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Jewish World Review Dec. 18, 2000 / 21 Kislev, 5761

James Freeman

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Making assumptions about President Dubyah --
WHAT KIND of President will George W. Bush make? Tough to say at this point, but we can make a few assumptions. The first is that he'll run the White House with a great deal of professionalism. I'm not sure where the trains are going, but I'll bet that they run on time.

Last summer, the difference between the Republican and Democratic conventions was striking. At the Republican gathering in Philly, speakers arrived at the podium on time, left on time, delivered messages approved by the campaign, and appeared on television talk shows only as directed. Almost nobody said a word about Bush without checking first with the campaign press office.

The discipline was amazing, and it extended to every aspect of the event. During the four days of the convention, I never noticed a logistical glitch of any kind. In fact, it almost didn't feel like a political event, it was so businesslike, even military, in its precision and predictability.

The Democrats' L.A. convention was a different story, and a lot more fun to cover. Okay, it wasn't fun waiting for the shuttle buses that never arrived, but overall it was exciting and unpredictable. There was passion, there were unscripted comments from politicians in the hallways. At one point retiring Nebraska Senator Bob Kerrey was delivering what should have been a somber speech about American veterans, but for some reason he had this odd grin on his face. Apparently he couldn't read the prompter once he sat down in his assigned seat next to a man in a wheelchair, so he had to wing it as he tried to narrate a video.

In prime time at the L.A. convention, you had Senator Ted Kennedy and Jesse Jackson telling people what they really believe instead of trying not to offend swing voters. You had the VP furiously trying to finish a speech that probably should have been written weeks before the event. It was an entertaining and engaging circus.

George W. Bush ran his organization more like a business, so we can expect that the Bush White House will move forward with similar efficiency. The question is: Where is it going? Burned by his father, many conservatives half expect George W. Bush to break their hearts. I think he may pleasantly surprise them.

W.'s track record in Texas shows that he chooses just a few issues where he wants to make an impact and then pursues his goals with a businesslike focus. His history also suggests that he doesn't get discouraged in the face of powerful enemies; he took on the trial lawyers and won, signing a state law to limit junk lawsuits.

With little interest in domestic affairs, W.'s father allowed himself to be talked into raising taxes and expanding environmental and workplace regulations. But George W. isn't waiting for things to appear in his in-box. He's already settled on his short list of domestic priorities: tax cuts, reform of entitlement programs and accountability in government-run schools.

The course is set; the goals are clear. He's not saying that he wants to create a kinder, gentler atmosphere. He's coming to town with a specific agenda, and a breakthrough on any one of his core issues would probably make him a successful president. The new President Bush also has the advantage of being able to learn from his father's mistakes.

His father arrived in the White House on the heels of a landslide victory. George W. Bush didn't achieve similar success at the polls, but there's reason to believe that he'll be a better President.

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