Jewish World Review March 20, 2002 / 7 Nisan, 5762
http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | FOR good and for bad, American attitudes toward President George W. Bush are coming to resemble those of the World War II generation in Britain toward Sir Winston Churchill.
Just as the Brits rallied to his hawkish stand against the evil of Nazi Germany, so Americans, whether former doves or hawks, back Bush as he takes the war on terror on the road and challenges the evildoers in their international lairs, one after another.
But the British never liked much about Churchill's other ideas. He remained, for them, a troglodyte class warrior who put down unions, sought to snuff out hopes of Irish freedom and clung to outdated notions of imperialism and empire.
As long as the United Kingdom was at war, people wanted Churchill in office. But the moment hostilities in Europe ended, they sent him packing, with their gratitude, and elected Labour Party leader Clement Atlee in 1945.
There are really two George Bushes (not counting the father). The president who leads us against terror, who has our full and undying support, and the domestic-policy Bush who fell short of 50 percent in the 2000 election and has never moved up in our estimation.
What makes this situation unusual is that we really don't give a damn what Bush says or does on anything other than the war on terror.
Politically, this means that Bush can have the presidency for as long as it takes to track down terrorists and tame the international threats that face us. If the task goes beyond 2004, so will the Bush presidency.
In this age of the soundbite and the 30-second advertisement, we have had single-issue senators and congressmen. But George W. Bush is our first single-issue president. And not because he wants to be, but because we require it of him.
No matter how often he speaks out about the economy, health care, social security, Medicare, campaign-finance reform, corporate responsibility or even tax cuts, he has been, is, and will be the war-on-terror president.
Post-9/11 polling suggests that the public screens out all that Bush says about any topic other than terrorism. How else to account for his continued 80 percent approval job rating while his policies on virtually every domestic issue, except for education, poll in the high 30s to the low 40s? Each day Bush trots out of the White House to speak about another issue, all in an attempt to illuminate another aspect of his platform with his personal popularity.
But Americans aren't buying it. We know that this president is uniquely suited to lead us in the international battle against evil, but also realize that his domestic policies fall far short of what we would want from a president were this a time of peace.
He's way too far to the right of America on the environment.
In the aftermath of the recession, it will be some time before anyone is willing to bet their Social Security check on the stock market.
A cool summer and a mild winter have eroded any lingering sense of an energy crisis.
Bush's tax cuts and education reforms are on the books, no longer in play as political issues.
While Bush probably won't veto campaign-finance reform, Americans know he is wary of embracing this widely popular cause.
And if we were to choose a cop to police corporate greed, Bush wouldn't be our first choice.
Will Bush hold Congress in 2002? If the Democrats attack his stands against terror or raise carping questions about each new battle in the war, they will slit their own throats. But voters agree more with the Democrats than with Republicans on every domestic political issue.
So, after the war ends, it's Clement Atlee time.
03/15/02: Europe doesn't have a clue