President Bush has put a man, Gen. David Petraeus, and a plan, the counterinsurgency surge, into action to bring about positive results. There's nothing more he can do, except report back to the American people about the progress. To his credit, President Bush understands that success in Iraq is more important than triumph in the polls. He knows that presidents who take principled but unpopular positions are usually rewarded by history for their courage, and that his unyielding stance in defiance of the global jihad is his moral duty. He needs now to move past Iraq and return to a domestic agenda that is being hijacked by overreaching liberal Democrats.
What the president needs to do is to lay out an agenda for the country and sharply contrast his principled vision with the shapeless, cynical vacuum that is Democrat domestic policy. Democrats want to raise taxes. They want to balloon spending. They want federal hate crimes legislation and to take away union members' right to a secret ballot. These extreme positions can be opposed, and vetoes on them sustained. More importantly, the president can use these issues to sharply contrast his own world view from that of the Democrats.
George W. Bush can be a great leader when he wants to be. Now he needs to be. No one will agree with everything he proposes, but the courage to propose a positive, substantive, conservative agenda in the face of constant criticism will win him a few points. Taking the fight to the Democrats rather than just trying to counterpunch on the war will put him on better footing, too. A legislative breakthrough or two would be nice, too, perhaps bringing moderate Democrats around on extending investment tax cuts and vetoing a pork-laden spending bill. These things are eminently possible.
What the president needs is to do is fill the unforgiving year-and-a-half left of his term with 18 months of Texas tough. He's got it in him, and the country needs it now more than ever.
Tom DeLay is the former House Majority Leader, the second ranking leader in the United States House of Representatives, and co-author of No Retreat, No Surrender: One American's Fight.