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The BBC's Bill Hayton
"One of the least experienced politicians ever to become president"
 real 56k

Friday, 15 December, 2000, 08:16 GMT
Bush team gets keys to office
Bush-Cheney offices, Washington DC
The Bush-Cheney team is moving to Washington
Vice-President-elect Dick Cheney has accepted the "smart card" key to the government transition office in Washington amid speculation about the composition of George W Bush's future cabinet.

Mr Bush is beginning to prepare for office as the next president of the United States after 36 historic days of political turmoil.


All of us have a responsibility to support President-elect Bush and unite our country

President Clinton
Due to the lengthy legal battle to resolve the disputed election, Mr Bush will have less than half the time an incoming president normally has to name his advisers before his inauguration on 20 January.

"The transition is under way," Mr Cheney said. "We're going to move as rapidly as we can."

The new Republican Administration could start naming cabinet members as early as Friday.

Powell in Cabinet

Some appointments have been widely trailed. Retired General Colin Powell, who was the top US military commander during the 1991 Gulf War, is expected to become secretary of state.

Dick Cheney
Key to the door: Cheney can now get down to work
Stanford University scholar Condoleezza Rice is expected to be named national security adviser. Former Secretary of Transportation Andrew Card will be chief of staff.

Mr Bush is also expected to approach at least one Democrat to join his cabinet to try to heal wounds left by bitter partisanship during the campaign and subsequent legal battle.

In his first address after Vice-President Al Gore accepted defeat, Mr Bush spoke of "reconciliation and unity" and used the word "together" at least five times.

"I was elected not to serve one party but one nation," he said.

Democrats extend hand

On Thursday, leading Democrats said they would try to work with the new Republican president.

Newspaper stack in Hong Kong
The eyes have it: Bush made the front pages around the world on Thursday
"The campaign is over. It's time for the work of governing to begin," said Tom Daschle, the highest ranking Democrat in the Senate.

In the House of Representatives, Democrat minority leader Richard Gephardt sounded a similar tone.

"If the president-elect is truly committed to uniting this country, I believe Republicans and Democrats can accomplish great things in the next two years", Mr Gephardt said.

But his reference to "two years" suggests the Democrats are already planning for the mid-term Congressional elections in 2002. Mr Bush's term is for four years.

Supreme Court decision

Mr Gore conceded the election on Wednesday night, ending the longest and most complex US presidential election for well over a century.

What happens now
18 Dec - electoral college meets to elect president
6 Jan - Congress counts electoral college votes
20 Jan - Bush inaugurated as president
Next Tuesday Mr Bush plans to meet Mr Clinton and Mr Gore, as well as congressional leaders, in Washington.

After five weeks of bitterly partisan legal wrangling, Mr Gore's fate was sealed by a US Supreme Court decision handed down on Tuesday night.

The divided ruling said in essence that time had run out for recounts of thousands of contested votes in the crucial state of Florida.

Mr Gore criticised the Supreme Court decision in his concession speech, but said he would not challenge it.

The Reverend Jesse Jackson
Mr Jackson led protests in the aftermath of the election
The BBC Washington correspondent Paul Reynolds says that, while Mr Gore might have hidden his bitterness, there are many others who will not.

Some Democrats remain deeply dissatisfied with the conduct of the election. They include the Reverend Jesse Jackson, who has threatened street protests at the inauguration ceremony.

Aides to Mr Bush said that he and Mr Jackson spoke on Thursday and that the president-elect offered to meet with the veteran civil rights campaigner to discuss election reform.

Florida Governor Jeb Bush - the new president's younger brother - has already announced an immediate overhaul of the state's election system, pledging that voting and counting procedures will be brought up to date.

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