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Special Event

George W. Bush: The 43rd President

Aired January 20, 2001 - 6:10 p.m. ET

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

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Many in our country do not know the pain of poverty, but we can listen to those who do, and I can pledge our nation to a goal: When we see that wounded traveler on the road to Jericho, we will not pass to the other side.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FRANK SESNO, CNN ANCHOR: This day, this inaugural day here in Washington was about ceremony and celebration. But now comes the hard part, the heavy lifting, governing the nation. Joined now by CNN senior analyst Jeff Greenfield and CNN senior political analyst Bill Schneider.

Gentlemen, welcome to you both.

We have enjoyed your thoughts today. Here's one for us to grab onto now.

In this speech, George W. Bush said, "America at its best is compassionate." There's half of the compassionate conservative. What else in this speech or elsewhere remains or do we hear of the conservative?

JEFF GREENFIELD, CNN SENIOR ANALYST: It certainly wasn't a conservative agenda speech in the sense that Ronald Reagan's 1981 speech was: a clear statement that taxation is too high, the government's too big, public spending has gone out of control. He did summarize his entire campaign in one paragraph. He talked about reforming Social Security and Medicare, building our defenses, reducing taxes, which got a big applause line.

That -- that was -- to that extent, I suppose, it was part of the conservative message of the campaign. And then I think you'd have to look, you'd have to look for kind of more intimations. When he said, when he challenged citizens, for instance, to defend reforms against misleading attacks, he's talking there about, you know, when we decide to do school choice, more market-based solutions to the environment, don't let -- I'm really translating here -- don't let the established Democratic liberals tell you that we're -- that we're trying to do bad thing.

So there are little messages like that.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: This was not a conservative speech. I mean, it wasn't a speech to a conservative- based audience.

There were a couple, as Jeff just said, intimations of conservatism. When he said, our public interest depends on private character, which means it doesn't depend entirely on government.

And one other thing, one of our commentators today drew attention to the religious language, the religious imagery in the speech. It was suffused with that. And I suppose liberals are saying, well, he was playing to the evangelical vote in his conservative Christian base. I don't think he was. I mean, look, a lot of African-Americans are religious and respond to that. Look...

SESNO: A lot of Democrats are religious.

SCHNEIDER: Of course. Listen to this line: "When we see that wounded traveler on the road to Jericho, we will not pass to the other side." That's religious language, but I don't think that's conservative or evangelical.

SESNO: And LBJ could have uttered that line.

GREENFIELD: Well, there was a fellow named Martin Luther King Jr. who used a fair amount of religious imagery in his speeches. And I don't -- I thought the notion of this fellow that this was -- that was an appeal to the right was not -- just now -- I don't agree with it.

SESNO: We will see, of course. The devil is in the details. We know that the president, the new president, is going to be submitting his education agenda or much of it. It will contain, we are told, vouchers. He has said he is going for his entire 1.6 trillion over 10 year tax cut. These are the things he ran on and the things that attracted the Republican base to support him.

SCHNEIDER: Well, he's trying a neat trick here, and you know, Ronald Reagan could bring it off. I don't know if George Bush has the political skill. We'll see.

But you know, what he's done throughout the campaign -- his definition of a compassionate conservative is to say to conservatives, "I endorse your positions but I embrace your adversaries." I, for instance, oppose a hate crimes bill, but I welcome gay supporters to my campaign. I am anti-abortion, but I welcome people like Christine Todd Whitman, who supports abortion rights, to my administration. I oppose affirmative action, but I welcome Colin Powell, who supports affirmative action.

It's a way of giving dual signals. That's a neat political trick. It worked in the campaign, but now it's going to get tougher.

SESNO: Jeff, the word "mandate" -- people kick it around, pollsters ask about it. What do we make of it in Washington this day? GREENFIELD: After this election, I think we're almost back to the situation we were after John Kennedy was elected with the narrowest popular vote margin in history. Mandate became such a word, it almost became a joke in the transition.

But I think what President Bush seems to signal that he's doing is to say the following. It's a line I've heard a lot. I may not have won 50 percent of the popular vote, but I won 100 percent of the presidency. And therefore, it's ridiculous for me to compromise before we even start the process.

So I'm putting on the table my ideas, and let's see how much of them I can get.

SESNO: A Democrat I spoke to last night said let's see what George W. Bush does with people like Tom DeLay in the House of Representatives, a Republican, who in the past have preferred to fight and lose to make an ideological point rather to compromise and accomplish.

GREENFIELD: But if I may, that's part of the thing that he has done right now. A couple of conservatives I talked to last night were saying George W. Bush has surprised me, the Cabinet is much more conservative than I thought it would be. And I think that in part is a marker to say, OK, when I have to move on legislation, know that I'm with you, because look at troops I've put in.

SCHNEIDER: Look, what he did was he named Ashcroft to the Cabinet, and conservatives were thrilled with that nomination, and Gale Norton and one or two other people. There are moderates there, too, but they feel like he's fighting the fight for us, and look, all they heard last week was Ted Kennedy attacking them, which means the enemy is out there.

What he's going to have to do is call on those conservatives, the Tom DeLay types, to make some compromises on issues like tax cuts and maybe vouchers and some other things, missile defense. But he's got their loyalties because he's shown he's bona fide, at least to the conservatives.

GREENFIELD: You know who this reminds me of? Bill Clinton. Bill Clinton moved way away from the Democratic base on welfare, on crime, on free trade, but he was also very attentive to African- Americans and labor and women and the core constituency. And they said, OK, we'll, you know, especially when his enemies began to attack him.

SESNO: Bill Clinton was the master of triangulation, and obviously, attempted to build coalitions, and grabbed credit and accomplishments where he could. It will be a test of George W. Bush's governance and political skills to see what he pulls out of a very divided government.

Bill Schneider, Jeff Greenfield.

And among those watching George W. Bush's inauguration today, the man who had hoped to be in his shoes. CNN's Patty Davis reports on former Vice President Gore: his day and his legacy.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BUSH: And I thank Vice President Gore for a contest conducted with spirit and ended with grace.

(APPLAUSE)

PATTY DAVIS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A bittersweet day for Al Gore, performing his final vice presidential duties while watching his onetime rival assume the office Gore himself wanted so badly. Gore heads into the history books not only the fourth presidential candidate to win the popular vote and lose the election, but also a politician who changed the vice presidency.

BILL TURQUE, "NEWSWEEK": He definitely ratcheted up the influence of the vice president, I think. In the past, vice presidents were sort of farmed out to second-tier, sort of less- important kinds of duties, like going to funerals, attending fund- raisers.

DAVIS: Not Al Gore. As vice president, Gore took the lead on environmental issues for the Clinton administration. He also led the federal government's efforts to downsize, resulting in a 17 percent reduction in the work force.

ELAINE KAMARCK, FORMER GORE SENIOR POLICY ADVISER: Al Gore really brought to the federal bureaucracy the management revolution that had been happening in the private sector for much of the '80s and the '90s, and that hadn't been happening in government until Al Gore came along.

DAVIS: Gore played a key role in welfare reform, urging his boss to sign a massive Republican-sponsored overhaul of the welfare system.

But there were missteps along the way.

TURQUE: Making phone calls from his West Wing office, going to the fund-raising luncheon at the Buddhist temple in Los Angeles.

DAVIS: In the end, the winner of the popular vote lost the electoral scuffle in Florida and his bid for the presidency.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

AL GORE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's time for me to go.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DAVIS: His gracious concession speech heightened speculation about his chances in 2004.

STUART ROTHENBERG, "ROTHENBERG POLITICAL REPORT": He has to maintain significant visibility, and I think he may want to -- may want to talk about a couple of issue areas, stake out a claim there where he becomes the expert. He becomes the spokesman for the party.

DAVIS: Democrats say just how easy it will be to stake his claim depends not only on how well George W. Bush does as president, but on how visible Bill Clinton remains.

PETER HART, DEMOCRATIC POLLSTER: Al Gore is sort of the man in the middle. He has to be able to get enough of a spotlight that doesn't go to Bill Clinton, and at the same time, he has to be the alternative to George W. Bush.

DAVIS (on camera): For now, Gore isn't talking about his future. Instead he's focusing on his new life as private citizen Al Gore, moving back into his Arlington, Virginia home, taking time to plot his next move.

Patty Davis, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SESNO: And when we come back, looking ahead and looking for some fun. We're going to go to Daryn Kagan at the Texas-Wyoming Inaugural Ball, right here in Washington, D.C., right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SESNO: Sights of Washington, where the partying will last late into the night here in the nation's capital.

CNN's Daryn Kagan is standing by at one of the eight official inaugural balls -- Daryn.

DARYN KAGAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Frank, good evening. Actually things a little bit slow. This is the Texas-Wyoming Ball, so you know this is going to be a big rocking ball. But they had a bit of a security sweep, a late sweep, and so things are a few hours behind schedule. But before the night is over, 13,000 people are expected to be in this room to celebrate the start of the presidency of George W. Bush.

We expect to see the vice president just after 8:30 p.m. Eastern, and then the president and Mrs. Bush are supposed to be here just after 9:30. Each are expected to go up to the stage, make a few comments, and then have a dance, and then probably be gone -- Frank.

SESNO: Daryn, now tell us about some of the Texans and other celebrities who you're look forward to seeing tonight.

KAGAN: Well, there's a lot of Texans in town, of course. Some of the names that we're hearing that might be here tonight -- it's an unconfirmed invited guest list, including Troy Aikman, Bo Derek, Lance Armstrong. But also, Frank, keep in mind that as important as this ball is, it is following last night's Black Tie & Boots Ball. That was really rocking, and it is going to be a hard act to follow.

SESNO: A little bit of celebration before the work begins. Daryn Kagan, thanks. When we return, a look at the memorable images of this inauguration day. Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SESNO: The ceremonies and parade now behind us, the peaceful transition of power complete, we asked senior political correspondent Candy Crowley to take a few minutes and focus on the new president and this day's lasting images.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WILLIAM REHNQUIST, CHIEF JUSTICE, UNITED STATES SUPREME COURT: Raise your right hand and repeat after me.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): History will record this as a mere moment in time. It cannot capture what a moment it was: filled with the palpable melancholy of an outgoing president...

BUSH: I thank President Clinton for his service to our nation.

(APPLAUSE)

CROWLEY: ... marked by the classy bit part of a man performing with a broken heart.

BUSH: And I thank Vice President Gore for a contest conducted with spirit and ended with grace.

CROWLEY: It was a moment of national and international import that was -- at its soul -- a family story. The moment when a former president returned to Washington, to be a father.

BUSH: Mother, I'm glad you came as well.

(LAUGHTER)

CROWLEY: It was a moment when a former first lady returned to the political stage she never really liked for the only thing that would bring her there: family.

Only eight years ago, the family left the nation's capital embittered by defeat. They returned to hear talk of a political dynasty, a term they hate, but one that is impossible not to talk about when discussing the 41st president, Mr. Bush; the 43rd president, Mr. Bush; the governor of Florida, Mr. Bush.

From the day he decided to run, this Mr. Bush always believed this moment would come. His first salute as commander in chief. His first entrance to "Hail to the Chief."

As he assumed his new post, there were moments of the old Bush. And there were awkward moments and emotional ones. And at times, you got the feeling they were running into one another.

BUSH: I'm not so sure how much of it I'm going to actually remember.

CROWLEY: History will have to record it for him. George Bush has little time to reflect.

BUSH: See you all on Monday.

CROWLEY: The moments keep on coming.

Candy Crowley, CNN. Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SESNO: And finally, we hope you will permit this sad and personal note. We lost a member of the extended CNN Washington family today.

Ken Smith, for 10 years a talented and committed engineer in our Washington bureau, died today after a valiant five-month fight following a serious car accident. Ken was a skilled technician who always found a way to make the complicated technology of television work. More than that he was a friend who always found a way to make us smile.

To Ken's family, we extend our deepest sympathies. Ken will be sorely missed.

He was unsung hero who helped us make CNN what it is today. Ken turned 40 last month. He would have been professionally proud of the coverage we brought you on this day.

That's it for now. Stay with CNN throughout the evening for continuing coverage of our inauguration activities.

And these programming notes: Susan McDougal, one of those pardoned today by President Clinton, will be Greta Van Susteren's guest tonight on THE POINT. That's at 8:30 p.m. Eastern Time. And at 10:00 p.m., Wolf Blitzer will anchor a one-hour special report: "George W. Bush: The 43rd President."

I'm Frank Sesno. "RELIABLE SOURCES" is next.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com

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