by Lionel Rolfe
American Reporter Correspondent
Los Angeles, Calif.
December 16, 2000
THE BUSH COUP
HOLLYWOOD, Calif. Dec. 13, 2000 -- In back-to-back speeches unique for their historic circumstances and distinguished by ringing appeals to the better part of human nature, President-elect George W. Bush and losing Democratic presidential nominee Vice President Al Gore spoke Wednesday night to a nation that for 36 days has been transfixed by their unprecedented post-Election Day contest for the presidency.
The two men urged Americans to put the bitter differences of the 16-month campaign and month-long election contest behind them, and to come together to work for the good of the nation.
(The full text of both speeches appears below this story.)
"I was not elected to serve one party, but to serve one nation," Mr. Bush said.
"Whether you voted for me or not, I will do my best to serve your interests," he said, "and I will work to earn your respect."
It is the first time since 1952 that a Republican president will enjoy a Republican majority in both houses of Congress. While the margins are slender - just the vote of Vice President-elect Cheney when sitting as as president pro-tem of the U.S. Senate provides the difference in the 50-50 party distribution there, and just eight votes in the 435-member House of Representatives - the Republican platform that can now be enacted is sure to usher in a dramatically different era than the Clinton years brought to the nation. Among the immediate results is likely to be a significant tax break for some Americans. Other than touching on his plans, however, Bush did not argue for GOP causes.
Gore, too, studiously avoided partisanship, barely mentioning the controversial high court stay that ended the Florida recounts except to say he disagreed with it.
"Now the U.S. Supreme Court has spoken," he said. "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."
The speeches followed a day in which both sides studied intensely the complex and puzzling 65-page, 5-4 Supreme Court decision - an opinion with four dissents - handed down exactly 24 hours before Bush's speech began. Bush spoke from the podium of the Democrat-controlled Texas House of Representatives in order to give a clear bipartisan character to the address.
He was introduced by a Democrat, Speaker of the Texas House Pete Laney, and noted in his speech that his former Lt. Governor, Bob Bullock, is also a member of the opposing party.
Both speeches were carefully aimed at restoring the comity that must precede political goals if Congress and the nation are not to be paralyzed by partisanship.
"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," said the President-elect.
Gore spoke from his suite of offices in the Old Executive Office Building. He opened his speech witha brief interregnum, in which he seemed momentarily overcome by emotion and swallowed, apparently in sadness, before he began. His moving and eloquent address was probably one of the best of his life, and behind him a woman in the official party wiped tears from her eyes. But his wife, Tipper Gore, stood steadily smiling throughout it, a portrait of the perfect political wife.
Gore's concluding words were reminiscent of the valedictory by Gen. Douglas MacArthur in his 1949 speech to Congress.
"And now, my friends, in a phrase I once addressed to others, it's time for me to go," Gore said.
Gore also had words of thanks and praise for his running mate, U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman, and hiswife, Hadassah. Sen. Lieberman was the first person of Jewish faith ever to compete for the White House as the nominee of a major party.
"Tipper and I feel a deep gratitude toJoe and Hadassah Lieberman who brought passion and high purpose to ourpartnership and opened new doors, not just for our campaign but for our country," Gore said.
Bush, too, took a moment to praise his wife, Laura. "Laura's active involvement as first lady has made Texas a better place, and she will be a wonderful first lady of America," the President-elect said.
President-elect Bush also devoted several minutes of his speech to policies he hopes to implement, especially in the areas of tax relief, prescription coverage for "all our seniors," shoring up Social Security, and what was probably his most compelling campaign promise: to improve the education of America's children and "to leave no child behind" - the sole campaign catch-phrase that appeared in the speech.
Indeed, absent from the President-elect's speech was any hint of right-wing touchstone issues or thekind of partisanship one might have expected in the same sort of speech had been given just after the polls closed on Nov. 7.
Bush did attempt to define generally what he means by "compassionate conservatism," and notedthat it was his intention to ensure not that America's defenses are "superior to" any others. His slight nervousness and flawless delivery rose to the occasion, helping to define him both as a human being and a leader.
Bush urged the nation to pray for both him and for Gore, and took the unusual step of congratulating not only the Vice President but his campaign workers as well for the "hard-fought" contest.
That chapter - unlike any other in American history, ended last night with a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to halt recounts of votes disputed by the Gore campaign in Florida, where voters apparently gave the President-elect a razor-thin margin of victory.
Bush, who may have won the popular vote in Florida by less than 200 votes and lost the national popular vote by 300,000, will nonetheless prevail in the Electoral College by a vote of 271 to 267 when it meets on Dec. 18. In both speeches, the three concluding words were those that have become a signature of the American presidency: "God bless America."
Perhaps they have never been more deeply needed, nor more profoundly felt.
Joe Shea is Editor-in-Chief of The American Reporter.
The following is President-elect George W. Bush's campaign victory speech delivered Wednesday evening:
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. Weshared 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. (Applause)
I am proud to have Dick Cheney by my side, and America will be proud to have him as our next vice president. (Applause)
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. (Applause)
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 to 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 an 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.
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 ofour 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, withtheir 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 shake 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.