Bush Pledged Nice Politics In 2000

Richard Chamberlain
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As the GOP convention gets underway, CBS News follows up on some of the campaign promises candidate Bush made at the 2000 convention. Bill Whitaker recalls Mr. Bush's pledge to put an end to nasty politics.

Embattled red states and blue states and protesters in the streets are not exactly what nominee George W. Bush promised four years ago at the 2000 GOP convention. Then he promised to end the epidemic of political nastiness in the nation's capital.

"I have no stake in the bitter arguments of the last few years. I want to change the tone of Washington to one of civility and respect," he said in 2000.

The tone has changed all right, reports CBS News Correspondent Bill Whitaker, and it's more shrill.

About the only thing bipartisan is the bitter sniping over issues in the Republican platform like tax cuts, abortion and gay marriage, and it seems to be ripping apart Mr. Bush's Washington.

"The president has been a divider, not a unifier," says Thomas Mann of the Brookings Institute. "The division is entirely partisan. There is no trust. No willingness to work together at all. The president has encouraged that."

Early on, Mr. Bush did reach out and connected with old time liberal Democrats on his "No Child Left Behind" education bill. And the whole country rallied and embraced after the shock and awe of Sept. 11.

But Democrats say the president squandered his political capital on power politics and then cut funding for "No Child Left Behind." The niceties ended there.

Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass has been a vocal critic of Mr. Bush's education policy.

"The president says he is for better schools but this tin cup education budget is proof that this is the most anti-education administration in modern times," he said.

But the president's strategists say Republicans aren't dividers, just good fighters.

"Republicans, during the decade of the 90s, gained in strength so the parties are at a rough parity and I just think that makes politics more competitive," said top Bush aide Karl Rove.

Still, in politics hope springs eternal. At the GOP convention last night one of moderate stars, former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani, pleaded for unity.

"Let's make sure we rekindle that spirit that we are one -- one America united to end the threat of global terrorism," he said.

Perhaps after the bitter 2000 election, polarization was to be expected. And with the country now as divided as the parties, bridging the fault lines might be a pledge no president can keep.