TCS Daily

A Mandate... for Reorganization

By Uriah Kriegel - November 3, 2004 12:00 AM

As someone who supported President Bush for reelection on these pages, I cannot be happier about the election results. Bush's mandate is this time uncontestable. Not only has we won Ohio and Florida quite handily, he probably had a hand in widening the Republican majority in the Senate.

However, this outstanding victory brings a danger with it to the GOP. The danger is a certain kind of hubris that may take the Republicans too far to the right to make it as attractive in the next pair of election cycles. If the GOP knows what's good for it, it would use this victory to lay a claim to the American center, rather than veer to the right.

It is crucial that Bush not mishandle his newfound mandate. The president must keep in mind how intensely half of the country he is to govern dislikes him. But his mandate offers him an opportunity to reach out to the disenchanted part of the country.

The way to do that is to reorganize his cabinet and his agenda -- in significant, not only nominal ways -- along moderate lines. More specifically, it might be useful to replace some of the more controversial figures in the cabinet, and then offer one big policy peace leaf to the left.

First of all, Ashcroft must go. Not because he has done a bad job, but because he scares too many of our countrymen. Indeed, getting rid of Ashcroft might be the surest way to solidify support for the PATRIOT Act and its provisions for fighting terrorism. We need a hawkish Attorney General, but there is no need to make him or her also a religious conservative. Indeed, doing the latter might be counter-productive, as far as public opinion goes, with respect to the former.

Second, it may be time for Secretary Rumsfeld, who in my personal opinion has done a fantastic job these past four years, to graciously get out of the picture. Rumsfeld is 76 years old and is closely associated in the nation's mind with a certain cockiness that characterized the Bush administration planning for post-war Iraq reconstruction.

Importantly in this context, there are enough good hands in the Republican world in which to entrust national defense. I am thinking first and foremost of Rudy Giuliani. His 9/11 leadership places him in a perfect spot to take over America's defense responsibilities. At the same time, introducing a moderate, pro-choice Republican like him could do marvels for national unity.

John McCain is another moderate President Bush should find a way to introduce into his inner circle. Likely Secretary Powell will step down, and Bush would do well to put a welcoming face in Foggy Bottom.

It would also be something of a coup if Bush could get a hawkish Democrat of stature into his cabinet. Evan Bayh and Joe Biden may have too serious a sight on the 2008 Democratic nomination to enter a Republican administration. But Joe Lieberman is a natural person to embrace in this context.

Bush must also make a significant step by way of compromising on one of the central tenets of his agenda. Raising taxes is clearly out of question for him. But a bombshell announcement on, say, stem cell research or immigration, may do wonders to mollify his more intense critics and go some distance towards reunifying the nation. Hopefully, such a move can be sold to his base precisely as such -- as a token of respect for the other half of the nation. Such a gesture would betray another type of genuine patriotism.

In other words, Bush's impressive victory should occasion a reorganization of some of the core principles of his governing philosophy. Or perhaps not so much his governing philosophy as his governing practice. Moreover, Bush must do so aggressively, right from the first days of his second term.

If he avoids the traps of hubris, George W. Bush could make the long promised "Emerging Republican Majority" a reality, by staking a credible claim to the moderate center of the American electorate, with aggressive foreign and economic policies tempered with an inclusive social agenda. If Bush plays his cards wisely, he could keep Democrats out of power for a decade. But to do so, hubris must be avoided.


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