He's also spoken to the Canadian prime minister, as well as the British prime minister, Tony Blair.

Now, as you mentioned at the top, Natalie, on this day, the Bush team will get keys to that downtown office space near the White House and some $5 million in funds to cover the costs of filling some 6,000 jobs. At the same time, George W. Bush's plans for his first visit to Washington as president-elect are firming up.

He is expected to meet Tuesday with President Clinton at the White House. That is the same day he will meet with his former rival, Vice President Gore -- a top Bush adviser also telling CNN that Mr. Bush would like to meet with some key congressional leaders during that trip: part of his ongoing efforts to reach out to Democrats after five weeks of bitterness and partisan wrangling. Now, again, we do not expect any Cabinet appointments or any announcements of White House staff on this day: President-elect Bush and his team trying at least publicly to put the focus on reconciliation and unity.

And that is why his first outing as president-elect, he and his wife Laura went to the church in Austin, their church in Austin, for a prayer service. And a song that we heard at that sermon -- at that service -- written for the occasion, included this refrain: "Come let us reason together and heal the hurt deep inside." Now, as for the rest of this day for the president-elect, he's expected to meet with his senior advisers. He may also head over to what was the campaign headquarters here in Austin to thank volunteers, as well as hold some other meetings.

The big question, Natalie, continues to be: When will we get some of those announcements about Cabinet appointments, White House staffers? It could be a few days. We do know some definites. We are expected to hear that General Colin Powell would become his secretary of state, and his international policy adviser, Condoleezza Rice, his national security adviser. But, again, for the moment, Natalie, it appears the Bush team trying to put the focus on bridging those differences and healing some wounds, instead of announcing those new appointments -- Natalie.

ALLEN: Kelly, thanks.

Let's bring in Kate Snow again -- Kate, fill us in on what they are saying today on Capitol Hill.

KATE SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, hello, Natalie.

A lot of warm feelings being expressed here on Capitol Hill today on both sides of the aisle -- behind the scenes, some Democrats saying that they are a little disappointed with the results. Obviously, they feel defeated: some people using the word bitterness, that there is some bitterness among Democrats here on Capitol Hill, simply because all of the weeks of trying to get votes counted in Florida, and feeling like they lost in that effort.

And some say that they're going to hold a grudge. But others are talking about bipartisan compromise: those words coming from both sides of the aisle about the need to work together.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. TOM DASCHLE (D-SD), MINORITY LEADER: Bipartisanship isn't an option anymore. It is a requirement. The American people have divided responsibility for leadership right down the middle. We must govern from the middle or we will not be able to govern at all.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SNOW: One other person talking a lot about bipartisan compromise is Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott. I spoke with him a little bit earlier. He says there is no specific agenda set right now, but that he is going to make every effort to reach out to Democrats. He talked about several items, including a patients' bill of rights, that he thinks the Democrats may be on board with. They may be able to find some kind of a compromise.

He is also talking about, when they return in January, talking about election reform, and looking into holding hearings on how to make elections in this country a little bit better -- one committee, Senator Orrin Hatch, on the Judiciary Committee talking about holding hearings on elections and how to reform the ballots, so that they are perhaps more standard nationwide -- Lott saying that he hopes they can wrap up all of their work by tomorrow night. They can go home for the holidays, rest and relax, and then, as he put it, come to terms with the new situation, the new lay of the land, and get some work done in January -- Natalie, back to you.

ALLEN: All right, we will certainly we what happens with this hope for reconciliation. Thanks, Kate Snow and Kelly Wallace in Texas.

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