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Jewish World Review Jan. 22, 2002 / 9 Shevat, 5762

Dick Morris

Dick Morris
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Consumer Reports

His father's son? Bush better get an 'Act II' fast! -- PRESIDENT George Bush, former President George Bush, and the New York Jets have something in common. They can't protect a lead.

Bush's first year in office divides itself up into quarters. In the first quarter, he had a good offense, cutting the deals that would give him his tax cut and laying the basis for his historic education reforms. The Democrats put some points on the board with their criticism of his environmental obtuseness, but his ratings looked good.

In the second quarter, even though he got to sign his tax cut, it was clear that Bush had no offense going. Once he had slashed income taxes and untracked his education reform, he had no agenda. Democrats pushed for a patients' bill of rights, stem cell research, the Kyoto global warming treaty, coverage for prescription drugs for the elderly, and campaign finance reform. Bush played defense throughout. Elected to cut the size of government, he had no follow through once he had achieved his goal.

In the third quarter, disaster struck America with the World Trade Center and Pentagon bombings. Bush etched a place for himself in history with his stand-up, take charge style as he calmly piloted the nation to a victory in Afghanistan and enough security to frustrate further terrorist attacks. Refraining from premature reaction to the events of 9-11, the president achieved a global consensus and then closed in on the Taliban with a gradual strangulation, all without much loss of American life.

His ratings, justifiably, soared.

But, in the fourth quarter of his first year, Bush is making clear that he is no better than his father was at holding a lead. He simply doesn't have an act two.

  • He could invade Iraq and put Saddam Hussein out of business.

  • He could rally the nation to eradicate the drug producers of South America and smash the narco-terrorists who defend them.

  • He could get serious about curbing the domestic demand for drugs by implementing drug testing in schools and in the workplace.

  • He could reform our immigration system to keep out terrorists by cutting back on student visas, finding those who are here illegally, and vastly expanding our capacity for deportation.

  • He could establish a "earned citizenship" program for Mexican-Americans here illegally where they can become first legal and then citizens if they go for a certain period of time with out being arrested, submit to drug tests, earn money, and pay their taxes.

  • He could take the lead in Medicare and Social Security reform.

  • He could initiate a values agenda to encourage community service, a patriotic commitment to helping our fellow Americans, and substantially increased donations to charity by proposing a tax credit for charitable contributions.

But he isn't.

The Bush handlers are so good at defense that you think they enjoy it more than scoring.

They have successfully avoided being tarred with the Enron scandal, although they had better make up their minds to abandon their claim of executive privilege over documents Congress wants, lest they appear as guilty as Clinton always did.

Nobody thinks Bush doesn't care about the recession and everyone knows that he's pushed a stimulus package to help cure it.

Bush has managed to blunt the attack on his Attorney General for the supposed abridgment of the rights of suspected terrorists.

But, as Winston Churchill said after the escape of the British and much of the French Army from France one step ahead of Hitler's army, "wars are not won by evacuations."

Bush needs to seize control over events with offense.

He can't lean on his ratings any more than a football team can sit on its lead in the fourth quarter. If the only initiatives are coming from the Democrats, Bush will fall victim to the same conundrum that baffled him before 9-11 - how does a president who believes in less government, govern? How can you lead a nation when you don't believe in an enlarged public sector. Bush fumbled for an answer throughout the late spring and summer of 2001. His father groped for one in the year after the Gulf War.

The Bushes better figure it out. Otherwise, it will be like father, like son.

JWR contributor Dick Morris is the author of, among others, The New Prince. Comment by clicking here.


01/18/01: Dubya & the 'vision thing'
01/14/01: The Rumsfeld Doctrine 01/03/01: A President Gore would have been a disaster
01/03/02: Clinton's priority: Political correctness over fighting terror
12/27/01: Terror network grew out of Clinton's inaction, despite warnings
12/24/01: Call 'em back, George
12/18/01: What Bush did right
12/13/01: Libs worry too much
12/11/01: "Open Sesame": Feinstein's proposed bill allows 100,000 non-immigrant students from anti-American countries to our shores
12/07/01: The non-partisan president
12/05/01: Both parties are phony on stimulus debate
11/29/01: When terrorists can enter legally, it's time to change the laws
11/21/01: Go for the jugular!
11/16/01: You are all incumbents
11/14/01: Clinton's failure to mobilize America to confront foreign terror after the 1993 attack led directly to 9-11 disaster
11/12/01: To the generals: Don't worry about losing support
11/08/01: The death of the white liberal
11/07/01: Our leaders are being transformed in a way unprecedented in post-World War II history

© 2001, Dick Morris