President Bush made a conciliatory political pilgrimage Saturday to an annual gathering full of newly empowered House Democrats and urged bipartisan action on a host of issues that could determine the success or failure of his last two years in the White House.
Bush’s 19-minute speech before about 175 members of Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s House caucus was received cordially and respectfully, if not enthusiastically, and left California’s Pelosi and her top deputies saying that on several big topics — U.S. energy self-sufficiency, global warming, economic competitiveness and immigration — they might be able to do business with the Republican president.
On the overriding issue of the Iraq war, however, Bush and his Democratic critics remained as far apart as ever.
“In order to do big things, we’re going to have to do it together,” Bush told the Democrats gathered at a gated resort in the historic town of Williamsburg, Va., about three hours from Washington.
The outreach from the president, whose entourage included his political counselor Karl Rove, was a sure indication that Bush realizes he is in a new political environment, with opposition Democrats in charge of the House after 12 years of Republican control and — by one vote — also the majority party in the Senate.
And because of the difference in their operating rules, it’s Pelosi’s House that is likely to be far more activist, pushing a Democratic agenda in which the president can be an active partner or a reactive force in opposition.
Responding to Pelosi’s repeated pledge that she will reverse years of partisan sniping and gridlock in Washington, the president said: “I agree, Madam Speaker, there’s a chance to show people that we can get beyond the politics of Washington, D.C.; that we’re able to treat each other with civility and at the same time, accomplish big goals.”