Getting it right in 2006, and beyond
By Vincent Fiore
If President Bush is to have a legislatively meaningful remaining term in office, he must know the difference between the people, and the press.
In the eighties, when diplomat Clark Clifford unceremoniously dubbed Ronald Reagan as an "amiable dunce," and journalist Nicholas von Hoffman petulantly quipped that it was "humiliating to think of this unlettered, self-assured bumpkin [Reagan] being our president," Reagan lost little sleep.
Besides losing no sleep, Reagan also lost none of that most-precious of commodities: time. Reagan just went around -- or over -- the collective heads of the liberal press to connect with those who truly matter: the American people.
Reagan knew that, in the end, it is a person's character and real-life actions that people make judgments upon, and not from the editorial pages of the liberal-toned New York Times. Reagan knew that those pages were for the societal egalitarian -- or culturally attuned -- elites that read them, and not the masses in general.
With Reagan, people readily believed it when he said it was "morning again in America," a not-so-veiled reminder of the misery-indexed presidency of Jimmy Carter.
Twenty years later, another Republican president bestrides the halls of Washington, and comes to meet the same resistance that Ronald Reagan did, but with different results.
When George W. Bush came to Washington in 2001, he did so saddled with the leaden polarization of a post-election battle between himself, and former Democratic vice-president, Al Gore.
Bush introduced, and then attempted to govern with, his wholly sincere yet sophomoric "new tone," a Texan-style mix of compassion and pragmatism, coupled with good-ole-boy proclivities.
While Bush may have charmed the boots off of Texas Democrats as governor, no such bipartisanship was to be achieved in the beltway.
Washington is some 1500 miles away from the Texas State House, yet it is a whole lot further away than that from civility. Bush would come to learn this soon enough. If anything, the last two years alone have been a textbook study on the articulateness of the "educated and enlightened" crowd in Washington, explaining to Bush just what they thought of his "new tone."
It is as if the presidential wardrobe came equipped with the standard "kick me" placard posted just northward of the presidential derrière.
Out of Bush's five years in office, this last year was probably his personal worst. Almost immediately after introducing his reforms for Social Security, Bush seemed to be always swimming up-stream.
It is easy to blame the old media, who, through their negative parlaying of even the most innocuously optimistic of events, have daily blazed a trail for willing congressional Democrats to follow.
If Bush is to make 2006 a more legislatively memorable year than 2005, he must continue his recent foray into raw "party politics." By branding Democrats as being "irresponsible" as he did in his recent speeches regarding the war on terrorism and Iraq, Bush has begun to see an ascent in his polls, which at one point were in the low thirties in job approval.
Also, there is the conservative base to consider. It may never be done, but one wonders what kind of numbers would come up if this poll question were asked of the base:
In my mind, the replacement of Miers for 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals jurist Samuel Alito was nothing short of political divineness. It saved the Bush presidency, and enabled Bush to reestablish himself with his base, and the moderates that voted for him in 2004.
It set Bush up to be able to withstand the withering attack by Democrats and the media, and successfully counterattack with Iraq, and the war on terrorism. With the State of the Union address approaching, Bush must lay out an appropriate -- and doable -- conservative agenda for 2006, and beyond.
Bush may not be running again in 2008, but conservatism is forever running, crafting, and breaking new ground. With these last three years, Bush has an opportunity to shape the political zeitgeist, and curtail liberalism for a generation to come.
This is more than possible, and to some, it is expected. Look no further than the Reagan presidency to see how powerful a single, optimistic voice can be when applied within the exhortation of conservative principles.
There was no Rush Limbaugh for most of Reagan's term; no Internet to fact-check a liberal-poisoned media; no balanced reporting of a Fox News to help tell both sides of a given issue.
In 1980, there was only Ronald Reagan, and his conservative principles. Twenty years later, it is George W. Bush, and these same conservative principles. Bush, and maybe the GOP in general, will not have a better opportunity than they do now at getting it right in Washington.
We have talked about the Republican Party ruling as the majority party in Washington. Let us now talk of a president leading that majority. Success in 2006 -- and beyond -- starts and stops with George W. Bush.
Vincent Fiore is a freelance political writer who lives in New York City. He receives e-mail at
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