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George W. Bush: The 43rd President

Aired January 20, 2001 - 5:42 p.m. ET



GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I George Walker Bush do solemnly swear...


ANNOUNCER: A new presidency dawns with a bow to the past and hope for the future.


BUSH: Today, we affirm a new commitment to live out our nation's promise through civility, courage, compassion, and character.


ANNOUNCER: A transition of power and party fulfilled with a celebration of leadership and democracy. "George W. Bush: The 43rd President" -- a CNN special report with Frank Sesno in Washington.

FRANK SESNO, CNN ANCHOR: And thanks very much for joining us. It happened as prescribed just after noon. George Walker Bush became the nation's 43rd president, undaunted by the damp of this winter day here in Washington or by any lingering chill from the election dispute.

Mr. Bush took his place on the platform outside the Capitol Building and delivered the 35-word oath of office just as his father had done before him.


WILLIAM REHNQUIST, CHIEF JUSTICE, UNITED STATES SUPREME COURT: Please raise your right hand and repeat after me. I George Walker Bush do solemnly swear...

BUSH: I George Walker Bush do solemnly swear...

REHNQUIST: ... that I will faithfully execute the office of president of the United States...

BUSH: ... that I will faithfully execute the office of president of the United States... REHNQUIST: ... and will to the best of my ability...

BUSH: ... and will to the best of my ability...

REHNQUIST: ... preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States...

BUSH: ... preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States...

REHNQUIST: ... so help me God.

BUSH: ... so help me God.

REHNQUIST: Congratulations.



SESNO: And with that oath, the former Texas governor said the nation had a affirmed old traditions and made new beginnings. In his inaugural address, Mr. Bush noted the peaceful transfer of power to a Republican administration after the long election battle and after President Clinton's eight years in the White House.

The afternoon was capped by the traditional inaugural parade. You've been watching it right here on CNN, with the Bush's emerging from their limousine for a time to walk and wave to the throngs of people gathered along the parade route.

For more on this new president and his inaugural address, here is CNN senior White House correspondent John King.

John, a lot to digest today.

JOHN KING, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Very much to digest, Frank. The 43rd president, as you mentioned, President Bush, in his new home at the moment, the White House, behind me with his wife and his family, warming up after a day standing here, as you mentioned: a cold, raw, rainy day watching the parade. A night of festivities still ahead tonight, all the inaugural balls: President Bush and the Cheneys as well will be out for that.

As you mentioned, remarkable ceremonies today on the steps of the Capitol. It is always a remarkable ritual, even more so this time. We see the son taking office eight years after the father gave up the White House. Vice President Gore, the man who actually won the popular vote in the presidential election, standing by as well.

But it was the former Texas governor, George W. Bush, sworn in as the nation's 43rd president, perhaps mindful of the fact that the vice president won more votes, that the electoral college victory he won was contested and very narrow.

The theme of this inaugural address was very clearly reconciliation.


BUSH: While many of our citizens prosper, others doubt the promise, even the justice, of our own country. The ambitions of some Americans are limited by failing schools and hidden prejudice and the circumstances of their birth. And sometimes our difference run so deep it seems we share a continent, but not a country.

We do not accept this, and we will not allow it. Our unity, our union, is the serious work of leaders and citizens and every generation. And this is my solemn pledge: I will work to build a single nation of justice and opportunity.


KING: Now Mr. Bush spoke of civility, he spoke of character in his speech. He also echoed his major campaign theme, saying his top priorities would be education reform, preforming Social Security and Medicare, and cutting taxes. A bit of applause from the Republican audience there when he said that.

No mention of the contested election, no mention of the remarkable political moment in the speech itself. But the president then went to a luncheon inside the Capitol. Congress is evenly divided, the Republicans with just slight majority. The country obviously divided over this election. Many believe it will be very difficult to get anything done in this environment.

But in his remarks at that luncheon at the Capitol today, the new president took a very different view.


BUSH: Expectations in the country is we can't get anything done. People say, well, gosh, the election was so close nothing will happen except for finger-pointing and name-calling and bitterness.

I'm here to tell the country that things will get done, that we're going to rise above expectations, that both Republicans and Democrats will come together to do what's right for America.


KING: The first test of that will come Tuesday when the new president unveils at least part of his education agenda and sends up to Capitol Hill for the Congress to consider. The Senate doing him a bit of a favor today, confirming several of his Cabinet nominations: a bipartisan tone today that will be tested in the days to come. The Bush team promising to get off to a very quick and ambitious start, advancing that campaign agenda.

But for the rest of today, Frank, time to celebrate. Warming up inside the White House right now: a night of celebration and all of those inaugural balls tonight. SESNO: And John, in the days ahead, more outstretched hands as the new president meets with leaders of both parties of Capitol Hill in preparation for launching that agenda.

KING: So far, the tone is right. The question will be the details. Democrats say they, too, want education to be No. 1, but they have some disagreements with Governor Bush over who controls the money. Should the governors control it? As a former governor now, President Bush favors. Or should Washington have the purse strings? Should there be the right to use private-school vouchers? How big will that tax cut be and who will it go to?

So there will be some very substantive disagreements in the days ahead, but this is the day for celebration. It is the day of the transfer of power. Everybody talking in a bipartisan mood right now. But remember, some of those confirmation hearings in the past week, especially the attorney general nominee John Ashcroft, some partisan tensions already beginning to rise here.

And Democrats under very clear pressure from their interest groups to put this new president to a very early test.

SESNO: And in those plans and projects, John, despite the controversies, the vouchers that you mentioned, the size of the tax plan that does not have broad Democratic and in some cases even Republican support, there are still seeds and areas of agreement?

SESNO: Certainly seeds and areas of agreement. Everybody is concerned the economy is slowing down. Now, then Governor Bush proposed his tax cut saying it was fair to give back some of the surplus back to the American people. Now he says it would help to prime the economy as well. And Democrats have said they are open to a bigger tax cut.

But there still will be a fight over who gets that money and how fast it can be done. And if you front-load it to prime the economy, how much more expensive does the tax cut come? If the economy slows, government revenues go down. How much of a tax cut can the government afford?

There are areas of agreement on what should be discussed and what should be done. Perhaps a prescription drug benefit for Medicare recipients can be reached.

There's agreement on what the agenda should be in terms of subject matter: health care, education, taxes, the economy. But there's a great deal of disagreement when it comes to the details. And that will be the key test: How fast, how willing are Democrats to challenge the specifics of a president that they don't believe has very much of a mandate?

SESNO: All right, John King, thanks. A lot of heavy lifting to come, of course, but before the heavy lifting some serious celebrating as the inaugural balls and other partying and celebration continues, ripples across Washington tonight. Well, before President Bush was sworn in, Dick Cheney took his oath, the same one taken by members of Congress and other federal officials. And with that, he became the 46th vice president of the United States.

He's expected to be one of the most influential men to fill that post, given the former Pentagon chief's past government experience and his role as tie-breaker in the evenly divided 50-50 U.S. Senate.

Cheney's vote was not required today when the Senate confirmed seven members of the new Bush Cabinet by voice vote. Mr. Bush had formally submitted their nominations shortly after his inaugural -- his first official act as president. Secretary of State Colin Powell now confirmed by the Senate today, along with Mr. Bush's secretaries of defense, treasury, agriculture, commerce, energy, and education.

And now, we turn to private citizen Bill Clinton. His departure from the White House today was emotional and lingering. But before giving up the reins of power, he had some work to do work, or he wanted to do. He issued a long list of pardons.

CNN's Frank Buckley has more on the finale of the Clinton presidency.


FRANK BUCKLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Bill Clinton and his senator spouse, Hillary, welcomed President-elect George W. Bush and wife, Laura, to the White House for coffee: the Ceremonial welcome preceded by a flurry of last-minute activity by President Clinton, who granted 140 pardons and commuted the sentences of 36 others.

Among those receiving pardons, Susan McDougal, convicted in connection with the Whitewater land deal; Henry Cisneros, the former secretary of housing and urban development, who admitted about lying to the FBI about payments to a former mistress; Patty Hearst, who served time for her role in a bank robbery that she said was committed after kidnappers brainwashed her; and Roger Clinton, the president's half brother, who was jailed for a year on a drug offense. Among those who did not receive pardons, financier Michael Milken; Native American Leonard Peltier; and former Justice Department official Webster Hubbell.

The Clintons and the Bushes road in the same car during the motorcade to the Capitol, where President Clinton became former President Clinton, when George W. Bush uttered these words.

BUSH: So help me God.

REHNQUIST: Congratulations.

BUCKLEY: The traditional helicopter flight for the outgoing president from the Capitol to Andrews Air Force Base was scrubbed because of bad weather, the Clintons traveling by car. In a hangar at Andrews Air Force Base, the former president said he spent a bittersweet morning at the White House, taking one last look at all of the rooms, reflecting on the past eight years.

WILLIAM J. CLINTON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I feel, as John Podesta did, we walked out of the Oval Office for the last time today. He was tearing up a little bit. And he just looked and said, we did a lot of good, we did a lot of good. And we did a lot of good.


BUCKLEY: The president said he begins the next chapter of his life feeling good about his time in the White House. And Clinton hinted that he would remain in the public arena.

CLINTON: Well, you see that sign there, it says, please don't go. I left the White House, but I'm still here.


We're not going anywhere.

BUCKLEY: The Clintons then flew to their new home state of New York, the Air Force plane transporting the Clintons no longer called Air Force One, but rather special air mission 28,000: a thousand supporters braving freezing cold temperature to welcome the Clintons at John F. Kennedy International Airport.

CLINTON: And thank you for being here today in this cold weather, with this cutting wind to welcome citizen Clinton home. I am grateful to be here.

BUCKLEY (on camera): The Clintons will spend the weekend in Chappaqua, New York. But next week, at least one Clinton will be returning to the nation's capital. Hillary Clinton will be back on the job as a U.S. senator.

Frank Buckley, CNN, New York.


SESNO: Here in Washington today, most celebrated, most were respectful. But others exercised a different form of their First Amendment rights: They protested. Protesters from around the country made their presence known in the capital.

CNN's Kate Snow spent much of the day among the demonstrators hearing their agendas and their complaints. She joins us now with a read on that -- Kate.

KATE SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Frank, I just talked to the D.C. police, and they say that they're very pleased with how everything went today. In fact, they say that the number of arrests that they've made, which is five at this point, is really not very much when you consider the thousands of demonstrators that were likely out on the streets.

It's hard to put a number on how many people were out here. Certainly hundreds. At many spots along the parade route, there were actually more protesters than there were Bush supporters, particularly where we were here in Freedom Plaza.

All along Pennsylvania Avenue, as the presidential limousine made its way, it was looking at Bush -- Bush was looking out those tinted windows at signs and posters. Again, the protesters outnumbering the Bush supporters, looking out at signs that read "Hail to the Thief," listening to a chorus of boos. Also a lot of gesturing going on, some of which we can't show you on television.

At one point, there were some projectiles thrown at the presidential limousine. At one point, someone launched a tennis ball. At another time, there was an egg thrown, an orange thrown. But overall, not a lot of interaction between the protesters and the presidential limo. For the most part, protesters making no attempt to disrupt the procession down Pennsylvania Avenue.

Two people although -- two people were apprehended by the U.S. Secret Service, we understand, for trying to jump the fence. But again, they were the exception to the rule.

The Secret Service said that they had plans in place to speed up and to slow down at various points during the parade. We did notice as they were coming by Freedom Plaza, where I am here, that they stopped at one point, and it appeared that perhaps they were checking out the protesters, trying to see if there was any threat posed. We don't that that's what they were doing, but they said they had some plans based on their security measures to speed up and slow down as necessary. So, that may indeed have been what they were doing.

Now, earlier today, there was a bit of a tense situation as some of the protesters who had organized at an area near the parade route -- they were trying to make their way down a main thoroughfare in Washington, D.C earlier, 14th Street. And they were coming down, a group of about 500 -- perhaps more than that. They did not have a permit to be on that street per se. And some of them started doing some things that the police weren't happy with, some property destruction. At one time, police told me that they had seen some tires being slashed. And so they were concerned, and they put up a blockade to stop the protesters.

We did see some skirmishes between police and protesters during that interaction. We saw one protester climb up on a light pole and burn an American flag in a sign of protest. A lot of shouting back and forth.

But again, just a re-emphasize, there were only five arrests out of all of that, all for disorderly conduct. So overall, authorities saying that everything went off as planned. They feel like -- they're very confident in the way things went here that the protesters for the most participated and fully cooperated with the great security measures that had been put in place for the first time ever at an inaugural parade.

Kate Snow, CNN live, on Pennsylvania Avenue -- Frank.

SESNO: And Kate, before you leave us, was there any kind of overarching theme to all those protests and how did the people who were around merely to enjoy the day take to the -- to what was going on around them?

SNOW: There were overlapping themes. I would say that the main theme was most of the people who had come out that I talked to said that they were here because they were upset about the election, they were upset about the results, they were upset about what happened in Florida. They felt that Bush is not -- it was not a valid victory for Bush. And they wanted to come out in protest of that. Many of them were Gore supporters, people who had voted for Al Gore.

Others were here specifically on certain policy issues. Some of them were here because of the death penalty and Bush's views on the death penalty. Others were here to protest about abortion. Various other issues. There were environmental groups here. I talked to some Green Party members who had come down from New York to protest on environmental issues. So a wide variety of issues represented.

As for how they interacted with the folks who were here to support Bush, very interesting: We expected that we might see some negative interaction, that we might see some back-and-forth between the two groups. Quite frankly, Frank, we didn't see a lot of that.

The people who came out as fans of George Bush watched as the protesters did their thing. They watched each other, but there wasn't a lot of interaction. I think both were able to enjoy the day and able to do what they came out to do.

SESNO: Each to his own role. Kate Snow.

There's much more ahead on CNN's special coverage of the inauguration of George W. Bush.



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