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Jewish World Review Jan. 4, 2001 / 9 Teves, 5761

George Will

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Consumer Reports


Bush's picks reveal Right attitude


http://www.jewishworldreview.com -- IT IS A LAW of the political universe from which, due to an oversight on the part of Providence, George Bush is not exempt: When a Democrat wins a presidential election he is said to have received a mandate to keep his promises, but when a Republican wins he is said to have acquired a duty to be "statesmanlike" by trimming his promises to suit "bipartisanship."

However, Bush's Cabinet selections communicate his conviction that the election, although close, awarded him 100 percent of the presidency, and he intends to use all of it. The selections also bespeak his confidence and conservatism.

Last fall the media criticized Dick Cheney's low-voltage campaigning - at least until Cheney took Joe Lieberman to school during their debate. Now the stories are that Cheney is such a dynamo he overshadows Bush. But Bush's selection of Cheney indicated, as have subsequent personnel decisions, how confident Bush is in surrounding himself with strong, seasoned people such as Colin Powell and Don Rumsfeld.

With the transition almost cut in half by the Florida unpleasantness, Rumsfeld has the crucial advantage of already knowing the complex culture in the building - all 17.5 miles of Pentagon corridors - he must manage. Furthermore, Rumsfeld chaired the Commission to Assess the Ballistic Missile Threat. By nominating Rumsfeld, Bush strongly reaffirms his promise of defenses against ballistic missiles.

Critics say missile defenses will aggravate Russia by requiring substantial revision, even renunciation of the 29-year old ABM Treaty. Rumsfeld will have the stature to oppose Powell if Powell acquires the State Department penchant for avoiding friction with Russia. (During the Rumsfeld commission's work, this axiom was heard: The State Department is like tundra - anything you do to it improves it.)

Tommy Thompson has been the nation's most tenaciously innovative governor regarding welfare reform tied to work requirements. He has presided over the reduction of the number of Wisconsin's welfare families from 98,000 to 6,700 since 1986. He will become secretary of Health and Human Services at a crucial moment.

The most important congressional act of the last decade was the 1996 Welfare Reform Act, which repealed a 61-year-old open-ended entitlement to welfare - Aid to Families with Dependent Children - and set a five-year lifetime limit. It has been a rousing success - welfare rolls have been cut in half.

But it has succeeded in optimum circumstances, during an unprecedented economic expansion. And the welfare recipients easiest to move into the work force have been moved. Now the economy is slowing, and the five-year limit will soon begin to bite. Thompson brings a governor's perspective to what is, post-1996, largely the responsibility of governors.

The most important, and baneful, congressional act of this decade might be passage of the McCain-Feingold bill, "campaign finance reform" expanding government regulation of political speech. If John McCain is right in thinking he now has 60 votes to break a Senate filibuster, the arrival on Bush's desk of McCain-Feingold will be an early test of Bush's toughness in Washington: Is he impervious to the disapproval of McCain's base, the media?

McCain, who has threatened to disrupt the Senate unless he gets his way, says passage of his bill would be "one of the best ways Gov. Bush could reach out to Democrats." But another election season has come and gone and what Kentucky Republican Mitch McConnell - McCain's nemesis and the First Amendment's best friend in the Senate - has long said is still true: No one has ever lost an election because he or she opposed campaign-finance reform.

In 2000 two candidates, McCain and Bill Bradley, made reform central to their campaigns. Their campaigns expired early. Bush won 100 percent of the presidency.



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Up

01/02/01: Prosperity in perspective
12/28/00: Soft landing in a spoiled nation
12/26/00: When laws replace common sense
12/21/00: Beware the 'Bipartisanship'
12/18/00: ... A Brief Moment
12/13/00: Judicial activism on trial
12/11/00: Truth optional
12/06/00: A Chastened Court
12/01/00: Counting on some slippery language
11/28/00: Florida's rogue court
11/27/00: This willful court
11/22/00: Ferocity gap
11/17/00: Slow-motion larceny
11/13/00: Gore, Hungry for Power
11/09/00: No, the System Worked
11/06/00: The case for Bush
11/03/00: The Framers' Electoral wisdom
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10/23/00: No Partners For Peace
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05/08/00: Home-Run Glut
05/04/00: A Lesson Plan for Gore
05/01/00: The Hijacking of the Primaries
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04/17/00: A Judgment Against Hate
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02/07/00: Free to Speak, Free to Give
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01/31/00: America's true unity day
01/27/00: For the Voter Who Can't Be Bothered
01/25/00: The FBI and the golden age of child pornography
01/20/00: Scruples and Science
01/18/00: Bradley: Better for What Ails Us
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01/03/00: The long year
12/31/99: A Stark Perspective On a Radical Century
12/20/99: Soldiers' Snapshots of the Hell They Created
12/16/99: Star-Crossed Banner
12/13/99: Hubert Humphrey Wannabe
12/09/99: Stupidity in Seattle
12/06/99: Bradley's most important vote
12/03/99: Boys will be boys --- or you can always drug 'em
12/01/99: Confidence in the Gore Camp
11/29/99: Busing's End
11/22/99: When We Enjoyed Politics
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11/15/99: The Politics of Sanctimony
11/10/99: Risks of Restraining
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10/21/99: Where honor and responsibility still exist
10/18/99: Is Free Speech Only for the Media?
10/14/99: A Beguiling Amateur
10/11/99: Money in Politics: Where's the Problem?
10/08/99: Soft Thinking On Soft Money

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