News Analysis: President Bush

One can’t tune into a television news program these days without seeing an amiable President George W. Bush chumming it up with Capital Hill Democrats – even ones named Kennedy. But while the President has created the veneer and image of bipartisanship in an attempt to fulfill his campaign pledge to be ‘a uniter not a divider,’ his actual agenda has failed to fulfill that promise.

Whether it be in his cabinet appointments, his plan to coordinate Federal social service activity with faith-based charity work, or in signing an executive order eliminating federal funding for groups that provide abortion counseling oversees, President Bush’s actual policy goals have raised concerns with Democratic lawmakers.

Bush’s unveiling of his $1.6 trillion dollar tax cut proposal this week, from which the top 1 percent of income earners stand to reap 30 percent of the benefit, further increased Democratic skepticism.
‘I think, frankly that we have been in the land of happy rhetoric for so long they now have to turn some of this stuff into deeds,’ said Representative Ellen O. Tauscher, Democrat of California to the Associated Press.

Democratic doubts about President Bush’s bipartisanship began with his nomination of John Ashcroft for Attorney General. Ashcroft’s views on abortion and civil rights made many Democrats uneasy about his willingness to enforce existing civil rights and abortion rights statutes. Ashcroft’s acceptance of an honorary degree from Bob Jones University, which has imposed a moratorium on interracial dating, and his campaign against Ronnie White, an African-American state judge nominated for the federal bench, left many Democrats wondering about Bush’s spirit of cooperation.

‘Senator Ashcroft’s past statements and actions have given understandable suspicions to many citizens – particularly some of those whose rights, historically, have been most at risk – that he will not lead the department in a manner that will protect them,’ said Senator Joseph Lieberman D-CT, during the debate over Ashcroft’s nomination.

Ashcroft critics assert that he has worked unceasingly to criminalize abortion, and has worked to limit the availability of abortion while Attorney General of Missouri. During the campaign President Bush suggested that, if elected, he would deprioritize abortion as an issue. Bush’s executive order, signed on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, restricting Federal funds for foreign family planning groups that offer abortion services, combined with Ashcroft’s pro-life beliefs, have deeply disturbed abortion rights advocates.

Bush has also refused to compromise on campaign finance reform, rejecting most of the substance of the McCain-Feingold bipartisan campaign finance reform bill in a private meeting with Senator John McCain last week. Bush has also refused to address the proposed patient’s bill of rights, co-sponsored by Edward Kennedy and McCain.

‘Bush is preaching bipartisanship,’ said Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe to the Associated Press, ‘while McCain is actually practicing it.’

Bush supporters claim that tax cuts and abortion aren’t indicative of Bush’s capacity for compromise, and are quick to point out that Bush has already shown himself to be open to cooperation on education reform, a claim that many Democrats concede to be true.

While Bush may not have proved to be a genuine supporter of bipartisan legislation, he has demonstrated a high political IQ. Bush’s rhetoric never acknowledges the narrowness of his victory in the electoral college, nor does he make a point of the fact that he lost the popular vote. By moving forward decisively with his campaign agenda Bush is claiming a mandate to govern. Further, Bush’s understanding of the public’s desire for bipartisanship, which he learned to use to his advantage while Governor of Texas, has led to his administration’s continued public overtures to the Democrats.

Just what is the end result of all these bipartisan rumblings? A 57 percent job-approval rating for President Bush, according to the latest Gallup poll. So while Bush continues down his campaign checklist paying little attention to Democratic policy concerns, don’t expect the rhetoric to disappear in the near future.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this article.