Politics & Policy

100 and Counting

Rating W.

After 100 days on the job, it turns out that Americans like President George W. Bush. A lot. They like him because of his fine personal qualities, and his steadfast, on-message pursuit of the very same policies on which he campaigned during last year’s election.

With better than 60% approval ratings for Bush as a person, roughly the same tally for Bush’s handling of the job, and a 55% score (from the Washington Post poll) on whether his views are “just about right” on issues, the Texan who barely won the disputed election, and faces a near impossible legislative-political situation in Congress, has outperformed nearly all expectations.

All this is driving the Tom Daschle, Dick Gephardt, Barbra Streisand, Robert Reich Democrats to distraction. Or, more precisely, driving them to the class-warfare, enviro-green Loony Left, as Bush camps out comfortably in the new center-right center of American politics.

Honest, low-keyed, calm, straight-shooting, self effacing, and confident, Bush is almost the exact opposite of Bill Clinton’s theatrical, self-absorbed, double-dealing, dishonest and self-aggrandizing personal style.

Rather than all-night fraternity-house bull sessions, Bush makes policy decisions in a crisp, decisive, and disciplined MBA-type style. Mistakes occur — such as CO2 emissions and arsenic in the water — but recovery is nearly a real-time rapid response.

Bush is a man comfortable in his own skin. What we see is what we get. And what he says is what he means. Media pundits couldn’t believe his strong defense of democratic Taiwan, much like Reagan’s Evil Empire blast at the Soviet union. But Dick Cheney made it clear on the Sunday talkies that “we are being less ambiguous around the world, a big change from what the meaning of is is.”

Bush is unafraid to admit that he prefers a nap in the afternoon, or that he gets on his knees in the morning to pray, and prays continuously over the course of a day. I do the same thing, and found that God could do for me what I could not do for myself.

On his first working day after inauguration, Bush signed an executive order that revoked U. S. funding for international organizations that lobby for abortions. In the inaugural speech, Bush underscored his own faith and the enhanced role of faith he’d like to see for the entire nation. This theme was repeated in the remarkable radio speech on faith, redemption, and resurrection he delivered on the Saturday before Easter Sunday.

As for self deprecating humor and humility, Bush’s Washington speech before the radio-TV Correspondents Dinner was a masterpiece. Indeed, while liberals keep telling us that Clinton was the great political communicator, it is Bush who keeps turning in excellent speaking performances: at the GOP convention in Philadelphia, during his three debate victories over Gore, at the inauguration, and on his 26-state speaking circuit in the early days of his presidency.

Using the Reagan model of communicating a clear campaign-policy agenda and then governing on it, Bush has steadfastly pushed for lower tax rates, SDI, hemispheric free trade, and reforms for health, education, and Social Security. He has already revamped foreign policy by ending mainland-China appeasement. It’s a Gipper-like agenda that will generate Gipper-like political results.

His cabinet is chock-full of free enterprisers and social conservatives. Dick Cheney, as the right man for all policy seasons, is an incredibly valuable resource. Christine Todd Whitman, who has forsaken her successful tax-rate cutting growth message in New Jersey for the anti-growth, green-bureaucratic message at EPA, has been the biggest disappointment.

Tax cuts and economic growth will form the political centerpiece of the administration. Ultimately, electoral success or failure will hinge on those issues. Hopefully, Bush will pound away on economic growth as his key message in the weeks and months ahead, embracing investor-class cap-gains relief and expanded super-saver IRAs and 401(k)s, along with lower personal tax rates. All front-ended and accelerated.

Investors of all incomes and colors will be the potential breakaway margin of political victory in future elections. Win them over, and Bush will turn an electoral near-miss into a commanding political majority. For now, into his fourth presidential month, the Texan deserves an A-minus. And that’s without any Ivy League-grade inflation.


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