NEW YORK -- Eight years after Bill Clinton announced that "the era of big government is over," President Bush told cheering delegates as he accepted the nomination of his party for a second term that the era of smaller government is over.
In speaking of what he wants government to do, rather than what government should not do, Bush is more in the mold of Richard Nixon than Ronald Reagan. But these are no longer Reagan times, and this is no longer the 20th century.
The war started by terrorists isn't cold, but red hot, and the president vowed to continue fighting their fire with an inferno of his own. More than once he embraced liberty for others as an objective of American policy and a solution to conflict and war. He defended his doctrine of pre-emption and vowed, "We will extend the frontiers of freedom."
Domestically, the president proposed no new programs but promised to reform the tax code to create a "simpler, fairer, pro-growth system." That is easier pledged than accomplished, as others who have tried and failed can testify. He also asked Congress (again) to make the tax cuts permanent.
There was something for every group the president is trying to reach, or whose vote he already has.
Health care? He promised to allow small businesses to purchase health care at discounts available to big companies and to encourage companies and individuals to sign up for personal health savings accounts.
Social Security? He'll guarantee it for older people, but he wants younger workers to be able to set aside personal funds in accounts "government can never take away."
He wants to raise education performance, create an "ownership society" in which 7 million more families will be able to afford new homes over the next 10 years. He asked Congress to pass medical liability reform to help reduce the cost of medicine. That's been tried before, too, but it has been stifled by the powerful trial lawyers lobby.
The president said he would "restrain" federal spending. "Reduce" would have been a better word, because "restrain" sounds like slowing down the rate of growth and this president has presided over huge increases in federal spending, much of which is unrelated to fighting terror.
The "values" issues were mentioned to keep social conservatives happy: "We must make a place for the unborn child;" marriage is "a union between a man and woman;" and he "supports the protection of marriage against activist judges."
Cal Thomas is co-author (with Bob Beckel) of the book, "Common Ground: How to Stop the Partisan War That is Destroying America".
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