Bush, Pelosi vow to cooperate despite rocky past
Probable speaker had called the president ‘incompetent’, ‘shallow’ and ‘dangerous’
President Bush and Rep. Nancy Pelosi, the likely speaker of the House, on Nov. 9 buried the hatchet — gently — as the two sat down for an Oval Office lunch after a vitriolic campaign that put Democrats in control of Congress for the first time in 12 years.
“Both of us recognize [. . .] that when you win, you have a responsibility to do the best you can for the country,” the president said. “The elections are now behind us, and the congresswoman’s party won. [. . .] Therefore, we’re going to work together to address those challenges in a constructive way. We won’t agree on every issue, but [. . .] we will do our very best to address big problems.”
On a day when Republicans conceded the last two contested Senate seats and made official the Democratic sweep of Congress, Mrs. Pelosi agreed that the leaders at the two ends of Pennsylvania Avenue wouldn’t agree always — or even often — but offered her own olive branch after the bruising campaign.
“I look forward to working in a confidence-building way with the president, recognizing that we have our differences and we will debate them, and that is what our founders intended. But we will do so in a way that gets results for the American people,” she said.
“We’ve made history. Now we have to make progress. And I look forward to working with the president to do just that.”
On Nov. 9, Republican Sens. GeorgeAllenofVirginiaandConrad Burns of Montana formally acknowledged defeat in their re-election bids, giving the Democrats 49 seatsinthechamber.Alongwithtwo Democrat-leaningindependents,that will make Democratic Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada the next majority leader.
“It’s time for results,” Mr. Reid said at a raucous celebratory rally Nov. 9 outside the Capitol.
Butthecampaignleftabittertrail between Mr. Bush and Mrs. Pelosi. Shecalledhim“incompetent,”“oblivious,indenial,dangerous”and“shallow,” and often implied that he was stupid, a man with “no judgment, no experience and no knowledge.”
He mocked her as a liar who talked tax cuts but must be a “secret admirer” and warned that if she took the helm, “terrorists win and America loses.”
WhenaskedabouttheNov.9lunch menu, presidential counselor Dan Bartlettjokedthat“forthepresident, it’s probably a little bit of crow.”
Sincethepresidentsufferedwhat he called a “thumping” in the Nov. 7 elections, he has already acquiescedtwicetotheSanFranciscoliberal’s demands. On Nov. 8, he acceptedSecretaryofDefenseDonald H. Rumsfeld’s resignation, and on Nov.9,heofferedanolivebranchby sayingheis“opentoanyideaorsuggestion”onhowtoprosecutethewar against terror and “and ensuring that Iraq’s democratic government succeeds.”
The new conciliatory stance is a far cry from what the president said repeatedly on the campaign trail.
“This debate on Iraq — if you listencarefullyforaDemocratplanfor success,theydon’thaveone,”hesaid atonerally.“Howevertheyputit,the Democrat approach in Iraq comes down to this: The terrorists win and America loses. [. . .] The Democrat goal is to get out of Iraq. The Republican goal is to win in Iraq.”
But Mr. Bush, humbled by losing Republican control of both the House and the Senate, struck a new toneofbipartisanshiponNov.9after amorningmeetingwithhisCabinet. Democratshaveopposedmanyofhis “It is our responsibility to put the proposals in the past, and because elections behind us and work totheyholdgavelsinbothchambersof gether on the great issues facing Congress,theywillbeintheposition America.[...]TheAmericanpeople to scrub his legislation. expect us to rise above partisan difWith Democrats holding only the ferences,andmyadministrationwill thinnest edge in the Senate, that do its part.” chamber’s Republicans can use all
In the end, Mr. Bush, who has manner of procedural rules to have spent much of his time in office irka major say in what happens. ing Democrats by going it alone, “With49Republicansenators,we vowedwithMrs.Pelosiathissidethat still have the ability to shape and, theirluncheonwas“thebeginningof whennecessary,toblocklegislation,” a series of meetings we’ll have over Sen. John Cornyn of Texas said on thenextFox.coupleofyears,allaimedat solving problems and leading the For her part, Mrs. Pelosi has country.” vowed not to seek Mr. Bush’s im-
The president’s priorities include peachment or to tie up the House the passage of spending bills fundwith punitive investigations of the ing government’s continued operaexecutive branch, and on Nov. 9 she tion “with strong fiscal discipline repeated that pledge. and without diminishing our capac“Democrats are not about getting ity to fight the war on terror”; legiseven. Democrats are about helping lation retroactively authorizing his the American people to get ahead,” warrantless domestic surveillance she said. of terror suspects; energy legislaAt the Capitol Hill rally, Sen. tion; and congressional approval for Charles E. Schumer of New York, a landmark civilian nuclear coopwho led Senate Democrats’ re-eleceration agreement with India and tion team, sounded a similar note. for normalizing trade relations with “Our joy today will vanish if we Vietnam. can’t produce for the American peo-
The president hopes to be able to ple,” he said. convinceDemocratsthatthoseissues Still, Democrats fired plenty of “riseabovepartisandifference.”But warning shots on a variety of issues on Nov. 9, including judicial nominations and the terrorist-surveillance bill.
“My message to the president would be: Send us moderate judicial candidates,” said Sen. Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, the Democratic whip.“Don’tsendusextremecandidates, because I think the president will run into trouble if he does.”
Thetwosidesalsoremaindivided over Iraq.
“ ‘Full speed ahead’? I don’t think so,” Mrs. Pelosi said on CNN, mockingVicePresidentDickCheney’sassertionthattheadministrationwould continue its war strategy without change.
But Mr. Bush dug in his heels as well, saying that he will not consider pulling U.S. troops from Iraq before victory is achieved.
“Ifthegoalissuccess,thenwecan work together. If the goal is get out now regardless, then that’s going to be hard to work together,” he said.
The president did acknowledge that although both sides can move away from their rhetoric, neither party will compromise their core values.
Mrs. Pelosi is “not going to abandon her principles and I’m not going to abandon mine,” he said.
President Bush meets with Rep. Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, and Rep. Steny Hoyer, Maryland Democrat, along with Vice President Dick Cheney in the Oval Office at the White House on Nov. 9.