November 20, 2004


The New Age Presidency (Tony Snow, 11/19/04, Jewish World Review)

Look carefully: In virtually every case, the president has replaced a political veteran with an equally seasoned, but younger, political warrior. The first Bush administration — call it Bush I — featured men and women who had made their fortunes and didn't need to seek approval from Official Washington. This was a good thing, and enabled the president to surround himself with people who would give wise and fair counsel.

He can expect the same thing from Bush II, but the new crew offers something more essential in a second administration — pure, ebullient ambition; not the ambition of the preening or backbiting striver, but of men and women attracted to big challenges and higher purposes. In fact, this profile describes the president himself. George W. Bush isn't the kind of guy to linger in front of a mirror admiring his stately visage. He wants to get things done.

That kind of presidential goal-setting also distinguishes this from other recent second-term presidencies. Returning presidents have a tendency to coast on first-term glory and to treat their last four years in office as a time in which to reflect upon and consolidate past achievements. There's almost a sense of nostalgia about the final years of a presidency.

Ronald Reagan followed this pattern; so did Bill Clinton. Both not coincidentally found themselves in political trouble halfway through their second terms — in part because of misbehavior in high places, but also because they had frittered away their political capital. They could not redirect public attention to larger goals; they could not pound Congress with demands to get moving on compelling action items.

This president has learned from those mistakes.

The Power of One (DAVID GERGEN, 11/19/04, NY Times)
Give the man his due: George W. Bush is emerging as one of the boldest, most audacious presidents in modern history.

Whether he is also wise is a question that will preoccupy us for another four years, but the reshuffling of his team in recent days makes clear that he intends to stretch the powers of his office to their limits. Woodrow Wilson once wrote that "the president is at liberty, both in law and conscience, to be as big a man as he can.'' President Bush comes Texas-sized.

By sending members of his White House staff to run three of the most important departments in the government - with perhaps more such appointments in the offing - Mr. Bush is centralizing power in the White House in ways not seen since Richard Nixon. Nixon had his troika of Bob Haldeman, John Ehrlichman and Henry Kissinger to run the government. Mr. Bush seems destined to run the government with his own troika: Dick Cheney, Karl Rove and Condoleezza Rice.

Moreover, he believes he has a mandate for a revolutionary agenda. Conservative presidents, as Arthur Schlesinger Jr. has argued, tend to be consolidators - men like Dwight Eisenhower, Nixon and even Ronald Reagan, who largely accepted the expansions in government made by their liberal predecessors. Mr. Bush is the first conservative whose policies would gradually unwind major commitments like Social Security and progressive taxes. It is increasingly clear that Mr. Bush embraces the view of Winston Churchill: that great leaders should set great goals. The president apparently intends no less than to overhaul government, achieve long-term Republican hegemony over American politics and ensure long-term American hegemony over the world.

Governor George Bush's Acceptance Speech (Republican National Convention, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Thursday, August 3, 2000)
If you give me your trust, I will honor it ... Grant me a mandate, and I will use it... Give me the opportunity to lead this nation, and I will lead ...

And we need a leader to seize the opportunities of this new century -- the new cures of medicine, the amazing technologies that will drive our economy and keep the peace.

But our new economy must never forget the old, unfinished struggle for human dignity.

And here we face a challenge to the very heart and founding premise of our nation.

A couple of years ago, I visited a juvenile jail in Marlin, Texas, and talked with a group of young inmates. They were angry, wary kids. All had committed grownup crimes.

Yet when I looked in their eyes, I realized some of them were still little boys.

Toward the end of conversation, one young man, about 15, raised his hand and asked a haunting question... "What do you think of me?"

He seemed to be asking, like many Americans who struggle ... "Is there hope for me? Do I have a chance?" And, frankly ... "Do you, a white man in a suit, really care what happens to me?"

A small voice, but it speaks for so many. Single moms struggling to feed the kids and pay the rent. Immigrants starting a hard life in a new world. Children without fathers in neighborhoods where gangs seem like friendship, where drugs promise peace, and where sex, sadly, seems like the closest thing to belonging. We are their country, too.

And each of us must share in its promise, or that promise is diminished for all.

If that boy in Marlin believes he is trapped and worthless and hopeless -- if he believes his life has no value, then other lives have no value to him -- and we are ALL diminished.

When these problems aren't confronted, it builds a wall within our nation. On one side are wealth and technology, education and ambition.

On the other side of the wall are poverty and prison, addiction and despair.

And, my fellow Americans, we must tear down that wall.

Big government is not the answer. But the alternative to bureaucracy is not indifference.

It is to put conservative values and conservative ideas into the thick of the fight for justice and opportunity.

This is what I mean by compassionate conservatism. And on this ground we will govern our nation.

We will give low-income Americans tax credits to buy the private health insurance they need and deserve.

We will transform today's housing rental program to help hundreds of thousands of low-income families find stability and dignity in a home of their own.

And, in the next bold step of welfare reform, we will support the heroic work of homeless shelters and hospices, food pantries and crisis pregnancy centers -- people reclaiming their communities block-by-block and heart-by-heart.

I think of Mary Jo Copeland, whose ministry called "Sharing and Caring Hands" serves 1,000 meals a week in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Each day, Mary Jo washes the feet of the homeless, then sends them off with new socks and shoes.

"Look after your feet," she tells them ...... "They must carry you a long way in this world, and then all the way to God."

Government cannot do this work. It can feed the body, but it cannot reach the soul. Yet government can take the side of these groups, helping the helper, encouraging the inspired.

My administration will give taxpayers new incentives to donate to charity, encourage after-school programs that build character, and support mentoring groups that shape and save young lives.

We must give our children a spirit of moral courage, because their character is our destiny.

We must tell them, with clarity and confidence, that drugs and alcohol can destroy you, and bigotry disfigures the heart.

Our schools must support the ideals of parents, elevating character and abstinence from afterthoughts to urgent goals.

We must help protect our children, in our schools and streets, by finally and strictly enforcing our nation's gun laws.

Most of all, we must teach our children the values that defeat violence. I will lead our nation toward a culture that values life -- the life of the elderly and the sick, the life of the young, and the life of the unborn. I know good people disagree on this issue, but surely we can agree on ways to value life by promoting adoption and parental notification, and when Congress sends me a bill against partial-birth abortion, I will sign it into law.

Behind every goal I have talked about tonight is a great hope for our country.

A hundred years from now, this must not be remembered as an age rich in possessions and poor in ideals.

Instead, we must usher in an era of responsibility.

My generation tested limits -- and our country, in some ways, is better for it.

Women are now treated more equally. Racial progress has been steady, if still too slow. We are learning to protect the natural world around us. We will continue this progress, and we will not turn back.

At times, we lost our way. But we are coming home.

So many of us held our first child, and saw a better self reflected in her eyes.

And in that family love, many have found the sign and symbol of an even greater love, and have been touched by faith.

We have discovered that who we are is more important than what we have. And we know we must renew our values to restore our country.

This is the vision of America's founders.

They never saw our nation's greatness in rising wealth or advancing armies, but in small, unnumbered acts of caring and courage and self-denial.

Their highest hope, as Robert Frost described it, was "to occupy the land with character."

And that, 13 generations later, is still our goal ... to occupy the land with character.

In a responsibility era, each of us has important tasks -- work that only we can do.

Each of us is responsible ... to love and guide our children, and help a neighbor in need.

Synagogues, churches and mosques are responsible ... not only to worship but to serve.

Corporations are responsible ... to treat their workers fairly, and leave the air and waters clean.

Our nation's leaders are responsible ... to confront problems, not pass them on to others.

And to lead this nation to a responsibility era, a president himself must be responsible.

And so, when I put my hand on the Bible, I will swear to not only uphold the laws of our land, I will swear to uphold the honor and dignity of the office to which I have been elected, so help me God.

I believe the presidency -- the final point of decision in the American government -- was made for great purposes.

It is the office of Lincoln's conscience and Teddy Roosevelt's energy and Harry Truman's integrity and Ronald Reagan's optimism.

For me, gaining this office is not the ambition of a lifetime, but it IS the opportunity of a lifetime.

And I will make the most of it. I believe great decisions are made with care, made with conviction, not made with polls.

I do not need to take your pulse before I know my own mind. I do not reinvent myself at every turn. I am not running in borrowed clothes. When I act, you will know my reasons ...When I speak, you will know my heart.

I believe in tolerance, not in spite of my faith, but because of it.

I believe in a God who calls us, not to judge our neighbors, but to love them.

I believe in grace, because I have seen it ... In peace, because I have felt it ... In forgiveness, because I have needed it.

I believe true leadership is a process of addition, not an act of division. I will not attack a part of this country, because I want to lead the whole of it.

And I believe this will be a tough race, down to the wire.

Their war room is up and running ... but we are ready. Their attacks will be relentless ... but they will be answered. We are facing something familiar, but they are facing something new.

We are now the party of ideas and innovation ... The party of idealism and inclusion.

The party of a simple and powerful hope ...

My fellow citizens, we can begin again. After all of the shouting, and all of the scandal. After all of the bitterness and broken faith. We can begin again.

The wait has been long, but it won't be long now.

A prosperous nation is ready to renew its purpose and unite behind great goals ... and it won't be long now.

Our nation must renew the hopes of that boy I talked with in jail, and so many like him... and it won't be long now.

Our country is ready for high standards and new leaders ... and it won't be long now.

An era of tarnished ideals is giving way to a responsibility era ... and it won't be long now.

I know how serious the task is before me.

I know the presidency is an office that turns pride into prayer.

But I am eager to start on the work ahead.

And I believe America is ready for a new beginning.

My friend, the artist Tom Lea of El Paso, captured the way I feel about our great land.

He and his wife, he said, "live on the east side of the mountain ...

It is the sunrise side, not the sunset side.

It is the side to see the day that is coming ... not the side to see the day that is gone."

Americans live on the sunrise side of mountain.

The night is passing.

And we are ready for the day to come.

Thank you. And God bless you.

Posted by Orrin Judd at November 20, 2004 6:14 PM

Are we going to be stuck hearing from has-beens like David Gergen the way dreary second-rate pedants like Arthur Schlesinger, Jr have shown up on the airwaves from time to time?

Bush controls the Presidency, the Congress is controlled by people who share his vision, and three Justices share his worldview with the likelihood that he will appoint at least 2 more who will. We haven't had a 'conservative' regime like that in American history. So, the Alzheimer's poster boy, Schlesinger, doesn't have a clue about what he's talking about. The last time the GOP had this much control was 1896, and McKinley was a great President.

Posted by: Bart at November 20, 2004 7:08 PM

We haven't had a 'conservative' regime like that in American history.

Except that, by today's standards, every presidency before FDR's would be considered radically conservative/libertarian.

Posted by: PapayaSF at November 20, 2004 7:29 PM

Democrats and pundits could have figured out George W. Bush by Memorial Day in 1995 when his first session with the Texas Legislature ended -- he campaigns on 3-4 major issues and then, when elected, actually focuses on 3-4 major issues. Reagan ran the same sort of campaign against Carter in 1980, but his 1984 re-election effort was ideologically flabbier, even if the "Morning In America" strategy against Mondale was hailed as brilliant (and was mimicked by Clinton in 1996 with his "Bridge to the 21st Century" slogan). Three weeks after the election, it's already hard to remember the Bush' campaign's slogan, but you do know what he wants to do in terms of policy reforms, which in the long run is more important.

Posted by: John at November 21, 2004 1:35 AM

"Boots - Not Flip-Flops"

Posted by: jim hamlen at November 21, 2004 4:40 PM