Politics & Policy

More Questions, More Answers

Here are more questions from readers about President Bush – and more attempts to answer them.

Q: Do you have any reaction to then-Gov. Bush’s mocking of the Texas woman on death row who asked to be spared since she had been born again? My own view is that I believe her conversion was genuine, but that she also should still face the consequences of her murder conviction. And she did. But I was shocked at Bush’s behavior toward her in that interview.

A: The question refers to an article by Tucker Carlson, now co-host of CNN’s “Crossfire,” and published by Talk magazine early in the 2000 campaign. Carlson asked Bush about the then-pending execution of Karla Faye Tucker. Bush responded, Carlson reported, by mocking an interview that Karla Faye Tucker had recently given Larry King. “Please,” Bush whimpers, his lips pursed in mock-desperation, “please don’t kill me.” Disturbing.

But Bush has moved far and fast since then. For one thing, he has had to comfort thousands of grieving survivors of the people murdered on 9/11. Proximity to sorrow changes us – and it seems to have changed Bush.

Q: On Tuesday evening, we were pleased that he drew our attention to the need to end partial-birth abortion. Agreed, but that accounts for about 2,300 of the 1.3 million abortions every year in the U.S. Many leaders in the pro-life community want to know whether they can count on Bush to be more vocal, not as ideologue, but as moralist and leader on this issue, that would help turn popular opinion, and ensure solid judicial appointments, and provide the atmosphere where it would not be considered loony to propose a Right to Life Amendment to the Constitution. Many are genuinely curious whether he will be satisfied with a ban on partial birth abortion for 2003, and not pursue the issue with the energy it needs to make significant headway (eg. the word on the street is that Gonzalez is a likely candidate for the Supreme Court (maybe chief), and in pro-lifers’ minds, he went the wrong way on his opinions about a waiting period in Texas. This has many of us worried that we could missing a big opportunity to overturn Roe v. Wade in the next decade.) Can you comment on how deep Bush’s pro-life convictions run, and how far he is willing to air those (going forward, not in the past) outside of gatherings of the faithful?

A: I do think it’s a little early for pro-lifers to congratulate themselves on winning the partial-birth fight. How can you complain about his being “satisfied” with something that will only be accomplished after very arduous struggle? For Bush even to mention partial-birth in a State of the Union was very remarkable. I can’t say how far Bush will go on the issue of abortion – only that it is very likely to be much farther than you suppose. For him to talk about abortion in a State of the Union was remarkable in itself. He is running real risks here – which to my way of thinking, implies real conviction.

Q: I was surprised that there was very little mention [in the book] of the first lady and their daughters. Does the President isolate his staff from all personal family issues? I thought there might be some discussion on

how he handled the girls run-ins with the law, especially due to the coverage it received in the press.

A: I simply did not have anything worthwhile to say on the subject. I do think the girls ought to have been allowed to make fools of themselves in privacy.

Q: Since you were brought on as an Economics Speech Writer, I’m interested in your opinion of the criticisms that the Democrats have put forth about the President’s tax package. If you were writing his response, what would you put in his speech?

A: The Democrats’ most effective criticism is that the Bush plan does little to stimulate the economy in the short term. The Republicans’ most effective reply is to point out that it is generally a mistake for government to try to stimulate the economy in the short term: that’s how we got the inflation of the 1970s. The goal of economic policy is to increase the economy’s potential for growth in the long term. The 00s are shaping up to be a less robust decade than the 1990s. Economic growth will be slowed by the cost to the economy of all that extra security (just think of the time and money lost because everybody now has to arrive at the airport fifteen or thirty minutes earlier). Growth will be slowed as the baby boomers begin to pass out of their peak earning years. And world trade is also likely to be squeezed by the turn away from free markets and toward protectionism in Latin America and other regions. Lower taxes can compensate for the costs of higher security – they offset depressing economic trends with hopeful incentives to save and take risks. They are needed today more than ever.

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