Promising to heal the nation's divisions, George W. Bush was sworn in as the 43rd US president. In his speech, Bush emphasized several areas of high priority, among them public education improvements, tax cuts, Social Security and Medicare reform, and a national defense "beyond challenge." Among those looking on were Bush's father, who himself took the presidential oath in 1989, and the outgoing administration - Bill Clinton and Al Gore, whom Bush defeated. Later Saturday, Bush and his wife, Laura, attended eight balls that drew almost 50,000 revelers.
An estimated 20,000 protesters were kept at bay by police on Pennsylvania Avenue - the largest such display at an inaugural since Richard Nixon took office in 1973, when about 60,000 took to the streets. Demonstrators shouted insults and hurled small objects, but did not otherwise interfere with the day's events. Only nine arrests were reported. Several other cities, including Tallahassee, Fla., Boston, and Seattle, staged their own opposition rallies.
Bush quickly moved to block a series of 11th-hour executive actions by former President Clinton. An order signed by new White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card basically imposes a moratorium on printing new rules in the Federal Register unless specifically approved by the Bush administration. The move could lead to the nullification of several orders that angered Republicans, including guidelines for managed-care programs under Medicare, environmental restrictions on runoff from animal-feeding operations, and the declaration of the former military post of Governor's Island in New York Harbor as a national monument.
In a 13-minute Saturday session, the Senate approved the first seven members of Bush's Cabinet, notably Colin Powell as the first black Secretary of State. Also confirmed, by voice vote: Spencer Abraham, Energy; Don Evans, Commerce; Paul O'Neill, Treasury; Rod Paige, Education; Donald Rumsfeld, Defense; and Ann Veneman, Agriculture. The appointees were considered among the least controversial among Bush's picks; still to be confirmed are more contested choices, such as John Ashcroft for attorney general.
Before leaving the White House, Clinton pardoned 140 more people, including former CIA Director John Deutch (top), Whitewater figure Susan McDougal (bottom), heiress Patricia Hearst Shaw, and his half brother, Roger Clinton, who served a year in jail on narcotics charges. Clinton also commuted sentences for 36 people. Among those turned down for pardons: former Wall Street billionaire Michael Milken, who was convicted of securities fraud, and Jonathan Pollard, convicted of spying for Israel.
Officials in California predicted the state could make it through last weekend without rolling blackouts, but a long-term solution still remained to be found for the lingering power crisis. In a stopgap effort, Gov. Gray Davis (D) signed emergency legislation allocating $400 million to buy electricity and provide it to cash-strapped utilities. But, at most, that was expected to last two weeks. The outages last week led to repeated shutdowns of major pipeline systems for gasoline and jet fuel, threatening supplies at some gas stations and airports.
(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Publishing Society