George Will

-- The Bush administration's really lawless unilateralism was its 21 months of steel tariffs. The imposition of them, for purely political reasons, was reprehensible. The manner of lifting them, after two adverse rulings by the World Trade Organization and the credible threat of politically costly retaliations, was disgraceful. In a perverse tribute to the centennial of the birth of George Orwell, who said insincerity is the enemy of clear language, the administration, showing contempt for the public's intelligence, insisted on lifting the tariffs without using the word ``tariffs,'' preferring the Orwellean locution ``temporary steel safeguard measures.'' And the administration, which is struggling to have its words about Iraq taken seriously, insisted that the sudden lifting of the tariffs, 15 months early, had nothing to do with the WTO and everything to do with ``changed economic circumstances,'' and the alleged fact that the tariffs ``have now achieved their purpose.'' If Democrats strenuously oppose unilateralism, why has the president's belated conformity to international norms been denounced by the two leading Democratic candidates, Howard Dean and Dick Gephardt?

-- For the July-September quarter, economic growth was 8.2 percent, the fastest since 1984, productivity growth was 9.4 percent, the fastest since 1983, and manufacturing reached its highest level since 1983. Is it pure coincidence that in 1983-84, as today, the nation was deep into the first term of a tax-cutting Republican administration?

-- Although unemployment declined in November for the fourth consecutive month, Democrats say job creation is alarming because it is slow relative to the economy's growth. But Fortune magazine reports that although manufacturing jobs have declined 16 percent since the summer of 2000, ``factories are producing more than they ever have.'' Over the past two decades steel production has increased from 75 million tons in 1982 to 102 million tons in 2002 -- but whereas 289,000 workers were required to produce the 75 million tons, just 74,000 workers produced the 102 million. Do Democrats believe this increased productivity is an economic misfortune?

-- In the last nine presidential elections (1968-2000), the 11 states of the Confederacy, plus Kentucky and Oklahoma, have awarded 1,385 electoral votes. Democratic candidates have won just 270 (20 percent) of them. Which Deanisms -- the war is bad, same-sex civil unions are good, Americans are undertaxed -- will be most helpful to Democrats down there?

Just wondering.

George Will

George F. Will is a 1976 Pulitzer Prize winner whose columns are syndicated in more than 400 magazines and newspapers worldwide.
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