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Bush transcript, part 3: Election loss a 'thumping'

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QUESTION: Mr. President, I'd like to ask you: Nancy Pelosi has been quite clear about her agenda for the first 100 hours. She mentions things like raising minimum wage, cutting interest rates on student loans, broadening stem cell research and rolling back tax cuts.

Which of those can you support, sir?

BUSH: No, I knew you'd probably try to get me to start negotiating with myself. I haven't even visited with Congresswoman Pelosi yet. She's coming to the Oval Office later this week. I'm going to sit down and talk with her.

I believe, on a lot of issues, we can find common ground. And there's a significant difference between common ground and abandoning principle. She's not going to abandon her principles, and I'm not going to abandon mine.

But I do believe we have an opportunity to find some common ground to move forward on.

In that very same interview you quoted, one of these three characters asked me about minimum wage. I said: There's an area where I believe we can make some -- find common ground. And as we do, I'll be, of course, making sure that our small businesses -- there's compensation for the small businesses in the bill.

QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. President.

In our discussion with you last week, which you've referenced here several ...

BUSH: Are you bringing this up so everybody else gets kind of jealous?

QUESTION: Certainly.

BUSH: Gregory, for example, and Steve were there.

QUESTION: This is a very competitive environment we're in here. ... But we asked you about the fate of Secretary Rumsfeld and Vice President [Dick] Cheney. Vice President Cheney, of course, has made -- takes many of the same positions as Secretary Rumsfeld did on the war. Does he still have your complete confidence?

BUSH: Yes, he does.

QUESTION: Do you expect him to stay to the ...

BUSH: The campaign is over. Yes, he does.

QUESTION: And he'll be here for the remainder of your term?

BUSH: Yes, he will. Thank you.

QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. President.

With all due respect, Nancy Pelosi has called you incompetent, a liar, the emperor with no clothes and, as recently as yesterday, dangerous.

How will you work with someone who has such little respect for you leadership and who is third in line to the presidency?

BUSH: I've been around politics a long time. I understand when campaigns end and I know when governing begins.

And I'm going to work with people of both parties.

You know, look, people say unfortunate things at times. But if you hold grudges in this line of work, you're never going to get anything done. And my intention is to get some things done, and soon -- we're start visiting with her Friday with the idea of coming together.

Look, this is a close election. If you look at race by race, it was close. The cumulative effect, however, was not too close. It was a thumping.

But nevertheless, the people expect us to work together. That's what they expect.

And as I said in my opening comments, you know, there comes responsibility with victory.

And that's what Nancy Pelosi told me this morning. She said in the phone call she wants to work together. And so do I. And so, that's how you deal with it.

This isn't my first rodeo. In other words, this is not the first time I've been in a campaign where people have expressed themselves in different kinds of ways.

But I have learned that, you know, if you focus on the big picture -- which in this case is our nation -- and issues we need to work together on, you can get stuff done.

For example, the No Child Left Behind Act is going to come up for reauthorization. There's an area where we must work together for the sake of our children and for the sake of a competitive America. And I believe we can get a lot done.

And I know it's the spirit of the new leadership to try to get some -- to get a lot done, and I look forward to talking to them about it.

QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. President.

You just described the election results as a thumping ...

BUSH: I said the cumulative -- make sure. Who do you write for?

QUESTION: The New York Times, Mr. President.

BUSH: Oh, yes ...

Let's make sure we get the facts. I said that the elections were close -- the cumulative effect ...

QUESTION: Yes, is a thumping.

BUSH: Thumping.

QUESTION: But the results have been ...

BUSH: It's a polite way of saying, you know -- anyway, go ahead.

QUESTION: But the results are being interpreted as a repudiation of your leadership style in some quarters. I wonder what your reaction is to that. And should we expect a very different White House, should we expect a very different leadership style from you in these last two years, given that you have a whole new set of partners?

BUSH: You know, I really haven't -- I'm still going to try to speak plainly about what I think are the important priorities of the country, and winning this war on terror is by far the most important priority. And making sure this economy continues to grow is an important priority. And making sure our children have a good education is an important priority.

Obviously, there's a -- there's a shift in the Congress. And therefore, in order to get legislation passed, we've got to work with the Democrats. They're the ones who control the committees. They're the ones who will decide, you know, how the bills flow.

And so you'll see a lot of meetings with Democrats and a lot of discussion with Democrats.

And in terms of the election, no question, Iraq had something to do with it. And it's, you know, it's tough in a time of war, when people see carnage on their television screens.

The amazing thing about this election, and what surprised me somewhat, which goes to show I should not try punditry, is that this economy's strong. And, a lot of times, off years [elections] are decided by the economy.

And yet, you know, obviously there was a different feel out there for the electorate. The economy -- the good news in the economy was overwhelmed by the toughness of this fight and toughness of the war.

And so, look, I understand people don't agree -- didn't agree with some of my decisions. I'm going to continue making decisions based upon what I think is right for the country. I've never been one to try to fashion the principles that I believe or the decisions that I make based upon trying to, kind of, short-term popularity.

I do understand where the people -- the heart of the people. I understand they're frustrated. I am too, as I said the other day. I wish this had gone faster. So does Secretary Rumsfeld.

But the reality is that it's a tough fight. And we're going to win the fight. And I truly believe the only way we won't win is if we leave before the job is done.

QUESTION: But to follow, we were speaking about the war. And during the campaign, two very different viewpoints of the war came out. You spoke a lot, as he mentioned, about what you saw as the Democratic approach to the war, which you were greatly concerned about.

Are you worried that you won't be able to work with the Democrats? Or do you feel like you have to prevail upon them your viewpoint?

BUSH: Well, I think we're going to have to work with them, just like I think we're going to have to work with the Baker-Hamilton commission. It's very important that the people understand the consequences of failure. And I have vowed to the country that we're not going to fail; we're not going to leave before the job is done.

And obviously we've got a lot of work to do with some members of Congress.

I don't know how many members of Congress said: "Get out right now." I mean, the candidates running for Congress and the Senate, I haven't seen that chart.

Some of the comments I read, where they said: "Well, look, we just need a different approach to make sure we succeed."

What -- you can find common ground there.

See, if the goal is success, then we can work together. If the goal is get out now regardless, then that's going to be hard to work together.

But I believe the Democrats want to work together to win this aspect of the war on terror.

I'm also looking forward to working with them to make sure that we institutionalize, to the extent possible, steps necessary to make sure future presidents are capable of waging this war.

Because Iraq is a part of the war on terror. And it's -- you know, I think back to Harry Truman and Dwight Eisenhower. I mean, Harry Truman began the Cold War and Eisenhower, obviously from a different party, continued it.

And I would hope that would be the spirit that we're able to work together.

We may not agree with every tactic, but we should agree that this country needs to secure ourselves against an enemy that would like to strike us again.

This enemy's not going away after my presidency.

And I look forward to working with them. And I truly believe that Congresswoman Pelosi and Harry Reid care just about as much -- you know, they care about the security of this country like I do.

They see -- you know, no leader in Washington is going to walk away from protecting the country. We have different views on how to do that, but their spirit is such that they want to protect America. That's what I believe.

Just like I talked about the troops, I meant what I said.

Look, people that's going to be looking at this election, the enemy's going to say, "Well, it must America is going to leave." And the answer is no, that doesn't what it means.

Our troops are wondering whether or not they're going to get the support they need after this election. Democrats are going to support our troops just like Republicans will.

And the Iraqis have got to understand this election -- in other words, I said, "Don't be fearful." In other words, don't look at the results of the election and say, "Oh, no. America's going to leave us before the job is complete." That's not what's going to happen. ...



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