Bush Needs To Work On A New Domestic Order

Wanted: the kind of strong Oval Office leadership on domestic affairs that galvanized the international coalition against Saddam Hussein and executed Operation Desert Storm. All of U.S. legislative history shows that unless the President sets an agenda, there can be no effective domestic policy. That's why there are questions about the leadership of George Bush.

The President is correct to resist the rising congressional pressure for a quick-fix tax cut to jump-start the economy, but he has not made his case so the country can understand it. The result is that his position is seen as head-in-the-sand obstructionism instead of leadership, and that undermines confidence in his economic program. A domestic equivalent of Bush's New World Order is needed.

Leadership is required even if Bush chooses to stand pat on a broad macroeconomic stimulus. Other domestic policies are in a shambles. When Desert Storm ended in triumph, Bush told a joint session of Congress that he wanted it to send him transportation and anticrime bills within 100 days. He got neither one, nor did he get the capital-gains cut or the bank reform bill that he wanted. Yes, the Democratic Congress bears much of the blame. And yes, domestic policy is more contentious than foreign policy, but it's hard to escape the conclusion that his aides can't deliver the goods.

Many GOP members of the House acknowledged the need for additional domestic policy clout in the White House when 81 of them signed a petition on Nov. 22 endorsing Housing & Urban Development Secretary Jack Kemp as a domestic policy czar. Kemp is probably unacceptable to the White House, but those who are proposing a vigorous domestic adviser are on the right track. In foreign policy, Bush has Jim Baker to rely on; in the Gulf War, he could lean on the strong shoulders of Dick Cheney, Colin Powell, and Stormin' Norman Schwarzkopf. Domestically, his top advisers are Chief of Staff John Sununu, Budget Director Dick Darman, and Treasury Secretary Nick Brady. The record speaks for itself. The foreign policy team delivers the goods; the domestic one doesn't. President Bush should act like a Chief Executive and shake up his domestic team.

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