Enter Stage Gabbing

Quite a surprise

By Steven Martinovich

(January 29, 2001) - There's been some surprise expressed by many people recently. It would seem that a certain Harvard MBA graduate with higher SAT scores than Al Gore isn't the buffoon that everyone thought he was.

Quite a few people are surprised at the pace that President George W. Bush has set in his few days in office, and some aren't too happy about. Around the country, Democrats say they were taken aback by how rapidly the president staked out his positions on several controversial -- and potentially divisive -- issues like abortion, school vouchers and a $1.6 trillion tax cut.

"Some people are saying he didn't run like this, ran more middle of the road, slightly to the right," said Kathy Sullivan, state Democratic chair in New Hampshire. "If they had read the stories and listened to him speak, they would have known what they were getting."

This commentator will admit that he was one of those fooled early in the campaign (Compassionate conservatism or conned conservatism? in July 1999 as an example) by Bush. The past few weeks, however, have shown me that this son of George H.W. Bush is no lightweight ... and woe to those who underestimate him. It shouldn't have been a surprise though.

If you had listened to Texas legislators over the past year, they could have told you that it was Dubya's agenda which dominated that state's politics for six years, despite the fact that the position of governor is largely ornamental. They could have told you that it was he who got Democrats and Republicans on the same page and with the exception of a few missteps, he came out looking pretty good.

And he appears to be doing the same thing in the White House. He's placed the capable Karl Rove in charge of drawing up a detailed action plan for the first 180 days of the Bush reign. He will take all those slips of paper with promises written on them and turn them into a blueprint. Before that plan is in place, Rove has a four week plan that includes education reforms to be introduced on January 30. One week later, Bush will introduce legislation to funnel federal funds to community- and faith-based charities that do everything from feed the homeless to treat the addicted. Early next month, Dubya will send his 10-year, $1.6 trillion tax cut proposal.

It is that tax cut which promises a sea change. It is the most significant departure from the previous eight-year nightmare that one can imagine. You may remember that Bill Clinton's assumption of office included a retroactive tax increase, and anyone with a basic knowledge of economics knows you can't tax a nation into prosperity. The economy's performance and the success with the deficit under Clinton is largely a testament to the tax cuts and deregulation brought in by Ronald Reagan.

Of course, a few weeks in office does not an administration make. Once upon a time a group of Republicans started out promisingly with a little plan entitled the Contract with America. Two years later they were indistinguishable from their peers across the floor. The true test is whether Bush will have the intestinal fortitude to roll back the anti-constitutional measures that Clinton was responsible. Those roll backs will see howls of protest from the empty cans that rattle the loudest but will be necessary if real change is to be brought about.

Bush has two courses he can take: he can take the path of his father and act as a caretaker president who slowly grows the size of government or he can be a force for change that would rival the record of Reagan. The power is his. The Republicans control the Executive Branch and the Legislative Branch and there are few excuses available for half-steps. As T.E. Lawrence told Prince Feisal in 1962's Lawrence of Arabia, "Time to be great again."

Thanks for reading,

Steven Martinovich

Meanwhile, back at the ranch...

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