CHICAGO — Texas Gov. George W. Bush on Tuesday billed himself as a Washington "outsider" who can bring a fresh perspective to the White House and build harmony between federal and state governments, a message that was particularly appealing to his audience of state legislators from around the country.
"Sometimes they measure wisdom in Washington by how much time you've spent in Washington," Bush said from a stage bathed in red, white and blue lights, his image towering over the crowd on a large-screen television. "That's not how I view it. Wisdom comes from being in the position of having to deal with people in both parties. Wisdom is realizing the proper relationship between federal government and state government."
The Republican presidential candidate was pressing the "compassionate conservatism" theme he plans to bring to the GOP's national convention July 31. As he addressed the National Conference of State Legislatures on Tuesday, Bush repeatedly pledged to use compromise to end the "old command and control system" in Washington.
The two-time governor pointed to his home state as a template for change, saying that even though "tough politics come naturally" in Texas, the two parties have been able to come together to draft budgets. He also noted that the Texas Legislature meets for four months every two years.
"If the government doesn't meet, it can't hurt you," he said, drawing a roar of laughter from the ballroom floor. "That may not be such a bad lesson for Washington, D.C., come to think of it."
To further emphasize the bipartisan record he said he has enjoyed in Texas, Bush was introduced by Pete Laney, his state's Democratic speaker of the House. Laney praised the governor for his ability to "persuade, to inspire and to otherwise motivate people to take action." Bush responded by calling Laney "a close personal friend."
Earlier Tuesday, Bush was in Milwaukee, where he continued his focus on the importance of fatherhood and said the government should give $200 million over five years to community programs that help men become better dads.
The $200 million would be in addition to the $2.3 billion that Bush proposed spending on programs to strengthen families, from improving foster care to streamlining adoptions.
Speaking with counselors, ministers and families at Faith Works, a residential program aimed at helping addicted fathers, Bush applauded the "brave men" who have turned their lives around and returned home.
Bush said he supports giving the money to local programs that help low-income or unemployed fathers with career training and teach men how to be good parents, as well as offering marriage counseling to keep families strong. The funds would be distributed through the Department of Health and Human Services.