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George W. Bush and Democratic Senator John Breaux Meet in Austin

Aired December 15, 2000 - 3:07 p.m. ET


LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: Guess what? The pool on the George Bush-John Breaux tape, they are working it again. We are going to hear it this time.



SEN. JOHN BREAUX (D), LOUISIANA: Pretty cold outside, huh?

BUSH: Big man. Tom, how are you? Is this it? It's a meager pool. Fine pool, but a meager one.

BREAUX: This is the best of the best.

BUSH: Oh, these are the best. We've gotten to know each other well.

Listen, thank you all for coming. I'm so honored that Senator John Breaux is here, thankful that he came, stopped off in Texas on his way back home to Louisiana. We've had a great discussion over lunch.

And one of the things the senator made it clear is he wants to stay in the Senate and work with -- to work to get something done, that he views this as a unique opportunity in American history for Republicans and Democrats to focus on health care, whether it be the Breaux-Frist idea when it comes to Medicare or a patients' bill of rights bill, and to work together for education.

And I am so honored that he would come. He's a practical man who has got good common sense. And we used to always say around here, the only thing that separates Texas and Louisiana is the Sabine River.


Thanks for coming.

BREAUX: Well, Governor, thank you very much, Mr. President- elect, thanks for lunch, and thanks for the opportunity to have some real good discussions, I think, about what you want to try and do. I think we certainly share the concept that we have to build coalitions in order to get anything done. And we look forward to you coming to Washington and meeting with our leadership and trying to find some ways we can make government work for everybody.

BUSH: Can I take a few questions?

QUESTION: Mr. President-elect, would you have liked the senator to have been able to serve in your administration? And are you looking at other Democrats with possible Cabinet posts?

BUSH: Well, I am. I'm thinking about, you know, a variety of folks to serve in the Cabinet. And I am so thankful that Senator Breaux wants to get some positive things done.

Those of you who followed me during the campaign remember I often spoke about Senator Breaux in terms of Medicare and health care. He's a man -- he's broken a lot of ground there in Washington. And so I am really honored to have his commitment to work with me, and my commitment to work with him, to get some positive things done.

QUESTION: Mr. President-elect, isn't it true that Colin Powell will be your first Cabinet announcement? And is it also true that your staff is calling Democrats on the Hill as a courtesy to say that, in fact, you'll announce him as secretary of state tomorrow, sir?

BUSH: Mr. Gregory (ph), thank you for that question. There's a lot of rumors, and there's going to be a lot of rumors between now and when I name my Cabinet. I would hope people would give me the benefit of allowing me to name the person on our own timetable. And so, I would ask that the folks wait until tomorrow when I name the persons.


QUESTION: I'm sorry for being this way, but...

BUSH: No, that's OK.

QUESTION: Are you saying...

BUSH: Is this a new year's resolution?


BUSH: I am saying that...

QUESTION: Are you saying I'm wrong?

BUSH: I would never dare say a man of your stature is wrong. I'm saying that I look forward to making the announcement tomorrow and I hope you come.

QUESTION: Leaders in your own party are saying the tax cuts are too big. Are you willing to give any ground?

BUSH: Well, I read the comments from the speaker. I haven't had a chance to talk to the speaker yet. But what I found to be positive is the speaker was recognizing that we need some tax relief. And I have made it clear to the speaker once before that, you know, I campaigned on a package that I thought was fair and fiscally sound and responsible, and I will continue -- and I strongly believe that. And so I look forward to going to Washington to make the case that plan the people heard in America is the plan that I hope to get passed.

At any rate I'm optimistic to know that tax relief discussion is taking place, that people do recognize the need for tax relief.

QUESTION: Did you ask him if he wanted a Cabinet -- how did it -- did you offer something?

BUSH: We had a private conversation, but he made it clear to me that he is looking forward to being one of the leaders in the United States Senate, which is really good news for America. And the reason it's good news for America is because John Breaux has got the attitude that I have, that when you put your country ahead of partisanship, and you put your country ahead of party politics it's amazing what can get done. And the American people, after this election, I am confident are going to say to both Republicans and Democrats, "Let's come together and get something done on health care and education, on the military."

And so I was -- John Breaux is the kind of person with whom I can work, as well as who a lot of other folks can work.

QUESTION: Mr. President-elect, Secretary Cheney has said there are warning signs with the economy and it might build the case for tax cuts. Can you tell us specifically what things in the economy, what indicators...


BUSH: Well, I think people are concerned about the economy. I think there's concerns about some of the manufacturing base. I've heard concerns expressed about the automobile sector.

I think all of us ought to be concerned about high energy prices. We're seeing what the high price of natural gas is doing on the West Coast.

Senator Breaux and I had a good discussion about the need for there to be a national energy policy that increases the supply of energy. And I think we ought to be concerned about the effect that high energy prices will ultimately have on our economy.

I think the ability to attract capital into some of our industries is of concern. I think we got to be worried about the ability for the country to continue to attract foreign capital, to make sure the economy continues to expand.

And so, yes, I think that Vice President-elect Cheney was right in echoing concerns -- my concerns about a possible slowdown. And that's one of the reasons I feel so strongly about the need to reduce the marginal rates in our tax cut. Last question, Hillary?

QUESTION: Thank you, sir.

BUSH: Yes. My pleasure. It's the Christian spirit in me.


QUESTION: Does the fact that Senator Breaux is being vague indicate that the subject that he's been particularly focused on, particularly Medicaid, will be early on your agenda?

BUSH: Well, that's one of the things we talked about. And the things I intend to do is to work with members of both parties to discuss not only the agenda, but the timing of the agenda.

And Senator Breaux brings a great sense of sophistication about the Senate. He understands how it works, well. And he is a man who understands that results are much more important than rhetoric.

And so, the discussion about Medicare, for example, was a really interesting discussion. It was not only about the particulars -- and by the way, we agree nearly 100 percent on what the particulars ought to be -- but he gave me a good sense of his view of the timing on how we ought to approach the issue.

And, yes, these ought to be, in my judgment, that the education should be discussed about or the health care issues ought to be our priorities. And I would like to get them done as quickly as possible.

QUESTION: Mr. President-elect, this is a personal one. Can you describe the moment that it really sunk in that, after this long, protracted fight, you were the president-elect? And what it's been like for you more personally...

BUSH: I appreciate it, thanks.

Well, first of all, I felt Vice President Gore was most gracious in his comments. I thought he gave a really good speech. And, of course, that -- he set the tone for what I thought was an important night for America. And I let others judge the quality of my speech.

I didn't sleep that well that night. Are those the kind of details you're interested in?


At any rate, I...


BUSH: Same old pillow, of course, but I'd like to blame it on the cats. But the truth of the matter is, it had been an amazing evening. I woke up the next morning and just settling in and Prime Minister Tony Blair had called from England, and we had very good discussion. And then a series of phone calls started coming in. And you know who they were.

The great responsibilities of the job are very evident. I can't tell you how excited I am about getting to Washington; about how enthused I am about the opportunities, not only to work with members of the Senate and House, but to work with other world leaders to make the world more peaceful. And I am so grateful and humbled by the opportunity.

And so, I would tell you, David, that I'm a more patient person than before. My enthusiasm for the opportunity, though, has not in the least been waned. Matter of fact, I even feel more enthusiastic about the opportunity before all of us.

And I can't wait for you to find out who is going to agree to serve in my Cabinet. I think America will be pleased. And over the course of the next couple of weeks we hope to get most of them named. I've assembled a White House staff that is a group of extraordinary Americans who have agreed to serve the country.

QUESTION: Thank you.

BUSH: Herman (ph), I hope you don't go to Washington.


WATERS: George W. Bush, our next president, and his first impromptu news conference since becoming president-elect describing how it feels, how felt that night when it finally became more than apparent that he would become the 43rd president of the United States. These two men have been meeting in a luncheon appointment that John Breaux made with the president-elect on his way back to Louisiana as George W. Bush mentioned.

They discussed energy policy, but neither man would talk about whether or not a job was offered to John Breaux to serve in the Bush administration. They said they just talked about building coalitions to get the job done and that U.S. Senator John Breaux would remain a U.S. Senator.

Candy Crowley is following all of this from Austin, Texas, do we know, does anybody know if they talked about position for John Breaux in the Bush administration?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SR. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, no. Not yet, and I suppose we'll find out but, obviously, the senator made it clear that he didn't want a job. What we do know, if I can just go back to the election, which now seems like ancient history, Colin Powell was very high on the list for vice presidential candidates, and the more he made it clear publicly that he wasn't interested in that the less apt Governor Bush at that time was to ask.

So, when it's made clear to him that a job is not something that the person is interested in, he tends to back off. So, I wouldn't be surprised if the senator made it quite clear at the top, look, I'm really not interested in the Cabinet and the question was never asked. WATERS: And when George W. Bush was asked about Colin Powell becoming the secretary of state, he demurred saying there'll be an announcement tomorrow. I don't know if he was saying there'd be an announcement about Colin Powell tomorrow, but it sounded like that to me.

CROWLEY: Well, it will either be senior staff and perhaps Colin Powell as secretary of state. I mean, it's one of the, you know, least surprising things I think that we'll find out of the Bush administration. I mean, this has been signaled throughout the campaign. What will be interesting is that this is a very tight-knit group, the Bush campaign, and they're very used to setting the time and the place for announcements, and having that be the time it becomes public knowledge.

In Washington, as you know, which leaks like a sieve, the minute that you ask someone they sort of mention it to their best friend, and the next thing you know everybody on the Hill does it. So, they're going to try to sort of corral this and let the governor -- or the president-elect go ahead and make these announcements, but I think increasingly they're going to have some kind of difficulty holding on to that information.

WATERS: All right, Candy Crowley with the president-elect in Austin. Lou Waters here at CNN center. "TALKBACK LIVE" after a break.



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