(12 of 12)
But the campaigns had disintegrated and re-formed like little blobs of mercury. Partisans outside the circle were starting to pick up clubs and sticks of their own. "The longer this goes on, the less control the people at the center have," said a Republican Party official. "The great illusion in Austin and Nashville is that they can control the tens of millions of Americans who are interested in this."
As war was breaking out between the two camps, there was one corner of political cordiality in America on Thursday night, and it happened, of all places, as close to the presidency as any of the two pretenders could hope to be last week, and between the two men who propelled them into the race. The former Presidents and First Ladies gathered at the White House to celebrate its 200th anniversary, and the buzz in the room was all about the history that was being made that week. Bush smiled his way through, gracious to everyone, but now and then he would mutter out of the side of his mouth to friends, "I've never been through anything like this." Barbara Bush confided to a friend, "I was the mother of a President for 30 minutes, and I loved it." When it came time to speak, both the President and the former President tried to reach across the breach. Bush talked about the pride he and Barbara had in their son, and Clinton told of the pride they deserved to feel. The two men had been seen talking alone, smiling and nodding. Bush was scheduled to leave on a late flight to Spain to go hunting with the King, so he left early. But he came back a few minutes later when told his plane had broken down in the Midwest. It was as if the citizens' house had momentarily cast a spell and was nudging for a reconciliation.
--Reported by Michael Duffy/Washington, James Carney and John F. Dickerson with Bush and Karen Tumulty and Tamala M. Edwards with Gore