Bush Prepares the Battlefield
January 26 2004
After reading the
State of the Union address, one appreciates how much greater a grasp
George W. Bush has of politics than did his father.
For this was the sort of speech one would expect to hear from a
candidate who had just been nominated at his party's convention, not a
president in wartime. It was an acceptance speech, a war map revealing
the terrain where Bush intends to fight the battle of 2004.
"Bring 'Em On!" could have been its subtitle.
Democrats on the campaign trail may be exciting the liberal base by
bashing the Patriot Act, but Bush, in the first minutes of the speech,
threw the glove right in their face. Calling it "an essential tool" that
enables the government "to track terrorists, to disrupt their cells, and
to seize their assets," Bush told Congress, "you need to renew the
Patriot Act" this year.
Message: Liberals may loathe the Patriot Act, you may raise millions in
direct mail decrying it, but you are going to vote on it. And if you
vote to let it expire, I will charge you with disarming America in the
war on terror.
On Iraq, the president fairly bristled with defiance. What he is saying
is this: Perhaps we did not find the weapons we thought were there, but
we did the right thing to destroy that regime, eradicate that threat and
dig the rat out of his hole. And we will see this through to a
democratic and free Iraq. If you want to make the war the issue, go for
Democrats have no such clarity. The party base was opposed to the war,
but the leadership voted for it. To Democrats who say Bush should have
gone to the "international community" or gotten U.N. approval, Bush's
response was in your face. He recited the names of two dozen countries
that support us, then declared to the nation: "There is a difference
between leading a coalition and submitting to the objections of a few.
America will never seek a permission slip to defend the security of our
He is going to play the patriot card and the nationalism card, and they
trump the U.N. card every time.
On domestic issues, Bush praised Congress for passing the No Child Left
Behind Act and the prescription-drug bill, thus reminding the nation
that he, George W. Bush, delivered on what used to be the Democrats'
signature issues. He is now the health-care president and the education
On taxes, Bush told them: You may call them "tax cuts for the rich," but
you will have to exhibit the courage of that conviction:
Congress has some unfinished business on the issue of taxes. The tax
reductions you passed are set to expire. Unless you act, the unfair tax
on marriage will go up. Unless you act, millions of families will be
charged $300 more in federal taxes for every child. Unless you act,
small businesses will pay higher taxes. Unless you act, the death tax
will eventually come back to life. Unless you act, Americans face a tax
Refuse to make my tax cuts permanent, Bush is saying, and I will do to
you exactly what Reagan did to Mondale.
In the culture war, Bush came out for funding for faith-based charities,
for sexual abstinence for young people, against the use of steroids by
athletes and for traditional marriage. This last issue is
nitroglycerine, and Bush handled it gingerly.
Having in mind the Massachusetts court declaration that homosexuals have
a right to marry, Bush declared: "If judges insist on forcing their
arbitrary will upon the people, the only alternative would be the
constitutional process. Our nation must defend the sanctity of
Bush is hinting at support for a constitutional amendment to restrict
marriage to a man and woman. This would sever the socially conservative
working class base of the Democrats from their San Francisco wing.
Poison for the party.
On two issues, Bush indicated he is aware of the mutinous talk inside
his own base. On spending, he promised a budget this year with only a 4
percent increase in discretionary spending.
But on illegal aliens, he was disingenuous, if not worse: "I oppose
amnesty," he said with a straight face, "because it would encourage
further illegal immigration, and unfairly reward those who break our
But that is precisely what his proposal entails.
On many issues – imperial overstretch of U.S. power, loss of
manufacturing jobs, outsourcing of white-collar jobs to Asia, his
failure to protect our borders and his heavy spending habits – Bush is
vulnerable. Unfortunately for Democrats, it is on his right flank, not
© 2003 Creators
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