November 15, 2004


A sunny 'W' seizes the moment: Bush intends to further consolidate power at the White House (Kenneth T. Walsh, 11/22/04, US News)

Suddenly, the West Wing is buzzing with a new sense of possibility. Reports on the assault in Fallujah (story, Page 16) have been cautiously positive. The president's first call to Harry Reid, the new Senate Democratic leader, raised hopes that he might get more cooperation from his congressional adversaries. And the death of Yasser Arafat may provide a "new opportunity" for Middle East peace, Bush said late last week in a joint appearance with British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

The president is moving briskly to seize the moment. He is consolidating power at the White House, channeling ever more influence to Vice President Dick Cheney, his closest confidant, and counselor Karl Rove, architect of his November 2 victory. Senior White House officials tell U.S. News that Bush plans to replace at least half his cabinet over the next few months. His aim is to remove officials who have become lightning rods for controversy or who seem to have lost their desire to serve in Washington. "The president believes it's always good to have some new faces in a new term," says a senior Bush adviser. [...]

Yet despite the personnel shifts, the president's policies aren't expected to change. U.S. News has learned, for example, that Bush is planning for a congressional vote next year on reforming the Social Security system. Bush sees the reform proposals--which include giving young people the option of investing part of their Social Security funds in the private sector--as his main chance to build a lasting legacy. Bush aims to create an "ownership society" in which Americans rely less on the government and their employers and more on themselves by creating their own wealth.

High spirits. Another goal is to reform the tax code, either by simplifying the existing law or by enacting a flat tax or a national sales tax. But Bush recognizes that this process will take many months, and he doesn't anticipate that a detailed plan will be ready before 2006 at the earliest.

In personal terms, White House officials say they've rarely seen Bush so upbeat. "He's got the wind at his back," says a senior aide. "He's in very high spirits. He looks at the election as strong validation of his agenda."

We may not have had a president who better understood how to use presidential power.

Posted by Orrin Judd at November 15, 2004 8:19 PM
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