A BuzzFlash Reader Commentary
Don't Fall for Bush's Self-Serving 'Bipartisanship'
January 24, 2002
by Charlie Clark
In a little-noted interview on "Meet the Press" this month, thrice-rejected presidential candidate Patrick Buchanan made a startling admission: On Election Day 2000, more Florida voters awoke intending to vote for Al Gore than for George W. Bush.
No other Republican spokesman, for obvious tactical reasons, has been honest enough to acknowledge what many Americans have been resigned to for 13 months.
I mention this not to argue that Bush is not our true president-hey, he's been sworn in and is prosecuting an effective war against terrorism. But a glance back to the Florida recount mess reminds us that the Democratic ticket won 55 million votes, or 540,000 more than the mandateless ticket that took over the White House.
Applied to the here and now, this means Democrats and the many independents uneasy with Bush's rightward governing agenda should not be shrinking violets. They owe it to the common good to oppose radical Bush priorities that GOP tacticians are scheming to ram through while singing songs about wartime "bipartisanship." I'm talking about tax giveaways to big business, unilateral withdrawal from the Kyoto and ABM treaties, wasteful missile defense, oil drilling in the Arctic wildlife refuge, and promiscuous (Enron who?) deregulation.
Next week, the Bush White House will unveil its first full-blown budget. I hope more Americans than usual will scrutinize its numbers (not just its lip service) and honestly debate competing visions of our future.
The entire document will be built around preserving last year's lopsided, elitist tax cut, which Bush insisted be stretched over 10 years, despite agreement by all experts that no one can reliably forecast the economy's condition even a year into the future.
The past six months have sneaked a few changes into the equation: the war, the recession, state budget shortfalls, and federal deficits that Bush never mentioned when he promised a free lunch of returning the surplus to the people without pain or tough choices.
Now that he is governing and not campaigning, Bush must "square the circle" and explain how we can pay for the war, the new security measures, and the rebuilding of Afghanistan, and still meet the clear demands for providing a seniors' prescription drug benefit, bolstering social security for the baby boomers, and paying down national debt.
Instead, we get Bush's not-exactly-bipartisan vow that "not over my dead body will they raise your taxes." It was not only bad syntax. It was unpresidential, in poor taste during wartime, and perhaps as politically short-sighted as his father's doomed "no new taxes" pledge. (Note that the younger Bush hasn't repeated it.)
Bush's team likes to sell the tax cut as a cure for the recession. The only problem with that little fib is that the plan was hatched during an economic boom in 1999. The true motive behind the tax cut was ideological-to starve the government of revenues for social spending and to reward rich supporters. It was also political-to allow Republican candidates to gleefully pounce and shout, "You're raising taxes" whenever a Democrat so much as questions Bush's priorities.
Public backslapping with Ted Kennedy notwithstanding, the strategy is for Bush to propose highly conservative, pro-business legislation, say, his energy plan or his so-called economic stimulus, and rush it through the Republican House without a peep of debate. Then Bush, who personally isn't up to debating complex issues, goes on the hustings to recite slogans to all-Republican audiences: "We need jobs." (Who could disagree?) Then he paints the Senate as "holding up" his flawless, universally loved legislation because Tom Daschle is "obstructionist" and, it is implied, unpatriotic. (Funny how Republican Senators were never called that when they blocked the Clinton agenda.)
Because Daschle must run the whole Senate while Republicans control the other branches, it fell to safe-seat Senator Kennedy to utter the words that responsible leaders should correct the budget distortions imposed by Bush's holy-grail tax cut. After all, President Reagan trimmed back his tax cuts in 1982, and Florida Gov. Jeb Bush just postponed his.
What would it take for Bush to see reason on taxes? Half-trillion-dollar deficits? Pressure to abolish the Labor Department? Why should America, less than a year after boasting history's largest budget surpluses, suddenly have to savage spending for such worthy endeavors as the Smithsonian, which is already so strapped it has to sell its exhibit space to wealthy ideological donors?
Bush's idea of bipartisanship recalls the old playground con of "Let's compromise and do it my way." Not only are liberals and moderates justified in resisting it, they would be unpatriotic not to.
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Contributed by BuzzFlash Reader Charlie Clark
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