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Bush thanks Cabinet, calls for smooth transition

By HELEN THOMAS UPI White House Reporter

WASHINGTON -- President Bush summoned his Cabinet to a post- election meeting Thursday to thank them for a 'good job' and called on members to 'make it a smooth transition' to the Clinton administration, an aide said.

Bush appeared relaxed when he convened the Cabinet and repeated what he told his staffers at a homecoming rally Wednesday, that he wanted his White House leadership to wind up with 'style and grace.'

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Deputy press secretary Judy Smith said that the president told the solemn department heads that they had 'helped to shape the future.'

The president appeared to be preparing for his official departure from the White House on Jan. 20.

But still feeling fatigue from his exhausting campaign and the pain of his devastating defeat, he planned to fly Thursday afternoon to Camp David for a long and restful weekend in the rustic setting of the Maryland mountains.

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The president has already designated deputy chief of staff Robert Zoellick to be the White House coordinator for the transition period. Zoellick will work closely with the top aides to President-elect Bill Clinton.

At some point in the next several weeks, Clinton will meet with Bush at the White House and will be shown around the West Wing. First lady Barbara Bush has already invited her successor Hillary Clinton to visit the family quarters and to make her plans to move in.

Next week, perhaps on Monday, he may travel to Beeville, Texas, to join chief of staff and fellow Texan James Baker for a few days of quail hunting. In a prophetic purchase on Tuesday, Election Day, Bush went to a Houston sporting goods store and bought a $6 hunting license and a fishing reel.

Responding to a question during a picture-taking session at the start of the Cabinet meeting, Bush denied a report that he would travel to Moscow to meet with Russian President Boris Yeltsin.

Although he is now a lame duck, foreign problems loomed with trade problems with Europe surfacing to the top of the agenda over the U.S. request to the European Community to impose $1 billion in new tariffs.

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Responding to a question during a picture-taking at the start of his cabinet meeting, Bush said he was not trying to engage in a trade war with Europe, but added 'we've got some tough fighters on our side.'

He called on International Trade Representative Carla Hills and Agreiculture Secretary Edward Madigan to brief the cabinet on the new trade crisis.

Clinton told world leaders Wednesday that Bush is still the prsident and they should make no mistake about that. In a formal statement, he said 'the greatest gesture of goodwill any nation can make to me during this period ;is to continue full cooperation with our president, George Bush.'

Asked to describe the mood among staffers at the White House, Smith said 'people are disappointed, of course, and we wanted our candidate to win.'

Many of them were still numb from 18 consecutive days on the road, campaigning morning till late at night.

EPA Administrator William Reilly described the mood as poignant. 'It was very reflective. There was a great deal of pride. The president himself said, 'I think it's very important we not be begrudging during the transition....I have no bitterness or hindsight regrets.''

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Reilly said Bush was relaxed and funny and he quoted Bush as saying, 'Barbara is already out spending money I'm not sure I have.'

Bush returned to the White House Wednesday afternoon, aand into the embrace of his most fierce supporters, saying, 'I think we really contributed something to the country.'

Arriving on the White House south lawn Wednesday in a light drizzle, Bush, his wife Barbara and Vice President Quayle and his wife, made their way through a throng of supporters, who numbered about 15,000.

'Maybe you didn't read the election returns,' he said in jest at the gathered who waved small American flags. 'It didn't quite work out the way we wanted.'

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