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DAVID FROST: So it's the early hours of the morning in Washington and George W Bush is spending his first night in the White House. After weeks of wrangling, the hand over finally took place yesterday and the Bush dynasty is back in charge. How much difference will it make and how soon. With me are James Rubin, former advisor to ex-president Clinton, and of course Madeline Albright in particular, and someone very much associated with the Democrats. Plus Gary McDowell, a former advisor to Ronald Reagan, and a Republican supporter. Welcome, welcome to you both. Gary, first of all, what did you think of the speech?
GARY MCDOWELL I thought, as a former speechwriter, I thought it was a terrific speech. I thought it was one to which Bush rose, that people often would not have expected him to rise that high. I thought it was eloquent, I thought it was short and I thought it encapsulated what he'd campaigned on.
DAVID FROST: What did you think Jamie?
JAMES RUBIN Well I agree with much of that, it was fairly well crafted, the words were the words of a compassionate conservative, unfortunately the early actions of the new president in naming people who were not thought of as compassionate conservatives, John Ashcroft for Attorney General, in the environmental area, so the real question for all of us right now is will these very good words yield very good actions, in bringing the country together, and I think the words are the right words but the actions so far are a little troubling.
DAVID FROST: Gary, what would you, what would you say should be George Bush's priorities right now?
GARY MCDOWELL I think his priorities are the obvious ones, he has to work with a very closely divided Congress, especially the Senate; he has to reach out, and I think he's going to do that on his education policies first, where there's a great deal more common ground than some other things; and I think he has to display a willingness that he's shown in his time as governor of Texas to work with Democrats and to build coalitions.
DAVID FROST: What do you think Jamie, what, if you were advising him - a difficult scenario but anyway - what would you be recommending?
JAMES RUBIN That's a place that would be hard to imagine but if I were I think what I would urge him to do is to pick those issues, as suggested, where there's at least a chance for bipartisanship - let's remember the Senate is now split 50/50 -
DAVID FROST: With the casting vote going to Dick Cheney.
JAMES RUBIN But there is no legislation that's going to be put forward in this Congress without the support of ten or 11 Democrats who are committed to, to working on it. So education is an option. I think if he rushes forward with, with the national missile defence issue - which he actually mentioned in the speech, in a very short speech, suggesting he's really going to push that - that could be a little complicated. If he puts a tax cut forward, that, that is not progressive, that just really helps the rich, that's going to be a problem. So I think he needs to pick some smaller issues rather than bigger issues and get a few things done so that he can show the nation and the world that despite divided government, despite a lot of questions, perhaps an asterisk, in the election, that, that he is going to govern one America.
DAVID FROST: And in terms of those big issues of course the interesting thing is probably why he mentioned a couple of those maybe in the speech was to indicate he wasn't going to withdraw from them but can he afford to put those on the back burner for a while, do you think Gary? NMD, particularly, Star Wars No. 2, and those issues?
GARY MCDOWELL No I don't think so and I think he's indicated from the very first that he's going to hit the ground running. While he will reach out to Democrats on those areas where he can, he also understands he has to stand by his proposals and his promises to keep his conservative base. And when it comes to things like national defence, he will set about with Colin Powell and Donald Rumsfeld to nurture a relationship with our allies, to persuade them that this is the right way to go, whilst simultaneously building coalitions inside to support it in Congress.
DAVID FROST: You've been here long enough Jamie to here the phrase "special relationship" used again and again, it's everybody's passion in Britain. What about the special relationship?
JAMES RUBIN I think it's going to be just fine, it's going to be very special after all. And the reason is that the relationship is based not on whether Bill Clinton and Tony Blair put their arms around each other or whether their advisors come from the same political ilk, or whether they learn campaign techniques together. The special relationship goes deep down into the bureaucracy and it's based on shared interests. If you look at the subjects that the United States and the United Kingdom face - Iraq, the Middle East, Kosovo - these problems, what you will find is that deep down in the bureaucracy of all the British departments and all the American departments, there's a shared approach. On Iraq, for example, Britain is the only country in the world that stands with the United States in maintaining tough containment on Iraq. So these, this specialness comes from the fact that President Bush is going to wake up in the morning and say 'Okay I want to pursue this policy,' or this new policy, 'Who am I going to call?' and the first person he's going to call is going to be Tony Blair, or William Hague, if he's elected, because that is the best way to build a coalition, which Bush has said he wants to do.
DAVID FROST: And what do you think, gazing four years into the crystal ball Gary, who will be the candidates in four years time?
GARY MCDOWELL I would think that Bush is obviously the contender for the Republicans and if he plays his cards right, which I think he will, he will probably be the nominee in 2004. Gore would seem to be, at one level, the nominee, obvious, for the Democrats, but on the other hand there are a lot of people pawing the ground getting ready to line up for that and they will look and say Gore didn't do the job last time, why trust him again?
DAVID FROST: What do you think? Who's going to be your standard bearer in four years time Jamie?
JAMES RUBIN That's a tough one. I think Al Gore will say, justifiably, that he won the most votes, that he won more votes than Bill Clinton, the great political genius of our time, ever won. On the other hand I think there's a lot of bitterness in the party, there's a lot of people who believe that, that it should never have been this close, given the economy and given the successes of the Clinton administration, and so that bitterness may carry over into a real cat fight in the Democratic Party.
DAVID FROST: Well thank you both very much indeed. We'll watch and see how that comes out. Thank you both very much indeed.
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