For Bush, bygones are bygones as he raises money for former rival Dole

Friday, July 26th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) _ President Bush spends much of his time these days raising money for Republicans and trying to bend the Democrat-controlled Senate to his will. He hopes that the former will free him from the latter chore.

Thursday was a textbook example of how Bush devotes his energies. As he was flying to North Carolina to raise campaign cash for Senate candidate Elizabeth Dole _ his 36th fund-raiser of the year _ he dispatched aides to threaten a veto on homeland-security legislation moving through the Senate. Democrats were tinkering with the measure, and Bush didn't like what they were doing.

Bush was starting his day Friday by again demanding that lawmakers send him a homeland-security bill he can sign, one that gives him expansive powers to hire and fire workers at the new Department of Homeland Security. Later he was marking the 12th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

``As the Congress debates the issue, it is so important for them to give me the ability to manage this department, so I can come before the American people and say we've got the tools necessary to protect the homeland,'' Bush said at the Dole fund-raiser.

It was the second time Bush has headlined a campaign-cash event for Dole, and the fourth time he has appeared with her this year. Vice President Dick Cheney starred at another Dole fund-raiser last month.

Aside from Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, the president's brother, no other GOP candidate has received as much personal attention from the White House.

Bush and Dole were once rivals for the presidency, but bygones are bygones when it comes to Bush's drive to win back the Senate.

Bush and Cheney have raised some $2 million at Dole events this year, though she has yet to secure her party's nomination. There are six other Republicans seeking the seat of retiring Sen. Jesse Helms in a September primary.

So determined is Bush to recapture the Senate that the White House long ago abandoned the long-standing presidential tradition of staying neutral in GOP primary contests.

The White House settled on Dole early as the candidate with the best shot at winning, and it has pulled out all the stops on helping her.

Dole was Bush's rival for the Republican presidential nomination in 2000. But donors placed their bets early and heavily on Bush, forcing Dole out in October 1999.

At the time she complained that ``the message is money and that's too bad, because that really diminished the process.'' Three months later, she endorsed Bush, and today, Bush is ensuring she doesn't fall short of cash again. This time, it is in his interest.

On Thursday, Dole praised Bush and the political process itself. ``Today, politics has a purpose, and we all have a president to look up to in George W. Bush,'' she said.

Bush offered her lavish praise in return, jokingly saluting her two months before the primary as ``Senator'' Dole.

``In Washington, we've got a lot of good talkers, but we need doers, people who can get the job done, and Elizabeth is that kind of person,'' Bush told more than 1,000 donors. ``When you find a good one like Elizabeth, you need to send her up there to represent your state and your country, and I'm confident you will.''