Bush’s presidency has so far followed the course indicated by study of his past. The only real surprise is the absence of any effort to protect the compassionate image. I always thought it was talk, and now he has forged ahead on his pro-business path without the slightest pass at compassion.
In a mild surprise, he has done a lot of speaking and has been much better prepared than in the past, so as to avoid the embarrassing gaffs of the past. For Republicans, the fact he has not made a complete fool of himself is taken as proof that he is not as stupid as we all thought.
The most interesting surprise is not really a surprise at all, given the fact that his only non-political success was as front man for the Texas Rangers baseball team. Many of us expected that, given his lack of experience, trouble in expressing himself, and elitist views, he would not be the front man for the administration, but would operate as sort of a team cheerleader. In fact he is up front on everything, in many cases pushing cabinet members into the background when they would have been the more appropriate spokesperson. Thinking supporters were always concerned about his smarts and experience, but the great team was supposed to carry the ball. From what we have seen so far, he has his finger in every pie. If anything, Cheney has been a disappointment, appearing up front only with the highly pro-business, anti-environment energy program. In this case, Bush had already made enough harsh statements that drew loud howls of protest so that he undoubtedly wanted to handed it off to Cheney.
The team leader thing is also interesting, for already a number of mistakes have been made that were passed off on cabinet members. It is well to remember that Bush describes the most important quality for a member of the administration as loyalty, that is loyalty to him. This is not the sign of a knowledgeable confident man.
As expected, all of the motion has been in the direction of support for business. He is pushing defense spending, oil exploration, easing environmental restrictions, pulling back on anti-trust, putting hard right people in all the government agencies, etc. He even seems to be pulling back on education in so far as it involves spending money.
While the polls are reasonably favorable, there is evidence of a widening feeling against Bush. It is not just environmentalists, but the dreadfully cocky overbearing public speaking style is a turning people off. I know many who say they can’t listen to him, the speeches are simply deplorable. Reagan used the good guy approach, but in Bush’s case what comes through is the elitism, the selfishness, the absence of a link to the common man.
I predicted that his arrogance and lack of feel for the public interest would get him into trouble, and now trouble has arrived. Here we have a 50-50 senate, which anyone else would have approached tenderly. Perhaps encouraged by the ability of the party to strong arm Republicans who were not happy with his program, especially the tax cut that went mostly to the rich, Bush attempted to ramrod his program through the Senate. Already there are defectors. Now we have the Jeffords situation. Bush tried strong arm tactics, and, appalled, Jeffords has bolted the party. Not normally a sensational deal, but hugely important in a 50-50 situation. All of a sudden, Cheney no longer controls the Senate, thanks to the arrogance of his boss. Nothing is more likely to get you into trouble than arrogance, and Bush has it in spades. I think it is so ingrained that even this setback will not temper the problem.
Clinton was criticized for governing by polls. That is not such a bad thing when the alternative is decision making by people who have little interest in popular causes, who show not a grain of human kindness.