(5 of 14)
Or maybe you just weren't listening, observes her husband. Bill Clinton argued in June that Bush "is just doing what he said he'd do in the campaign." Bush always made it clear that if being a uniter and being a leader were ever to conflict, he would follow his beliefs, divisive or not. "I believe great decisions are made with care, made with conviction, not made with polls," he said in his first convention speech. "I do not need to take your pulse before I know my own mind." It may be that even people who were watching closely four years ago heard only what they wanted to hear--especially those in the moderate wing of the party. "Republicans were as energized then as Democrats are today," says an Administration veteran. "They would have elected Donald Duck. The coalition that came together for George doesn't always come together, but it did for him." This includes some of the 30,000 on the Bush family's Christmas-card list who should have known better than to imagine that the son would essentially serve out the father's second term. They knew W. was charming and stubborn and sour-mouthed, much more like his mom than his dad. They knew he was more partisan by far than his father, that he loved to shock people--an amiable guy who still liked to pick a fight. But Republicans of all stripes wanted a restoration so badly, the moderates persuaded themselves they could trust the Bush brand, trust that 43 would turn out like 41: diplomatic in foreign policy, pragmatic at home. It turns out that the acorn had landed some ways from the tree.
HOW THE UNITER BECAME A DIVIDER
The sun was going down on the Christmas decorations in the Oval Office, and the President wanted a present. For five months in 2001, the education barons in Congress had been haggling over Bush's signature education-reform bill, No Child Left Behind. "I've asked you all to come down here to get something done," said Bush, careful to spread his eyes across all four visitors. This was not the moment to show his contempt for the impulse of lawmakers to stonewall and grandstand and leak as they pursue their narrow self-interests. This was a moment for ego massage. "Had any of you decided that you didn't want to get something done," Bush said, "the process would have cratered." California Democrat George Miller was worried that there was not enough money. "Let's not pretend the education establishment is happy," Miller said.
"That must mean it's pretty good," said Bush with a smile. Despite his concerns, Miller too remarked on how far they had all got. The bipartisan cooperation was "the most remarkable thing I've seen in my 25 years," Miller said. "And I'll make sure you get the credit," Bush promised, if the group would "get her done and close her up." Soon after, Bush signed the bill and hit the road, visiting the barons' home states to praise their statesmanship. "This should be a model of how to get things done," he said.