The crucial initiative to revamp Social Security, the first thing put on the table by a confident, newly re-elected President Bush, has now gone by the wayside. Why? Why didn't the Bush Administration ever deliver a specific proposal? Re-tooling our national retirement system would have been the biggest reform of government since the New Deal, substantially affecting practically every working American. Given change of this magnitude, why was there no address on television with the president sharing his convictions with the American public? Most recently, in response to political pressure, the president reversed his decision to wave Davis-Bacon wage guidelines in post-Katrina construction.
In a column in the New York Times, Ken Duberstein, former Reagan chief of staff, offers advice to our beleaguered president through recounting changes that were made when Reagan's popularity was dipping in the beginning of his second term. Duberstein talks about bringing in "new blood" and about changes in organization and procedures. He says they "stopped tilting at windmills."
But can this really be the whole story?
Everyone should read former Reagan speechwriter Peter Robinson's account of Reagan's famous "tear down this wall" speech in Berlin. This took place in 1987, about the time when the changes Duberstein writes about were occurring. Robinson relates that practically everyone, from the ranking American diplomat in Berlin, to the staff of the National Security Council, to the State Department, insisted that Reagan not make these provocative remarks in Berlin. Despite persistent attempts to change the speech and delete the controversial challenge, it stayed in. It stayed in because Ronald Reagan wanted it to stay.
The rest, as the say, is history.
Andrew Jackson said that "one man with courage makes a majority."
The Washington operatives have many clever tactics to propose to George Bush on how to revitalize his presidency. Most of this advice, in the spirit of the political class, will obsess with appearances rather than content.
I think George Bush can revitalize his presidency by taking advice from one man. Himself. He should search his soul about what he truly believes is in the interest of America and its future and go for it - regardless of what the political experts claim can or cannot be done.
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