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Jewish World Review Dec. 18, 2000 /21 Kislev, 5761

Cal Thomas

Cal Thomas
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The president elect and the president reject --
IN WHAT may have been the most gracious speech of his life, Vice President Al Gore conceded to George W. Bush of Texas Wednesday night and acknowledged that Bush is the President-elect. It was likely Gore's valedictory speech because, despite his relative youth (he's 52), Gore's fellow Democrats believe that if he couldn't win an election in which an incumbent president had personal approval ratings of more than 60 percent and a good economy, he is unlikely to do better after four or eight years of a President Bush.

For all the rhetoric about unity, the humor, the mention of God five times, the talk of how partisan feelings must yield to patriotism and how we must honor the new President-elect by bringing the country together, Gore's fellow Democrats won't buy much of it. They were too close to winning all three branches of government and are not about to lie down with the lamb. They smell the red meat. After a brief period of superficial unity, they will dedicate themselves to insuring, with the help of their big media friends, that Bush the second will suffer the same fate as Bush the first.

Jesse Jackson will continue to foment racial and political division. He's not about to unite behind anybody. His own political self-interest and financial future rests on sowing tares among the wheat and keeping his face on television. Jackson should be ignored in a Bush administration, which must reach out to younger blacks whose future is not in the past of the civil rights movement but in the promise of better education, stronger families and economic empowerment that flows from hard work and initiative, not from grievance and government. Gore's reference to "one people with a shared history'' won't get Jackson's attention. Jackson won't share his history anymore than he'll share the stage.

Incredibly, Gore made no mention of Bill Clinton, to whom he owes much and from whom he received little (Clinton lied to him about Monica Lewinsky and who knows what else?) Don't expect liberal congressional Democrats to buy into "harmony and understanding, sympathy and trust abounding.'' Their god is government and their primary sacrament is power.

President-elect Bush spoke of unity, too. The Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives, Democrat Pete Laney, introduced him. Sitting behind Bush was the widow of the late Lt. Governor Bob Bullock, a strong Bush supporter.

In his beautifully crafted and flawlessly delivered address, Bush sounded and looked presidential. He touched on some of the same themes Gore did, acknowledging with humility that Republicans and Democrats want the best for the nation. "Our votes may differ, but not our hopes,'' he said.

Bush laid out his agenda: improving public schools (hopefully by not buying into the false equation that more money means better grades), broad tax relief (not that targeted stuff Gore championed that puts government in charge of who gets relief), strengthening Medicare and Social Security (privatization will do it, not pouring more money into a bucket with a hole in it), and a stronger military which has been weakened under Clinton-Gore.

In the best lines of the night, Bush said, "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 of 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.''

George W. Bush is a good and decent man but he's entering an arena where good and decent men (and women) are eaten for breakfast. His father is a good and decent man, who thought his character qualities would encourage others to be like him and serve their better natures. Bush II should have learned from his father's false hope. His adversaries, of whom there are many, are more likely to accuse him of evil motives and ugly policies. Will goodness and mercy overcome this? Maybe. But the votes are likely to remain out on that question far longer than the 36 days it took to declare an election winner. To change the culture of Washington will take more than the prayers Bush requested of the American people. It will literally take divine intervention.

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