Politics & Policy

Second-Term Wish List

Conservative hopes.

EDITOR’S NOTE: “If only two substantive things came out of this next presidential term–and let’s take protecting Americans from attacks as a given–what would you want them to be?” That was the question NRO asked a group of familiar faces, to ring in the second term of the George W. Bush administration. Here’s what they came up with.

Hadley Arkes

On this side of the political aisle we all want the war in Iraq to succeed, and for the tax cuts, enacted in the first term, to be made permanent. But when we consider the ground of priorities, we are drawn back to first principles. If it is a grave thing to restrict freedom, there is an even deeper burden on those who would take life for reasons that are less than compelling. I would put my own accent then on those simple, but telling measures, within reach, that can advance the protection of life and secure the terms on which new life is begotten and nurtured. By the latter I mean the securing of marriage as an institution. In the scale of things it will be no less important than variations in Social Security. The public is primed now to act on a constitutional amendment; this is no time for the president and his party to back away.

On the matter of protecting life, the president can finally have his administration inform hospitals and clinics that it is against the law now to withdraw medical care from a child who survives an abortion. The Congress can move to withdraw all federal funds from hospitals and clinics in which this practice is permitted, and where partial-birth abortions are performed. The courts have enjoined the bill that forbids partial-birth abortion; but they cannot compel the public to fund them. The move to withdraw all federal funds from these hospitals and clinics would set off a deep crisis among the partisans of abortion; it would induce many doctors and clinics to be rid of this business; and it would beget the most wholesome, crippling tensions among the Democrats.

Hadley Arkes is the Ney Professor of Jurisprudence at Amherst College and a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington.

Linda Chavez

Topping my wish list are two issues: true immigration reform and ending the federal government’s own system of racial preferences.

Despite the sturm und drang over the need to control our borders, the only practical way to do so is to open the borders to more legal immigrants. The presence of an estimated eight million illegal immigrants in the U.S. is proof not only of how porous our borders are but of how dependent we are on immigrant labor–legal and illegal. Yet our current immigration laws make it nearly impossible for us to fill the market’s need for labor. A temporary-worker program is absolutely vital if we are to fill that need–but more importantly, it is imperative if we are to secure our borders. If we created a program that would allow more workers to enter the country legally, we could devote our limited border-enforcement resources to intercepting drug dealers and potential terrorists–priorities that now get short shrift in our zeal to stop Mexican laborers and Salvadoran housekeepers from entering the country.

I’m sure President Bush would grant my first wish if it were in his power to do so, but I’m less confident the president would grant my second wish, even though he could with a mere stroke of the pen. I would like to see President Bush revise Executive Order 11246 to ban racial or gender-based preferences. Issued by President Lyndon Johnson in 1965, E.O. 11246 ushered in the government’s affirmative-action program for federal contractors and gave birth to a system of racial preferences in hiring and promotion. By revising E.O. 11246 to prohibit all discrimination, explicitly banning preferences based on skin color or sex, President Bush could lead the nation in building a true, color-blind, equal opportunity society.

Linda Chavez, president of the Center for Equal Opportunity, is author, with Daniel Gray, of the new book Betrayal: How Union Bosses Shake Down Their Members and Corrupt American Politics.

Jonah Goldberg

I have some public-policy priorities I’d like to see accomplished. Off the top of my head: Reform of Title IX, repeal of the Medicare “reform,” private accounts for Social Security, closing some Cabinet agencies, abolishing the Civil Rights Commission, getting rid of quotas, moving America toward a League of Democracies to counter the U.N., ending our cozy relationship with the Saudis, fixing immigration, streamlining the tax code, appointing a net gain of conservative justices to the Supreme Court, a massive initiative to create privately owned artificial reefs around the world, etc.

But my guess is that many of these will show up on other wish-lists. Instead I’d like to suggest an ideological/political priority. I would like it if Bush could return to the notion that political conservatism is first and foremost about limited government–not “better” government, more compassionate government, more efficient government, more business-friendly government or even just plain nicer government.

Jonah Goldberg is the editor-at-large of National Review Online.

John Hood

There are always going to be nearly as many “important” issues for a presidential administration to work on as there are activists and commentators to offer them. But I think two domestic priorities should clearly rise to the top of the list: reforming Social Security and restraining federal spending. In the first case, Social Security as currently designed is the linchpin of the archaic welfare state–as its defenders well know, judging by the amount of moisture issuing from their sputtering mouths. If private accounts in any significant reform make it into law, the implications are far-reaching both terms of public policy (perhaps setting the stage for tackling the trickier issue of Medicare) and politics (by expanding the ranks of investor-voters).

Related to this is the issue of federal spending. Bush needs to follow through on his rhetoric here, for several reasons. First, budget savings are needed to help finance the transition to private Social Security accounts. Second, they are needed to protect the permanent status of the president’s tax cuts, which will be threatened by lingering deficits. And third, they are needed to hold the conservative/Republican coalition together amid the inevitable stresses and strains of transforming an opposition movement into a governing majority.

John Hood is president of the Raleigh-based John Locke Foundation and author of the forthcoming Selling the Dream: Why Advertising is Good Business.

Kathryn Jean Lopez

Two priorities? Judges and judges. From marriage–at the seams of the fabric of our society–to the war on terror–our very existence–the courts are just at the heart of the most heated and important issues of the day.

Yes–Judges and judges.

Sure I’d like Social Security reform. Sure, I’d like comprehensive immigration reform (Not happening with this president–no offense, Linda). But, if along with moral leadership in the war against terrorism, we get, say, two good new judges on the Supreme Court (never mind the lower courts!)–ones of the young, conservative, non-activist variety–this president has quite a significant, practical conservative legacy.

Kathryn Jean Lopez is the editor of National Review Online.

Cliff May

The top priority has to be making substantial progress in what Jim Woolsey is now calling “the Long War.” That will require a fundamental transformation of the intelligence community, which long ago lost its way or was led astray. Whatever the causes, the fact is that project that began as the daring and innovative Office of Strategic Services at some point became just another risk averse, self-promoting Washington bureaucracy. Leave aside blame. Fix the problem. Get back to basics. Build an organization that can gather valuable intelligence and analyze it with acumen and insight. That’s critical for national security–the federal government’s primary responsibility.

Second and similarly, the Pentagon needs to be transformed. In the 21st century, it makes no sense to have a military machine elaborately designed and equipped to defeat the Soviet Union on the battlefields of central Europe. Clearly, what we need instead are armed forces that have the skills to find and eliminate our enemies wherever they hide, wherever they plot. In Iraq and elsewhere there is no substitute for victory.

As for non-foreign policy priorities, I want the president to leave a legacy on the Supreme Court by appointing justices who believe in the Constitution, who are eager to interpret and apply the Constitution, but not to amend the Constitution, legislate, or implement their policy preferences under the guise of constitutional interpretation.

After that, comes tax reform. The current tax code is a shameful, counter-productive muddle.

Clifford D. May, a former New York Times foreign correspondent, is president of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, a policy institute focusing on terrorism.

Ramesh Ponnuru

I’ll assume that “protecting Americans from attacks” includes taking all steps necessary to reduce the long-term risks to Americans’ security. My two remaining priorities are the confirmation of Supreme Court justices with restrained views of their own power and a free-market reform of Social Security.

Ramesh Ponnuru is a National Review senior editor.

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