Jeanne Meserve on the latest guests at the Bush ranch
CNN Correspondent Jeanne Meserve is in Austin, covering the moves of Texas Governor George W. Bush.
Q: Governor Bush welcomed a pair of high-profile visitors at his ranch in Crawford, Texas, today. What happened?
MESERVE: Today, Governor Bush met with Secretary Dick Cheney, who is not only his running mate but the head of his transition team, and with General Colin Powell. Powell was an adviser to the Bush campaign, he campaigned with the governor, particularly towards the end, and of course, he's been widely rumored to be Bush's pick to be secretary of state.
Powell was asked today if Bush had "popped the question." He said no, Bush had not. He did not expect him to until the situation in Florida became much clearer, and that if the question was asked, he'd give his first response to the governor, not to the press corps.
What's particularly interesting about this meeting is that it could easily have been conducted out of public view. The ranch is several hours away from Austin. The media does not routinely stake it out, and Bush and Cheney were flying by private jet into Waco. They could easily have avoided publicity, but clearly the Bush campaign wanted the picture to be seen. They wanted a few questions to be asked. All of this is part and parcel of the Bush campaign's effort to make a Bush presidency look like a fait accompli.
Q: Did you see any movement at all in Austin?
MESERVE: No, it's all quiet in Austin. Bush is down at the ranch, and if there are others who come in to talk with him about the future, they would likely fly into a different city.
We do know that Andy Card will be at the ranch tomorrow. Bush has said that he wants him to be his chief of staff in a Bush administration. They will be discussing transition. Cheney is expected to stay at the ranch until sometime Saturday. So clearly, there is a lot of discussion going on. We presume they are getting down to the matter of discussing names.
Q: Why does Bush stay at his ranch and not at the mansion in Austin?
MESERVE: I think it's where Bush prefers to be. When he is in Austin, we are perched on the sidewalk right across from his driveway, and he cannot come or go without being observed. Likewise, the Statehouse is staked out, and people are watching who comes and who goes from there.
I think that is more peaceful at the ranch. He doesn't have noisy demonstrators right outside, as they have been in Austin. He can get some sleep, he can get some relaxation and mix all that in with work. Of course, there's great telephone service, I'm sure, at the ranch, and he's well able to communicate with his staff here in Austin, with people in McLean [Virginia], where the transition headquarters are, and with the people on the ground in Florida.
Q: Have the press corps diminished or grown in Austin in recent days?
MESERVE: I would say that the numbers camped out on the sidewalk across from the Governor's Mansion have diminished substantially, because the governor isn't there and there isn't much going on. But there are still many reporters in town, monitoring the campaign and what is happening.
Q: Is there anything else you'd like to mention?
MESERVE: Ari Fleischer, who has been a senior adviser to the Bush campaign, and who is going to be a spokesman for the transition, noted today that one-third of the time normally devoted to a transition has now passed. The argument that he and the rest of the Bush team make is that they have got to keep moving on this stuff. They have to start putting people in place and settling on a plan for action. Otherwise, George W. Bush will be unprepared on January 20, should he in fact be the victor in this election.
They continue to argue that it is absolutely appropriate and necessary for them to move forward on this front. But Dick Cheney has said that we shouldn't expect any announcements of Cabinet positions until the murky situation in Florida is made clearer.