By Bill Press
 February 2, 2001

 Valentine's Day is still two weeks away, but congressional Democrats are positively giddy with love
 -- and they're all in the love with the same, surprising, person.   One by one, Democrats are rushing
 down Pennsylvania Avenue to deliver hugs and kisses -- to George W. Bush!

 Who would believe it? After one of the hardest-fought campaigns in memory, and a long, bitter recount battle,
 Democrats are acting like they didn't really mean it. Every day, another one declares his puppy love for Bush.

 On his first day in office, former Sens. Paul Simon and John Glenn and other so-called ``Democratic elders,''
 met with and spoke glowingly about the new president. Next, Democratic firebrands Ted Kennedy and
 George Miller talked education with Bush and later praised his school plan. Newly elected Democratic
 Sen. Zell Miller of Georgia announced he was co-sponsoring Bush's massive tax cut.

 Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd, former Democratic National Chairman, joined seven other Democrats in
 voting for John Ashcroft for attorney general. House minority leader Dick Gephardt celebrated his 60th birthday
 in the Oval Office dining room, with George and Laura. The Congressional Black Caucus, last bastion of liberalism,
 trouped en masse to the West Wing for another Bush group grope. And the entire Kennedy clan accepted an
 invitation to return to the White House this weekend to watch a movie with the first family.

 Whatever happened to the loyal opposition?
 If this is what we can expect for the next four years, the Democratic party might as well close up shop.

 Tell them, Bill!
 If things get much worse, I may have to run for something.
 (Oh, that's right - I live in Oklahoma - nevermind)

 And that's not all. Congressional Democrats have not only fallen all over themselves to accept Bush's invitations to
 the White House, they have also invited him into their most private meetings.

 Every February, Senate and House Democrats gather for an annual retreat: to set legislative goals, debate strategy,
 divide up responsibilities and lay plans for retaining or gaining seats in the next election.
 It's all top secret.
 No outsiders.
 No lobbyists.
 No reporters.
 And especially, God forbid, no Republicans.

 Until this year -- when both House and Senate Democrats will entertain as their special guest: President Bush!
 That's like the Giants inviting the Ravens' quarterback into their locker room at half-time.
 If that's not total surrender, I don't know what is.

 Granted, Bush won't stay for the entire retreat, but he will attend, he will speak, and he will dominate the news --
 turning a strategically important Democratic event into just one more Bush campaign event. And, besides,
 what is Bush going to say about vouchers or tax cuts they haven't already heard?
 Do they really expect him to apologize for nominating John Ashcroft?

 The warm embrace of Bush by Democrats stands in stark contrast to the welcome
 Bill Clinton received from Republicans eight years ago.

 Even though Clinton tried to reach across the aisle, Republican congressional leaders spurned him.
 Not one Republican voted for his 1993 economic plan. They never accepted Clinton as a
 legitimate president, declared open warfare, impeached him and dogged him with an
 independent counsel until the last day of his presidency.

 Now, tit for tat is not good public policy. I'm not suggesting that Bush be given the same shabby treatment
 Republicans gave Clinton. But there are two good reasons they should stop joining his bandwagon.

 First, no matter how charming Bush's words, his actions still reveal him as the right-wing conservative he is. No
 one serious about uniting the country would nominate John Ashcroft for attorney general. No true compassionate person
 would cut off all funding to overseas family planning clinics, denying poor women in third world countries the
 basic reproductive information American women enjoy.

 Second, there were real differences between Bush and Gore in the last campaign, differences that didn't disappear once
 Bush inherited the White House. Most Americans, in fact, rejected Bush's proposals on prescription drugs, Social
 Security, vouchers and tax cuts. Having lost the popular vote, Bush has no mandate to push his conservative agenda.
 And Democrats should not give him one.

 Not to mention the obvious fact: If Democrats are to have any hope of taking control of the House and Senate in 2002,
 they'd better not be caught sleeping with the enemy.

 Respect for the president is one thing, falling in love with him is another.
 Democrats can shake Bush's hand.
 But they should stop slobbering all over him.

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