GUEST COLUMNIST (The Daily Brew) April 29, 2001 -- Ahh, the arbitrary 100 day mark.
How's Bush doing? Hard to tell. With the exception of stepping all over his feet anytime he gets in front of a camera, he doesn't seem to be doing much. As promised, Bush has subcontracted out all of the real work of the White House to other, more competent, men. And maybe that's the point.
When Clinton came into office, the right promised us doom, disaster and despair. As Clinton's 1993 budget passed without a single Republican vote, up and down the aisle the GOP leadership predicted a total economic collapse, with the loss of millions of jobs. Then a funny thing happened. The Clinton economic blueprint worked.
Interest rates and unemployment fell. Shortly thereafter, a whole host of social ills that are rooted primarily in economics began to improve. Crime rates fell. Out of wedlock births fell. Home ownership rates rose. Record deficits turned into record surpluses. Prosperity blossomed.
In the face of all this good news, the right had to change tactics; and they did. Instead of predicting that Clintonomics would destroy America, they retreated to the claim that the President was irrelevant. Sure, times were good, but Bill Clinton, (and his economic plan they had derided), deserved none of the credit. The right claimed that the record economic expansion of the 1990's occurred in spite of, not because of, Clinton. Or even less plausibly, that it was Reagan who deserved the credit.
The good times were so persistent and long lived that the right was forced to keep on making this claim right up until the day they stole the White House. So now, having lectured for years that the President doesn't matter, the right has installed a man who could not be more well suited to prove their point. And give Bush credit, he appears to be staying the course.
Bush's role isn't so much as leader of the free world, but rather as its figurehead. It is the same role he played as the General Manager of the Texas Rangers. But while Bush could pull off being the front man for a baseball team, no one, including Bush himself, even pretends that Bush is up to the job of the Presidency. To be fair, no one has ever claimed otherwise. While Bush spent much of last year pretending to be a "compassionate conservative" or a "reformer with results", Bush never claimed to have any deep understanding, or even interest in, public or foreign policy. Bush comes as advertised; ignorant of the nuances of complex policy questions and world affairs, and willing to rely on the advice of others to set his agenda.
The problems came when the White House quickly made a series of blunders inflaming the left already sensitized by the theft of the White House. But since it is almost a certainty that those decisions were made not by Bush, but rather by his political and policy teams, it would be plainly unfair to ask Bush to answer hard questions about policies he did not craft and he does not understand. It should therefore be no surprise that the White House quickly canceled formal press conferences, preferring scripted affairs which only allow Bush to read prepared remarks from the teleprompter.
But you can't keep the President hidden forever, so this week, right at the tail end of the "100 day Presidential evaluation period" Bush went on the "Good Morning America" show. Whether out of ignorance or sloth, he promptly changed a thirty year policy of ambiguity on America's commitment to defend Taiwan.
But that's OK, because the President doesn't matter. The GOP told us so. Dick Cheney and the rest of the White House spin team quickly lined up in front of the cameras and solemnly intone that US policy hasn't changed. The subliminable message seems to be: "Don't pay any attention to anything the President says, he doesn't matter."
For our sake, let's hope they are right.
© 2001 The Daily BrewRECENTLY ON THE BBBR
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