Bush, Pelosi vow to find common ground

MOVING ON: George Bush. 08/11/06. © Reuters.

BD 22 Nov 2006, pg 1
MOVING ON: George Bush. 08/11/06. © Reuters. BD 22 Nov 2006, pg 1

WASHINGTON - He mocked her as "a secret admirer" of tax cuts and an opponent of measures crucial to keeping Americans safe, warning that "terrorists win and America loses" if her Democrats prevailed on Election Day.

WASHINGTON - He mocked her as "a secret admirer" of tax cuts and an opponent of measures crucial to keeping Americans safe, warning that "terrorists win and America loses" if her Democrats prevailed on Election Day.

She called him dangerous, in denial and an "emperor with no clothes" who misled the US about Iraq and presided over an economy that fails many.

Now, President George Bush and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi are being nice to each other.

Within hours of an election that puts Democrats in charge of the house of representatives and the senate for the final two years of Bush's presidency, the president and the woman certain to be house speaker spoke reconciliation.

It started with what both described as a gracious phone call early on Wednesday and, at Bush's invitation, continued over lunch yesterday.

Bush and Pelosi pledged to find common ground in a turned-upside-down Washington.

"The people have spoken, and now it's time for us to move on," Bush said.

Pelosi said: "Democrats are not about getting even. Democrats are about helping the American people to get ahead."

This after some sharp rhetoric.

Pelosi's criticism of Bush occasionally veered into the personal.

"Oblivious, in denial, dangerous," she said of him, referring to the bungled response to hurricane Katrina.

The president "is an incompetent leader - in fact he's not a leader", Pelosi said in 2004 about his Iraq policies.

Bush rarely referred to Pelosi by name. But during the campaign he made "the person who wants to be speaker of the house" the poster-child for all he saw wrong with Democrats.

Noting that she voted against renewing the anti-terrorism law known as the USA Patriot Act, creating a Homeland Security Department, authorising a warrantless wiretapping programme and questioning terrorists in the way he had proposed, the president said: "Given the record of Democrats on our nation's security, I understand why they want to change the subject."

Because of calls for an Iraq exit strategy, Bush said Democrats believe "the best way to protect the American people is [to] wait until we're attacked again".

The president has dismissed the bitter language as nothing more than campaign-trail heat, saying: "I understand when campaigns end, and I know when governing begins."

Both sides have a lot at stake.

The last two years of a presidency are difficult times for any Oval Office occupant. In the twilight of power, they must fight to get anything done.

Bush is heading into that perilous period after an election that pried his party's grip from Capitol Hill, in voting widely seen as a rebuke of him and his leadership, particularly on Iraq.

That makes his domestic wish list, such as permanently extending all tax cuts passed during his administration, not much more than a fantasy.

Add to that the prospect of Democratic investigations into missteps in the war, treatment of terrorism detainees and Bush's expansion of executive power, and his next two years could be a headache.

Democrats, too, have much to lose. If seen as unproductive or too obstructionist, they risk losing their majority - a slim one in the senate - in two years. How they govern will influence their chances in the wide-open race for the White House in 2008. - Sapa-AP

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