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As inauguration ends, Bush targets abortion policy

Jan. 23, 2001


WASHINGTON -- Opening the White House for business, President Bush pleased conservative supporters Monday by imposing strict restrictions on U.S. funds to international family-planning groups involved in abortion.

Pushing his education and tax-cutting proposals, too, Bush told senior aides, 'We are not here just to mark time.' He also called on them to uphold high ethical standards.

Abortion-rights groups accused Bush of 'bending to the will of the far right' by reinstating limitations on U.S. aid that his father and former President Reagan had imposed.

The first major act of his presidency reversed actions by the Clinton administration and dominated media attention, an early test of his ability to govern from the middle while appeasing his conservative base.

'This policy recognizes our country's long history of providing international health care services, including voluntary family planning to couples around the world who want to make free and responsible decisions about the number and spacing of their children,' read a statement by press secretary Ari Fleischer. Bush, concerned about alienating swing voters, cautiously addressed the abortion issue during his GOP campaign.

At the White House, new carpeting and fresh paint gave the building a just-moved-in look two days after Democrats cleared out with former President Clinton.

Flustered aides struggled to find computer passwords, west wing telephone numbers and their own offices.

'I expect every member of this administration to stay well within the boundaries that define legal and ethical conduct,' Bush told senior advisers after they had been sworn into office by Vice President Dick Cheney.

Bush told them to be civil and respectful to everyone they meet and to move quickly behind his agenda. 'There is no excuse for arrogance,' Bush warned. Mindful that his father was criticized for a slow start in 1989, Bush said, 'We are here to make progress.'

Bush met separately with educators and GOP lawmakers to highlight his school-improvement package - a top issue in his campaign and a signal that he intends to govern from the middle. Bush said he told lawmakers about his $1.6 trillion tax cut proposal, as well as his plans for the military, Medicare and Social Security.

'In order to get an agenda through the Congress, it's best that I be able to personally explain the issues,' Bush said.

On a busy day, Bush's White House also:

-Announced his first foreign trip, to Mexico on Feb. 16.

-Convened a meeting of several agency heads to discuss the California energy crisis, though Fleischer said it was 'mostly a California matter.'

-Prepared to unveil his education package in a Rose Garden ceremony Tuesday, with aides saying he would include a school voucher plan opposed by most Democrats.

Bush met with nearly a dozen Democratic Party elders such as Jody Powell, press secretary for President Carter, former Ohio Sen. John Glenn and former Democratic chairman Robert Strauss. Bush said he wanted their advice on how to be a bipartisan leader.

'Get used to it,' Fleischer said. 'He's going to continue to identify those Democrats who are most willing to work with him.' Bush meets later in the week with Democratic congressional leaders.

On the 28th anniversary of the Supreme Court ruling which legalized abortion, Bush stepped into a politically and emotionally charged issue with orders to maintain the $425 million foreign aid budget, yet prevent the money from flowing to organizations that provide abortion-related services - even if those services are provided with the agency's own money.

The action recalled the first week of former President Clinton's term, when the Democrat re-evaluated a ban on gays in the military. The move pleased Clinton's liberal base but raised questions about his commitment to govern as a centrist Democrat.

Abortion puts Bush in a similar quandary. 'It's not exactly a middle-of-the-road issue,' said Kathleen Jamieson, an expert on political rhetoric at the University of Pennsylvania.

In a statement to anti-abortion marchers, marking the anniversary of the court ruling, Bush said, 'We share a great goal, to work toward a day when every child is welcomed in life and protected in law ... to build a culture of life, affirming that every person at every stage and season of life, is created equal in God's image.'

Bush did not deliver the statement in person or by telephone - but had it read to marchers.

'He clearly is bending to the will of the far right on these issues,' abortion-rights supporter Kate Michelman said. 'He so quickly shed his facade and his cloak of moderation on this issue.'

Current law bans the use of U.S. funds for any abortions in foreign countries. Former Presidents Reagan and Bush further banned U.S. aid to international groups that use their own money to support abortion - either through performing the surgery, counseling on abortion as a family-planning option or lobbying foreign governments on abortion policy.

Clinton repealed the policy, which some critics call 'the global gag rule,' two days after he entered office in 1993. It went through several subsequent versions as the Democratic president reached different compromises with congressional Republicans.

U.S. funds would have flowed unrestricted to international family-planning groups on Feb. 15 without Bush's action.

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George W. Bush takes the oath of office from Chief Justice William Rehnquist on the steps of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., on Saturday. Wife Laura Bush (center) holds the Bible as daughters Jenna (left) and Barbara (right) watch.

Knight-Ridder Tribune


Staff Writer

WASHINGTON --Hundreds of thousands of people from across America traveled to Washington, D.C., to witness the inauguration of President George W. Bush on Saturday. The inauguration was one of the country's largest turnouts in history despite thousands of young protesters, multiple delays and freezing rain.

Groups of protesters scattered around the National Mall Saturday and held handmade signs that said, 'illegitimate' and 'not my president.' Because signs were not allowed on the Mall during the actual inauguration ceremony, policemen dressed in riot gear, stood guard around the crowd. Several protesters managed to sneak signs saying, 'hail to the thief' past the policemen, but were quickly discovered when Bush supporters pointed them out.

The police made several arrests, and the protesters were hauled off the Mall.

Clashes between Bush supporters and protesters continued throughout the day.

During the parade protesters gathered together along Pennsylvania Avenue. protesters threw eggs and tomatoes at the car holding President Bush and his wife Laura as they drove towards the White House.

During the parade, protesters also burned an American flag and taunted Bush supporters. Parker Hamilton, a recent graduate of Brown University, said she was approached by protesters as she was accepting a free sample of Starbucks coffee.

'Republicans are used to drinking Starbucks, aren't they?' said one of the protesters as they surrounded Hamilton.

Delays of all kinds were a common occurrence for those attending the inaugural ceremony and parade.

'It was impossible to get from one event to the next,' Kinley Dumas, a law student at Catholic University, said. While trying to get seats for the parade, Dumas said she waited to go through metal detectors in a security line that lasted over two hours.

'By the time the inauguration was over, it was time to wait in line for the parade,' Dumas said. 'By the time the parade was over, the inaugural balls had started. You couldn't do it all.'

Delays were increased due to the inclement weather. A steady mist covered spectators Saturday, and the temperature hovered just above freezing. To make matters worse, umbrellas were not allowed in some sections of parade seating.

The Crawford High School Band, the Southern Methodist University Band, the Texas A&M University Band and the University of Texas Band were some of the Texas schools featured in the inaugural parade.

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