latimes.com: Bush, McCain attempt at mending fences hits snag
GREENSBORO, North Carolina (Los Angeles Times) -- Even as George W. Bush continued reaching out to Democrats on Thursday, he faced new frictions from a familiar source within his own party.
Sen. John McCain of Arizona, Bush's chief rival in the Republican
presidential primaries, threatened to cancel their scheduled reconciliation
meeting in Pittsburgh next month.
McCain was angered by publicity surrounding the meeting and,
specifically, the chance Bush might broach the subject of the vice
presidency. While the Texas governor insists he is nowhere close to picking
a running mate, McCain has been equally adamant in ruling out a
The McCain camp also was upset that Charles Wyly, the Texas
entrepreneur who, with his brother Sam, paid for ads attacking McCain in
the GOP primaries, was given a prominent role at a Republican fund-raising
gala that Bush headlined Wednesday night in Washington.
Representatives of Bush and McCain had previously scheduled a
planning session today to talk about what the two candidates would discuss
May 9. Now, however, John Weaver, a senior advisor to McCain, says, "It's
tenuous at this time" whether a Bush-McCain summit will take place at all.
Weaver said that he and Joe Allbaugh, manager of the Bush campaign,
will discuss today whether the May session can be salvaged. McCain aides
raised several distinct objections to the early discussions with Bush.
"First, any discussion leading up to the meeting should be private, and to
date that has not happened," Weaver said. "Secondly, we don't feel that a
meeting that is limited to rehashing the differences on campaign finance
reform and discussion of the possibility of the vice presidency, given John's
views about that, would be a substantive meeting."
For their part, officials in the Bush camp responded with equanimity,
even though they were caught off guard by McCain's threatened pullout.
The senator is traveling this week in Vietnam but conveyed his concerns to
Weaver and others.
"We expect the [May 9] meeting will take place as scheduled," said Scott
McClellan, a Bush spokesman. "Gov. Bush said all along he looks forward
to talking with Sen. McCain about how they can work together with the
reforms they agree upon. The governor expects they will have a substantive
discussion of the issues."
For all the surface niceties, however, there remains a deep enmity
between the two Republican camps, a carry-over from the bitterly fought
The flap Thursday only served to distract from Bush's efforts to
continue his weeklong emphasis on bipartisanship. He continued that quest
by traveling to a conference in Greensboro, N.C., where he praised the
education record of the state's governor, Democrat James B. Hunt Jr.
At Wednesday's Republican dinner, Bush had said he would seek to
increase cooperation with Democrats in Washington; in his remarks
Thursday, he gave Texas Democrats some of the credit for the state
education reforms that he relentlessly touts on the campaign trail.
"As governor, I've worked closely with both Republicans and Democrats,
and had it not been for cooperative Democrats in our Legislature we
wouldn't have gotten what we've gotten done," Bush told a large group of
North Carolina educators discussing ways to improve academic performance
among minority and low-income children.
To reinforce the point, Bush was accompanied by Texas attorney Sandy
Kress, a former Dallas County Democratic Party chairman who has been
active in the state's educational reform efforts. Kress endorsed Bush, calling
his educational reform proposals superior to Gore's: "I think he [Bush] will
walk the last mile on accountability, and I don't think his opponent will,"
In his speech, Bush stressed his familiar themes of devolving greater
control of federal education dollars to the states, while pressing states to
toughen their systems to hold schools accountable for student
performance--an approach he contrasted with his party's recent educational
"We're going to have a little different tone in Washington," Bush said.
"I'm not interested in shutting down the Department of Education; I am
interested in transforming it. . . . I'm interested in spending more money on
schools, but we must expect better results from our schools."
Bush received a respectful but unenthusiastic response from his audience
of teachers and other educators, groups that often lean Democratic. "He has
to observe education on a ground level instead of a political level," said
Charles Hayes, an assistant high school principal in Charlotte-Mecklenburg.
Speaking with reporters, Bush also disclosed that he had met Wednesday
in Washington with Teamsters President James P. Hoffa, whose union has
conspicuously refused to endorse Gore. "I did ask for his union's
endorsement and he said he hadn't made up his mind yet, and I took that as
the beginnings of a good sign," Bush said.
Brownstein reported from Greensboro, N.C., and Barabak from Los
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