Reaching out to newly ascendant Democrats for a second day, President Bush promised bipartisan cooperation to the Senate's top Democrats on Friday.
Bush called Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid and the Senate's No. 2 Democrat, Dick Durbin, to the Oval Office for about 45 minutes of discussions. Afterward, they pledged to put bitter campaign disputes aside and work together.
"The only way to move forward is through bipartisanship and openness," said Reid, D-Nev.
A blue victory
Looking for common ground, Bush noted that both he and Reid hail from the plainspoken West. "We tend to speak the same language," the president said.
Durbin, an Illinois Democrat, appreciatively observed that both Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney had chosen blue ties -- perhaps in honor of the Democratic victory on Tuesday?
"I was hoping you would notice that," said Bush.
But the bonhomie before the cameras could quickly disintegrate.
The Bush agenda
Even while courting the Democrats who will control Capitol Hill beginning in January, Bush is pressing for the current Congress, while it is still ruled by Republicans, to pass items deeply controversial to Democrats. These include legalizing his warrantless eavesdropping program, stalled in the Senate because of a Democratic filibuster threat, and confirming John Bolton to be U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, which Democrats have opposed.
White House press secretary Tony Snow said both items are crucial, and that Democrats should see their merits.
"I don't think you should look at these as necessarily provocative," he said.
Bolton has held the post on a temporary basis for more than a year, and Bush cannot make a second recess appointment of him. Without confirmation, he would have to leave the job in January.
"Look at his record. The point is, what complaint do you have with a man who has been so successful?" Snow said.
He left open the possibility that Bolton could remain at the U.N. but just give him a different title.
"I'm not aware of that but I am not going to rule anything in or out," Snow said.
'A united not a divider'
Bush was as good natured as he was when he spoke to reporters on Thursday after lunch with House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., expected be the next speaker of the House.
But Bush will be leading the nation with a Congress entirely controlled by the Democrats for the first time in his presidency.
It could have him reaching back to his experience as governor of Texas when he cultivated friendships with other top Democrats in the state government -- and to his 2000 campaign promise to be a "uniter not a divider." But his critics say working with conservative Democrats in Texas is far different from working with a House and Senate lead by liberal lawmakers like Reid and Pelosi.