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George W. Bush Delivers Victory Speech, Reaches Out to DemocratsAired December 13, 2000 - 9:56 p.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BERNARD SHAW, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you, Larry. We're a few moments away from hearing from President-Elect George W. Bush, Earlier this hour, Vice President Al Gore bowed out of Election 2000.
JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: He made reference to last night's Supreme Court ruling, and he showed some of the fighting spirit that characterized his legal challenge. But he made clear, this is the end.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AL GORE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: 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 as a people and the strength of our democracy, I offer my concession. I also accept my responsibility which I will discharge unconditionally to honor 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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHAW: Vice President Al Gore is expected to meet with President- Elect Bush Tuesday.
WOODRUFF: And the keys to the transition office will be give to Dick Cheney tomorrow afternoon.
SHAW: Jeff Greenfield, moments away.
JEFF GREENFIELD, CNN SENIOR ANALYST: Yes, and you know in some ways the burden on George W. Bush is a little tougher than Al Gore. All Al Gore had to do was strike a graceful note and then leave the stage. But think, Bernie and Judy, the way were we normally see a candidate for the first time as president-elect, having won a clear- cut victory on election night surrounded by cheering supporters, confetti, balloons the scent of victory the clear assumption of power.
George W. Bush is going to step out tonight in a very different climate, and one of the things I think we ought to look for, based on where he's giving this speech in that chamber, is I think the intention is to make it look more like a State of the Union speech, a much more presidential speech in terms of trapping than the speech of a victorious candidate because that's not what George W. Bush can look like tonight after a victory solidified not by votes, but by a Supreme Court decision. So we should really see how they cast the speech in terms of setting, as well as tone.
WOODRUFF: Well, speaking of how they're going to cast the speech, let's go right to Austin. At this moment, CNN's Candy Crowley, who's been watching the Bush camp.
Candy, what about that?
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, they do know that the time for balloons and confetti passed on election night. And what they have in fact is Bush will be joined in the chamber by family, friends, staff, and some members of the Texas legislature. He's doing this on the Democratic side of the Texas legislature. He's being introduced by the Democratic speaker of the House, and you begin to get the drift. This is about bipartisanship.
This is his maiden speech for launching an end to the partisanship which has become over the past 36 days an even more urgent need. When the guests arrive, there is a sign up that says we need this tone to be respectful and dignified. Please be mindful of the fact that the entire nation is watching, and there are four rules to follow, one of which is no chanting and whistling, and no signs of any kind. This is not a victory speech, this is as Jeff said, the first speech of the president-elect -- Judy.
WOODRUFF: All right, Candy Crowley. And now to John King, who's been following the Gore effort. John, it may not have been the more difficult task of the two, but it was not an easy thing the vice president had to do tonight.
JOHN KING, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Not an easy speech for the vice president to step aside to say he strongly disagreed with the court's decision, but that he respects it; to urge his supporters to do the same.
And now after a campaign in which neither one of these men were viewed as great orators, this was viewed as a very tactical campaign, Vice President Gore trying to be a big man tonight. Now the burden in just a few moments on Governor Bush to be the same, and as Candy mentioned we're told his biggest challenge now will be to reach across the aisle, reach out to Democrats, Time is short. This transition is cut in half. Governor Bush's focus tonight not on winning an election but on governing the country.
SHAW: Bill Schneider, Vice President Gore preparing the stage for the governor?
SCHNEIDER: Well, I think he did because he essentially did not raise any questions about the legitimacy of George W. Bush's election. He called him the president-elect. He didn't raise any issues about the fact that Gore actually won the popular vote in the country. There's a big question about Bush's mandate. The country is very closely split between the parties, in Congress, of course, in the presidential election, everywhere. And even in the state legislatures, it's the closest balance between the parties that we've seen in almost 50 years. What kind of mandate does this give George W. Bush? He's going to try to define it in his remarks tonight.
WOODRUFF: All sorts of history associated with George W. Bush ascending to presidency. Only the second son of a president to move into the office of the presidency himself. You are looking at pictures of the Florida state House of Representatives. This is the -- I'm sorry. Texas. We've had too much Florida on the brain. Texas House of Representatives, this is the chamber where the governor's staff chose to make this important speech.
SHAW: Listen to these statistics. Bush will become the 19th Republican president, the 17th governor to become president, the first Texas governor ever to become president.
SCHNEIDER: This chamber is controlled by Democrats, and I think he chose it in part to make a statement about that. This is the chamber the Texas legislature that is under Democratic domination.
PETE LANEY (D), TEXAS HOUSE SPEAKER: Welcome to the Texas House of Representatives Chamber. It was about this time about six years ago that were we were preparing to inaugurate a new governor in Texas. Many of us wondered what kind of leader he would be. We wondered how he would bring everybody together after a hard-fought election.
Tonight, many people in our country are asking the same questions about George W. Bush. When he became governor, he reached out to members of the legislature of both parties. We didn't always agree on issues, but we found we could have policy differences without having gridlock. We could have debate without bitterness, and we could reach agreements and solve problems without sacrificing our principles.
Above all, we learned that Governor Bush is a leader you can trust and respect. It is my honor to introduce to you a man who has earned my trust respect, the Governor of Texas, my friend, the president-elect of the United States, the honorable George W. Bush.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT-ELECT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you very much. Thank you.
Thank you very much. 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. We shared 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.
I am proud to have Dick Cheney by my side, and America will be proud to have him as our next vice president.
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.
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 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 and 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.
SHAW: From schools, Social Security and Medicare, to tax relief, foreign policy and a strong military, Governor Bush saying tonight these priorities are not merely Republican concerns or Democratic concerns, these are American responsibilities. 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 was elected to serve one party, but to serve one nation.
WOODRUFF: Jeff Greenfield?
GREENFIELD: Clearly, this was the speech that you were would not have given on election night had you won an uncontested victory, a mandate. This is a speech by somebody who is speaking across the divisions that we saw election night, probably more at people who didn't vote for him than did.
I was a little surprised to hear what we have sometimes called a laundry list of programmatic ideas. Normally you save that for a later time, but I think what the president-elect was saying here was that look, I have an agenda, but I'm going to describe this agenda in the broadest possible terms to suggest to you that I don't see this agenda as cause of conflict. Now, we may well see in January or February how accurate that notion was, but clearly that is speech pitched in tone to be cautious and to be conciliatory rather than victorious.
WOODRUFF: Candy Crowley in Austin, was that the goal?
CROWLEY: That was the goal and Jeff is absolutely right. This was aimed more, really, at the people and the party that did not vote for George W. Bush. This is their opening volley, if you will, in what they believe will be a long effort to try to pull the nation together.
But what the Bush campaign knows now, what the president-elect knows, is that you cannot move forward on anything until the country is put back together. They have recognized all along from early on that the confetti and the balloons and the chants and the cheering the time for all of that had passed and what he needed to do tonight was to begin saying to he American people, I am here. I am the president of all of you. It's time to put politics behind us, and begin governing one nation -- Bernie.
SHAW: John King.
KING: Well, Bernie, obviously, the election chapter closing tonight. Both the vice president and Governor Bush trying to make that clear, talk of bipartisanship, talk of reconciliation, talk of proving the system works. I think that's what both wanted to make clear tonight. This was hard-fought, even went into courts. Both trying to make the case but, look. We will pass power peacefully, and hopefully in a bipartisan manner.
But I think already what was unspoken tonight, is we're opening a new chapter. For eight years, some Republicans in Washington have viewed Bill Clinton and Al Gore as illegitimate. Now, some liberals in Washington will view George W. Bush as illegitimate, and the interesting question I think is can they actually reach to the middle and forge bipartisan cooperation in what is a very raw political climate here in Washington, not only after this election but the legacy of impeachment still over this town as well.
SHAW: Watching and listening very intently from San Francisco, Kenneth Khachigian, a former speechwriter for Presidents Nixon and Reagan here in the Washington bureau, former Clinton White House spokesman Joseph Lockhart.
Joe Lockhart, how did these words strike you?
JOE LOCKHART, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Well, oddly enough, I think Al Gore did more for George Bush tonight than George Bush did for George Bush. And if he wanted tactical advice from me, it would have been to let Al Gore's speech stand on its own. I think Gore made the case more effectively that it's time to pull together and stand behind the president. I think Governor Bush got to it at the end when he talked about earning the respect, and not just being a Republican president.
But I think Gore is the one who can make the case more effectively, and I think when he looks back on this, he might have thought that it would have been better just to leave there it and speak tomorrow or later in week.
SHAW: Ken Khachigian, the speech? The message?
KENNETH KHACHIGIAN, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL SPEECHWRITER: Well, the two words I pulled out of it were consensus and common ground, the two phrases, and I think this was an overture to his presidency. The thing I saw most, the theme that -- the golden thread of this speech was he was reaching a hand across the aisle and extending that hand in cooperation and that's a good thing. I think tonight he ended the talk of no legitimacy to his presidency. Today and tonight, it -- he put that spike in the ground. It's going to be a legitimate presidency because he's willing to work like he said for consensus and across common ground.
SHAW: Thanks very much. Judy, we began our election night coverage the night of Tuesday, November 7th, 5:00 p.m. Eastern time. We stayed on air until 6:00 a.m. the next morning. Thirty-six days later, it's over.
WOODRUFF: Five weeks and a day, but who's counting?
SHAW: No one.
WOODRUFF: All right, I guess that wraps it up for us.
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