Bush Buddies Up to Kennedys

Rep. Patrick Kennedy may have called President George W. Bush a "wing nut" at one contentious point during the campaign, but the two were able to settle their differences tonight.

Despite political differences, the President, who is continuing his "charm offensive" aimed at winning over Democrats, invited members of the Kennedy clan to the White House tonight to watch the movie Thirteen Days, Hollywood's take on John F. Kennedy and the Cuban missile crisis.

Sen. Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts along with his son, Rhode Island Rep. Patrick Kennedy, and his niece, Maryland Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, daughter of the late Robert F. Kennedy. Caroline Kennedy, who is JFK’s sole surviving child, and her husband, Edwin Schlossberg, also were invited.

The film features Kevin Costner as an aide to President Kennedy during the two weeks in 1962 when brinksmanship over Cuba nearly sparked a nuclear war between the United States and the Soviet Union.

Couldn't Resist Political Discussion

Rep. Kennedy and Bush sat next to each other for about an hour at dinner and talked about a variety of issues, including taxes, education and health care, Kennedy said.

"He said that he didn't expect us to get along on many things, but he said that we may be able to get along on some things, and I feel the same way," Kennedy said of the president.

"He said I'm not what people always may portray me as; I'm interested in getting things done," Kennedy said. "I challenged him and said he has an opportunity to prove that in the future if he's able to make a break with the Christian right and not carry the agenda of people like Ashcroft."

Kennedy said Bush responded that he was going to do things for the good of the country and intends to lead by his own initiative.

"I thought that was very impressive and very real, and I was impressed by his genuine approach," Kennedy said.Bush Starting Out on the Right (and Left) Foot

The president's personal invitation to the nation's leading liberal to attend one of the first private social events of his administration has official Washington buzzing.

"People are astounded by his willingness to reach out and listen and be heard," said Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss. "He's meeting with everybody. He's even going to the motion pictures with them."

The dinner date is just the latest step in Bush's effort to open his administration on a bipartisan note.

During the presidential campaign, the Bush team often promised to "change the tone" in Washington, even as it unleashed attacks, first on Sen. John McCain and then on Al Gore. Now that they have moved into the White House, Bush and his team seem to be trying to suggest that they are the Woodstock of all White Houses, full of peace, love and happiness.

Bush has now met over coffee, lunch and dinner with more than 100 Democratic members of Congress. This weekend, Democrats have even invited the Republican president to attend their annual retreats.

But the question remains: Can this charm offensive work?

"Trust remains the coin of the realm in Washington," says former Clinton adviser David Gergen. "If Democrats come to believe they can trust George Bush's word, and that his smile is genuine, they're going to be much more willing to work with him on those issues where they can find common ground."

The new president seems to enjoy looking eye-to-eye at his potential political enemies, as he did Wednesday night with members of the Congressional Black Caucus. And while members were careful to emphasize they had not swooned over the president, at least one influential congressman left the White House earlier impressed.

"He's a very personable guy," says Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y. "He loves what he's doing."

Special Historial Gift Presented

As a gesture of goodwill, Kennedy presented Bush with a flag that belonged to the late Vice Admiral John "Chick" Hayward, who commanded a carrier division during the blockade of Cuba.

"The president loved the present, and said he was very appreciative of the thoughtfulness of the gift," Kennedy said, in a call from Washington, D.C. "I used the opportunity to explain about the importance of the Navy to Rhode Island."

After all was said and done, the movie got rave reviews. "It was dramatic without it being about my family," Kennedy said.

ABCNEWS' John Berman contributed to this report.

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