The Road Ahead

Posted: Nov 05, 2004 12:00 AM

 You can?t be half pregnant, partially dead or -- for that matter -- a ?power-sharing? president. You either are the nation?s leader or you aren?t.

 For proof, let?s look back at 2000. Critics claimed that because President Bush hadn?t won a majority of the popular vote, he would have to make deep concessions in the way he governed our divided nation. He didn?t.

 In his acceptance speech in August 2000, Bush had vowed to strengthen the military, to spend more on education, to reform Medicare and to cut taxes. To the chagrin of liberals (and, in some cases, conservatives) he kept all those promises.

 But imagine if he had really tried to share power. With whom would he have shared it? Democratic congressional leaders like Tom Daschle and Nancy Pelosi? Well, they?re not the people who defeated him, so giving them a hand in running the country wouldn?t have made sense.

 In order to really ?share power? Bush would have had to include Al Gore in the decision-making process. It was Gore, after all, who defeated Bush in the 2000 popular vote. Imagine Bush attempting to bring Gore into the loop on, say, 9/11. It would have been next to impossible.

The fact is, in our system there?s a winner who goes to the White House and a loser who goes away -- or in this case at least, back to the Senate -- which may be the same thing.

Still, the president should draw some lessons from this election. After he voted, Bush told reporters, ?I can go on and lead this country and bring people together.? He can, and he should. And he will have to bring people together in order to lead effectively.
Consider the Supreme Court. Chief Justice Rehnquist?s recent health problems simply highlight the fact that, over the next four years, President Bush will be appointing people to the high court. There?s a problem with that: Even though Bush?s Republican Party will have a clear 55-seat majority in the Senate, the 44 Democrats can still block virtually any nominee by using procedural measures.

In order to avoid gridlock, he?ll need to at least involve Democrats in the selection process. But once he does, he should be willing to go to the people and make the case for his nominees, if Democrats still attempt to block them. Most people will see that as fair, and support the president.

Bush also will need to reach out to conservatives. Many on the right are sighing with relief, and no doubt thinking, ?Good. Now we can get back to griping.?

The president needs to do something about spending in his second term. It?s simply out of control. As Brian Riedl has written, the government now spends more than $20,000 per household. We can?t go on like that.

During his first term, Bush seemed intent on buying votes. During the presidential debates, he bragged that his administration had, ?tripled the homeland security budget from $10 billion to $30 billion.? Great, but does simply spending more automatically make us safer?

He added, ?We?re spending $1 billion to come up with [a hydrogen automobile].? Shouldn?t that be developed by automakers, rather than the government? And on and on and on. Bush read off a virtual laundry list of spending that made conservatives cringe. That must change.

As Tim Russert said on NBC, ?The first term was for the voters, the second will be for history.? To make that history, Bush will need to rein in spending, reform Social Security and fix Medicare reform. Oh, and win the war against terrorism. A series of tall orders. But he can accomplish all that and more with the strong support of the American people.

Of course, there are some who will never sign on. The Michael Moore and George Soros types. Hopefully, we?ll see less of Moore in this term. And Soros has vowed to enter a monastery for a time, so he can ?contemplate what is wrong with the people of this country.? Others on the left had vowed to leave the country if Bush was re-elected. The best thing the president can do is stamp their passports.

This year the Kerry campaign made a big deal out of how it was ?fighting.? Even in his concession speech, John Edwards vowed to keep ?fighting.? Well, we?ve had enough. It?s now time for the ?fighting? -- at least among ourselves -- to end. As John McCain said on Election Night, ?The Democrats are not our enemy. Our enemy is al Qaeda.? Democrats should take note of that, too. The GOP isn?t the enemy -- al Qaeda is.

 And for the next four year -- as the last four -- President Bush is 100 percent president. Like it or not.