John Leo

 Are you excited about going to the moon and Mars? Neither am I. With the nation drowning in debt and facing great peril from the Islamofascists, calling for billions to put a man on Mars can't possibly be on any plausible list of the top 500 government priorities. But politics now is mostly a matter of managing impressions. And in this game, cost-free impressions are the most highly prized. (Cost-free to the impression-maker, not to the future voters, Congresses, and presidents who would have to come up with the money.)

The president's space idea is his second questionable announcement of the week. His semi-disguised amnesty for illegal aliens will function as a strong incentive for more illegal entries. It isn't tied to any vigorous action by Mexico to slow the flow. As the nation's second broad amnesty plan, it announces, in effect, that the United States is abandoning efforts to control its borders. On the other hand, it makes a good impression, not only with Hispanic voters but also with moderate suburban white voters who tend to think of Republicans as hard-hearted immigrant-bashers.

Democrats keep saying that President Bush is governing from the right. What they mean by this is uncertain, since the Bush domestic program pretty much tramples most conservative and Republican principles. Limited government and balanced budgets, for example, are hard to square with huge tax cuts, refusal to do anything about the coming bankruptcy of Social Security, and the nearly half-a-trillion-dollar expansion of Medicare.

Vice President Dick Cheney's reported comment on deficits to former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill is simply hair- raising. "Reagan proved that deficits don't matter," Cheney said, according to O'Neill. "We won the midterms. This is our due." Under what theory of government does a narrow midterm victory create a right to dramatically expand the deficit? Was there any genuine concern about economic policy or long-term impact on the country? If so, either Cheney didn't express it or O'Neill didn't remember it. As the conversation is reported, Cheney apparently thinks deficits are just a political prize due for winning a few seats in Congress.

John Leo

John Leo is editor of and a former contributing editor at U.S. News and World Report.

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