Bush accepts his role in Republican losses
A contrite President Bush said on Nov. 8 that he shares “a large part” of the responsibility for the “thumping” suffered by Republicans on Election Day, but called on his party’s lawmakers to work with the new Democratic leadership in Congress to advance his agenda.
In a press conference just hours after Democrats took control of the Houseforthefirsttimein12years— andappearedpoisedtoseizetheSenateaswell—thepresidentseemedat times glum, at other times pugnacious,ashesaidtheAmericanpeople had spoken.
“Yesterday, the people went to the polls,andtheycasttheirvoteforanew direction in the House of Representatives. And while the ballots are still beingcountedintheSenate,itisclear theDemocratPartyhadagoodnight last night,” he said in the White House’s East Room.
“I’m obviously disappointed with theoutcomeoftheelection,andasthe headoftheRepublicanParty,Ishare alargepartoftheresponsibility.Itold my party’s leaders that it is now our dutytoputtheelectionsbehindusand work together with the Democrats andindependentsonthegreatissues facing this country,” he said.
Although he spent the past few weekstravelingacrossthecountryto excoriate Democrats as weak on national security and bent on raising taxes,Mr.Bushsaiditistimetomove past partisan politics and work hard for the American people.
“I believe that the leaders of both political parties must try to work throughourdifferences,andIbelieve we will be able to work through differences. I’ve reassured the House and Senate leaders that I intend to work with the new Congress in a bipartisan way to address issues confronting this country. I invited them to come to the White House in the comingdaystodiscusstheimportant workremainingthisyearandtobegin conversations about the agenda for next year,” he said.
Asked about his ability to work with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, the California Democrat expected to become House speaker in the next Congress, Mr. Bush said, “If you hold grudges in this line of work, you’re never going to get anything done.”Andheacknowledgedthatthe victory by Mrs. Pelosi’s party would have policy consequences.
“Look, this was a close election. If youlookatitracebyrace,itwasclose. The cumulative effect, however, was not too close. It was a thumping,” Mr. Bush said. “But, nevertheless, the people expect us to work together. That’s what they expect.”
The president immediately granted a key demand of Democrats by announcing the resignation of Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld.
Mr. Bush praised Democrats for a“disciplinedcampaign”anda“superb job of turning out their votes,” but he lobbed a barb at his chief White House political strategist, Karl Rove, who failed for the first time in three elections to deliver a win for the president.
For months, Mr. Bush has publicly joked about an informal contest between himself and Mr. Rove as to who could read the most books. When asked on Nov. 8 about who was winning the contest, Mr. Bush said: “I’m losing. I obviously was working harder on the campaign than he was.”
The remark drew a tight smile fromMr.Roveatthepressconference — and a collective “oooh” from the White House press corps.
Mr. Rove, who orchestrated a historic Republican gain of congressionalseatsduringthe2002midterm elections, had told The Washington Times late last month that he was “confident we’re going to keep the Senate; I’m confident we’re going to keeptheHouse.”Instead,Democrats gained at least 29 House seats and at least four Senate seats, pending delayedresults,recountsandanycourt challenges.
Mr.Bushalsohadmadeoptimistic predictions during the campaign’s final weeks. He said those mistaken forecasts did not show that he was “out of touch.”
“I’m an optimistic person, is what I am. I knew we were going to lose seats, I just didn’t know how many,” hesaid.“Butthepeoplehavespoken, and now it’s time for us to move on.”