Can Bush Achieve a 'Second First Term'?

Republicans have been biting their lips for quite a while over Bush’s dictatorial attitude towards Congress — and not only on Iraq. John Fund reports how Bush’s "Social Security reform" will be as dead as Hillary Care was over the Memorial Day weekend of 1994, unless Bush changes his relationship to Capitol Hill, and fast.

But can he? Already he’s betrayed the evangelicals (and, naturally, they’re the only ones who are surprised). Moreover, there’s precious little room for any domestic agenda, as long as U.S. troops are in Iraq. In fact, that issue could wake up the slumbering elephant in the GOP cloakrooms like never before, as November 2006 looms ever closer. The Bush imperial court might be shocked and insulted to hear it, but Iraq could sink the GOP, and Republicans on Capitol Hill have known it all along.

The prospects are bleak: if Bush stays in Iraq (as he wants to), all bets are off. The frustration in the GOP will break out into the open, and the party unity of the first term will splinter. Republicans in congress will be bracing themselves for historically-disastrous off-year elections — which might well turn into a playoff scenario for the 2008 nomination. Any chance of reform — of taxes or social security or anything else — will be dead.

On the other hand, If Bush pulls out of Iraq, it would be a resounding victory for the country, the Constitution, and for common sense. Would Bush perceive that as a personal loss? Maybe, but the country would breathe a tremendous sigh of relief if he woke up, smelled the coffee, and admitted a profound mistake. Sober reality in the White House would spread like a breath of fresh air to the rest of the country.

How could he do this, practically? The only moral path is clear: fire all the neocons, declare victory on February 1, bring the troops home to big springtime parades and FoxNews specials, and ram deep tax cuts through Congress before the August recess. Replacing Rehnquist should not be allowed to immobilize the country and the Congress through next December, or all of Bush’s legislative agenda will wind up on the dustbin and 2006 will be nothing but gridlock and invective. The GOP would get all the blame — and it would deserve it, since (as the pundits keep reminding us) the GOP hasn’t had this much power since Herbert Hoover’s presidency.

Bringing the troops home would bring on a national exuberance, and Bush could use it strategically by immediately targeting high taxes — admitting that unnecessary wars, after all, do waste a lot of money. We’d be saving $200 million a day that is now going to the occupation of Iraq. Moreover, Bush’s move would also restore the trust of our armed forces in the Commander in Chief and the Constitution, a restoration that is absolutely crucial. Bush’s new-found credibility could go a long way in bringing tax rates down to pre-Clinton levels, and that should be his first postwar goal.

Properly envisioned, the next four years could become a "second first term" for Bush, full of momentum that points in the right direction. Instead of the deadweight that increases prolifically in a lame-duck term, the administration could bring a sense of reform and responsibility that would breathe new life into the GOP — and the nation.

Instead of being the victim of triangulating Democrats, Bush could steal their game plan and take the bull by the horns, Clinton-style. Instead of "staying the course" in Iraq and splitting the GOP — and guaranteeing a Democrat victory in 2008 — a peace-and-prosperity Bush could bring true unity to the country, and send the neocons back to the Democrat lunatic fringe, from whence they came, with one honest speech that he could write all by himself.

Everybody loves a winner — especially Republican donors. If Bush makes the right move, the neocons would become a dim, sputtering memory. Their hammerlock on funding will evaporate like the morning dew under a hot sun when Bush throws them out and proclaims that "it’s morning in America."

Otherwise, the nightmare will continue.