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In interview, Bush admits he was 'abrupt' when Gore called back

AUSTIN, Texas (Reuters) - When Democrat Al Gore called his Republican rival in the wee hours of Election Night to retract his concession in the presidential race, the usually affable George W. Bush admits he was less than "warm and fuzzy."

"I was fairly abrupt. I was somewhat taken aback. He did what he thought he had to do," Bush said in his first detailed description of the telephone conversation that set in motion the protracted legal wrangling over who won on Nov. 7.

The vice president's fateful second call came about an hour after he had conceded, when he realized the Texas governor's margin in Florida was so slight it had triggered an automatic recount. The rest is literally history.

A month after Americans went to the polls, they are still waiting to find out who won Florida's 25 Electoral College votes and thus the 270 necessary to become their 43rd president.

In downtown Austin, the telephone in the governor's mansion rang about 3:30 a.m. EST on Nov. 8. as Bush; his younger brother Jeb, the governor of Florida, who thought he had just delivered the state to his sibling; their parents, former President George Bush and his wife, Barbara; and George W. Bush's wife, Laura, were gathered in the living room, preparing for a victory speech.

"I was right here and I took both calls," Bush said Tuesday in an interview taped at the mansion and broadcast on the CBS program "60 Minutes II."

"I was -- you know, we'd rallied our family, and we were heading out to the state capitol, which was right around the the corner here from the governor's mansion. And the vice president said he had some information to show the election was going to be closer than he thought and he was going to take it back."

Bush said he was "taken aback, obviously a little disappointed," but would not admit to feeling anger.

"I ended -- it ended up with me saying, 'Well, you need to do what you -- if that's what you feel like you've got to do -- you know -- you know, do what you need to do' and just hung up the phone," he said.

Gore had asked for 10 minutes after his first call to give him time to concede publicly at a rally in Nashville, Tennessee. Bush said as 30 minutes ticked by, "we had a pretty good indication that he had changed his mind."

Bush put the phone down and said, "The vice president called, and he's changed his mind." About half an hour later, everyone decided to go to bed.

"Yeah, I was tired, and we were just -- you know, felt like it would all be sorted out in short order," he said. "I didn't realize it would take a month. But needless to say, it's been an interesting experience."

Bush, who had less than an hour to savor the title "president-elect," sniffed at Gore's suggestion that he had been "snippy" on the telephone.

"We don't use that word here too often down here in Texas. So I'm not exactly sure what that means, but if he meant abrupt, I was abrupt."

"I wasn't, you know, I wasn't warm and fuzzy on the telephone, let me put it to you that way," Bush said with a wry smile.

Copyright 2000 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


Wednesday, December 6, 2000


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