Skip to comments.Fred Barnes: Double or Nothing
Posted on 01/22/2005 6:59:14 AM PST by Pokey78
PRESIDENT BUSH COULD HAVE OPTED for an easy route to modest success in the White House. After overthrowing the Taliban and routing al Qaeda in Afghanistan, he could have stopped there and not ordered an invasion of Iraq. In his first inaugural address, he advocated "a balance of power that favors freedom." Even after 9/11, he could have continued with such modest rhetoric and ambitions. He did not have to embrace a worldwide crusade for democracy in his second inaugural.
He won congressional approval of three tax cuts in his first term. He could have rejected the idea of major tax reform as a second-term goal. Bush promoted Social Security reform in his 2000 and 2004 campaigns. He could have settled for small individual investment accounts, using payroll taxes, and passed the task of restraining the growth of benefits to his successors. Had he taken the easy route, he'd have won reelection in a breeze and he'd be wildly popular today.
President Bush has chosen the hard route. The lessons he seems to have learned from his first term are: set the bar very high, don't do things halfway, forget opinion polls, use every bit of political capital and personal influence you have to achieve your goals, never play small ball, and be ready to take chances. So, instead of relaxing and savoring the achievements of his first term, Bush has laid out a formidable agenda for the next four years: the democratization of Iraq, the spread of freedom around the world, the
Why is Bush doing this? One explanation is he hates to fool around with small measures. They bore him. Another explanation, offered half-seriously by a White House aide, is that he's a Texan. For Texans, the aide says, the bigger the project, the better. In addition, the president regards himself as a problem-solver. "If there is a problem . . . I have responsibility to lay out potential solutions," he told the Wall Street Journal. When you combine an inclination to take on problems with a penchant for grand proposals, "you get George W. Bush," the aide says.
Oddly, the president's conservatism is not a brake on his desire to change institutions and countries. While he is philosophically conservative, he is anything but temperamentally conservative. Peter Wehner, a deputy to Bush political adviser Karl Rove, noted in a recent speech that "a conservative temperament can be counterproductive." At times, "the role of conservatism has been to be reactive," Wehner said. "At other times, the role of conservatism is to be proactive, bold, energetic, and optimistic--to shape history rather than impede it. We live in a history-shaping moment." Bush wants to do the shaping.
It's amazing how much the president has expanded his agenda from his initial days in office. His 2001 inaugural address took 14 minutes. His speech last week was 21 minutes long. In 2001, Bush said, "America remains engaged in the world by history and by choice, shaping a balance of power that favors freedom." In 2005, he upped the ante dramatically. "America, in this young century, proclaims liberty throughout all the world, and to all the inhabitants thereof," he declared at the end of his second inaugural speech. "Renewed in our strength--tested, but not weary--we are ready for the greatest achievements in the history of freedom."
On taxes, Bush's take in 2001 reflected a faith in conventional conservatism. "We will reduce taxes," he said, "to recover the momentum of our economy and reward the effort and enterprise of working Americans." But in his speech last September at the Republican convention, he outlined a new and bigger tax agenda. The tax code, he said, was "created for the world of yesterday, not tomorrow." It's a "complicated mess, filled with special interest loopholes, saddling our people with more than six billion hours of paperwork and headache every year," Bush said. "The American people deserve--and our economic future demands--a simpler, fairer, pro-growth system. In a new term, I will lead a bipartisan effort to reform and simplify the federal tax code."
Again in 2001, the president said he would "reform Social Security and Medicare, sparing our children from struggles we have the power to prevent." That was the extent of his comments on Social Security. At the 2004 convention, he brought up two specific issues on Social Security, one expected, the other new. Bush's support for individual accounts ("a nest egg you can call your own") was expected. His mention of the sustainability of Social Security wasn't. "Many of our children and grandchildren understandably worry whether Social Security will be there when they need it," he said. Now Bush has decided personal accounts aren't enough. The solvency of Social Security must be guaranteed for decades to come. That is a far bigger task.
In Bush's case, major policy issues can be divided into
But it's the optional issues--Iraq, democracy, tax reform, Social Security solvency--that will define the Bush presidency. Bush could have ignored these issues with political impunity. He chose not to. They are not issues on which events dictate the solution. They are ones where Bush wants to shape the solution. Rather than a caretaker president like his father, he's become a risk-taker, a conservative with the disposition of a radical. And a rather unusual president.
That's the difference between American Conservatism and conservatism in other countries and that is what makes American Conservatism unique.
God favors the bold.
President Bush is merely being responsible. He knows very well that Social Security is a boondoggle whose time is nearly up. He knows very well that a satisfactory level of security for the Western world requires more work. He is not a feckless buffoon like his predecessor - he sees work to be done and is embracing it. A pity there are not more politicians like him.
This is the difference between Clinton and Bush. Clinton only cared what people thought of his presidency after it was over so he was frightened into doing nothing risky. Bush sees his presidency as a chance to make things better, and his reputation is irrelevent. It's called LEADERSHIP, something Clinton was completely lacking.
By that standard, North Korea is more free than the United States.
Pray for W and Our Troops
Another motivating reason is that Bush loves his country and will be all possible to make it better then when he first took office. He's a true patriot that steps up to the plate.
Clinton showed great leadership at Waco. Gassing school children is just so Machiavellian.
Bush is doing the right thing, addressing problems that were handed to him instead of passing them on to someone else. I think that his immigration reform proposals will be changed, though. I see no way they can survive as they are offered.
Which only reminds me of another moment of great leadership by Clinton. When the fire was still smouldering a reporter asked Clinton about what had happened and while I don't remember his exact statement it was something along the lines of "You'll have to ask Janet Reno, she ordered it." True leader that man, always blaming others when things went wrong.
I still use that event when "discussing matters" with liberals. But, I always use the event of gassing the school children, because there is no debate at all on that issue.
Clinton and his friends bemoan the fact that he had no big issues to tackle or wars to fight. However, he could have done the same as Bush. The same problems were there, the same circumstances (even 9/11 could have been prevented), and the same rhetoric, except then the rhetoric was favorable to the President (Clinton). Even with all that support he was just too timid to act, frozen in fear of unfavorable polls.
Thank God for Bush.
And while I agree with you completely, it still begs the question of why did we feel it necessary to assault that ranch with ATF agents (poorly trained at that), then stress the residents out with lights and noise, and then assault the compound because the FBI got "impatient." The whole thing was a scandal which would have brought down a Republican president.
crime scene bulldozed over immediately afterward.
Did you ever see "Waco, Rules of Engagement" ?
It's worth it. Believe me.
Exactly. . .very well put!
yes indeed... people of faith do have courage
Exactly. Clinton had plenty of chances to "look" presidential. I laugh at liberals when they say"At least when Clinton lied, people didn't die."
I then bring up the USS Cole, the embassy bombings, the first WTC bombing, the barracks in Rhiyad, our Rangers Somalia, and the high altitude bombings of Bosnia, etc.
Then I say..."At least you're admitting Clinton is a liar."
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.