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web posted September 25, 2000

Poised Bush flashes charm, humor on 'Oprah'

Republican presidential candidate George W. Bush used a nationally syndicated television talk show on September 19 to outline why his candidacy for the White House warrants serious consideration, saying his record as governor of Texas gives him a leg up on Vice President Al Gore.

Appearing on "Oprah," Bush said he felt he had been called to run for the presidency, even if there have been points throughout his lengthy campaign when he longed to return to his Texas ranch with his wife, Laura.

"There is a big call," Bush told program host Oprah Winfrey. "I am deeply concerned about the state of this country, concerned that some people are going to be left behind."

The Texas governor's appearance on the daytime talk show, which airs according to various station schedules across the country, follows that of Gore by one week. Winfrey's long-running program is wildly popular with women -- a voting constituency with whom Bush hopes to broaden his appeal.

"I'm a proven leader," Bush said when asked by Winfrey why undecided voters should cast their ballots for him. "People should look at our record on education in the state of Texas, where minority test scores are among the best in the nation."

"I have an agenda that says we are going to elevate individuals, not empower the federal government," he added.

Bush and WinfreyBush appeared unusually relaxed throughout the hour-long live interview, smiled throughout, and showed bright flashes of the sense of the humor and congeniality that campaign staff and close friends have often praised in difficult weeks following the Republican National Convention, when Bush's poll numbers were at their highest.

Asked about his underlying motivation to run for the presidency, Bush said he only made his decision after being elected to his second term in the Texas governor's mansion. At no time before that had the notion crossed his mind, he insisted.

"I didn't think about it in college. Maybe I'd have behaved a little better," Bush said, making light of his reputation as a college party boy who garnered average grades through the course of his Ivy League undergrad years.

Much of that reputation, Bush said later, was undeserved.

Bush said his life changed when he decided to stop drinking on the morning after his 40th birthday. He did, he said, have an outright problem with alcohol.

"I made up my mind the next morning when on my jog that I was going to stop drinking," he said. "I haven't had a drink since."

Bush, his wife Laura and a number of friends had celebrated their 40th birthdays the previous night, and Bush said he "had a little too much to drink."

"Alcohol was beginning to compete for my affections," he told Winfrey.

A common misconception about his motivations, Bush said, was the idea that he was running for office on his father's name.

"I love my dad a lot and I am proud to be his son," Bush said. "But that is not why I am running."

Pressed by Winfrey about the continuation of a Bush dynasty in Washington, Bush emphatically denied that he was seeking to bring the name back to that sort of prominence. "What you're suggesting," he told Winfrey, is that I would be running based on revenge."

Bush's father, former president George W. Bush, was defeated in the 1992 election, after his first term, by then Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton, and Gore, his vice presidential running mate.

"Revenge has such a negative tone to it," Bush said. "I couldn't get elected if I was seeking revenge."

When given the opportunity, Bush promoted his tax cut proposals in simple terms, telling one audience member, "If you're working and paying taxes, when it comes to the surplus, I think you should be putting money back in your pocket."

The declaration was met with an enthusiastic round of applause.

And, when speaking of his school days at Phillips Academy Andover in Massachusetts, Bush said he learned a valuable lesson about intelligence.

"There is book smart and the kind of smart that helps do calculus," he said. "But smart is also instinct and judgment and common sense. Smart comes in all kinds of different ways."

Asked about his underlying motivation to run for the presidency, Bush said he only made his decision after being elected to his second term in the Texas governor's mansion. At no time before that had the notion crossed his mind, he insisted.

"I didn't think about it in college. Maybe I'd have behaved a little better," Bush said, making light of his reputation as a college party boy who garnered average grades through the course of his Ivy League undergrad years.

Much of that reputation, Bush said later, was undeserved.

Bush said his life changed when he decided to stop drinking on the morning after his 40th birthday. He did, he said, have an outright problem with alcohol.

"I made up my mind the next morning when on my jog that I was going to stop drinking," he said. "I haven't had a drink since."

Bush, his wife Laura and a number of friends had celebrated their 40th birthdays the previous night, and Bush said he "had a little too much to drink."

"Alcohol was beginning to compete for my affections," he told Winfrey.

A common misconception about his motivations, Bush said, was the idea that he was running for office on his father's name.

"I love my dad a lot and I am proud to be his son," Bush said. "But that is not why I am running."

Pressed by Winfrey about the continuation of a Bush dynasty in Washington, Bush emphatically denied that he was seeking to bring the name back to that sort of prominence. "What you're suggesting," he told Winfrey, is that I would be running based on revenge."

Bush's father, former president George W. Bush, was defeated in the 1992 election, after his first term, by then Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton, and Gore, his vice presidential running mate.

"Revenge has such a negative tone to it," Bush said. "I couldn't get elected if I was seeking revenge."

When given the opportunity, Bush promoted his tax cut proposals in simple terms, telling one audience member, "If you're working and paying taxes, when it comes to the surplus, I think you should be putting money back in your pocket."

The declaration was met with an enthusiastic round of applause.

And, when speaking of his school days at Phillips Academy Andover in Massachusetts, Bush said he learned a valuable lesson about intelligence.

"There is book smart and the kind of smart that helps do calculus," he said. "But smart is also instinct and judgment and common sense. Smart comes in all kinds of different ways."

Senate approves China trade agreement

The U.S. Senate on September 19 voted to permanently normalize trade ties with China, capping years of negotiations with Beijing and intense lobbying by the Clinton administration, business and labor interests.

The measure granting permanent, normal trade relations is designed to open China's mammoth market to U.S. businesses and pave the way for China's entry into the World Trade Organization. It passed by a lopsided 83-15 tally in the Senate, after winning approval in the House of Representatives after a bruising battle in May.

The bill is considered the most important U.S. trade legislation since passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement in 1993.

"This is legislation that is good for America, that's good for our working people in America," said Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, R-Mississippi, as voting began. "It will take a lot of vigilance to see that it is complied with, but it is the right thing to do."

Passage of the trade agreement faced a long campaign of opposition from labor, human rights and conservative groups who wanted to retain the annual review of trade relations with China. Critics contend that normalizing trade would reward a repressive communist regime and take away U.S. leverage over Beijing on issues such as human rights and weapons proliferation.

Lott acknowledged that many senators had "legitimate concerns" about whether China would meet the terms of the agreement, "But I also believe that it would be a tremendous mistake to ignore the advantages of this trade legislation."

The White House and the business community lobbied hard for normalized trade with China. The administration bucked many top Democrats on the issue, comparing the bill's passage to former President Richard Nixon's milestone 1972 visit to China and calling it a turning point in relations between the world's richest and most populous nations.

It guarantees Chinese goods lower-tariff access to the U.S. market, ending a 20-year-old ritual of annually reviewing China's trade status. In return, China has agreed to open a wide range of industries, from agriculture to telecommunications, to international business and investment.

Supporters said it will also make Beijing a more responsible and accountable member of the world community.

"Granting PNTR for China not only provides tremendous economic opportunities for U.S. workers, farmers and businesses, it is also the best way to promote reform in China and stability in the region," U.S. Trade Representative Charlene Barshefsky said before the vote.

Opponents put up little resistance in the Senate after a stiff, unsuccessful battle in the House. Free-trade measures typically win broad bipartisan support in the upper house of Congress, and passage was all but assured. The legislation now goes to President Clinton for his signature.

In addition to Clinton and most of the business community, the major-party presidential candidates -- Vice President Al Gore, the Democratic nominee, and Texas Gov. George W. Bush, the Republican standard-bearer -- supported the measure.

The legislation is the result of an agreement between the United States and China last fall that opened the way for China's entry into the World Trade Organization. With WTO membership, China will make significant cuts in its tariffs, thus opening its markets to the products and investment of America and other countries.

China must also grant Americans and others the right to set up distribution points within the country, open its financial and service sectors to international competitors, and allow outside participation in its Internet and telecommunications development.

The United States, which already has open markets, made no new concessions as part of the agreement. The legislation is to go into effect when China joins the WTO, probably late this year or early next year.

During two weeks of Senate debate, Beijing's critics lashed out at Clinton for striking a deal with a Communist regime they accused of threatening Taiwan, proliferating weapons of mass destruction and oppressing its own people.

Unions warn that the pact could cost hundreds of thousands of American workers their jobs as Chinese goods flood the U.S. market and companies move their factories to China to take advantage of lower wages. Other opponents said the bill would exacerbate an already huge U.S. trade deficit with China, which hit a record $68 billion last year.

A small but determined band of China critics tried to scuttle the bill in the Senate by bogging it down with amendments -- the most contentious of which would have imposed sanctions on Beijing for its alleged role in weapons proliferation. But the amendments were soundly defeated, clearing the way for final passage.

The measure establishes a special commission to monitor human rights in China. The panel could also recommend sanctions, such as a halt to support for Beijing from the U.S. Export-Import Bank and U.S. Overseas Private Investment Corporation. China has already protested what it sees as U.S. interference in its internal affairs.

Baldwin under siege for Bush comments

Actor Alec Baldwin is under siege after a German magazine allegedly quoted Baldwin's wife, Kim Basinger, as saying that the celeb couple would leave the United States if Republican candidate George W. Bush is elected president.

The agitated Baldwin says that neither he nor his wife ever made such claims, and that Basinger didn't even do an interview for the damning issue of Germany's Focus magazine, which hit newsstands Monday. Other news outlets picked up the story, and Baldwin was hit by hate mail.

Alec BaldwinThe Democrat-supporting actor received so many inflammatory posts on his personal Web site (www.alecbaldwin.com) that he chose to release a statement to clear up the confusion.

"I would like to take the opportunity to respond to the unprecedented number of e-mails I received at this site regarding comments that were attributed to me and my wife by both Focus magazine, in Germany, and [Internet news site] the Drudge Report here in the United States," Baldwin wrote on his official home page.

"[Drudge Report founder] Matt Drudge has reported that my wife stated in Focus magazine that my family would leave the country if George W. Bush were elected president. That statement is not true. My wife never made the statement which the magazine (and now Drudge) are attributing to her."

Baldwin told the New York Daily News that he believes that the confusion began when director Robert Altman recently told journalists at the Deauville Film Festival in France that he would leave the States if Bush wins the November election.

"I never said I'd leave the country," Baldwin asserted to the Daily News. "And my wife never heard of Focus magazine, and never talked to them."

Baldwin, who has himself frequently toyed with the idea of running for political office, did say that if Bush is elected, he would "raise as much money as I can" to make sure he is only a one-term president.

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