Memo: To Website Fans, Browsers, Clients
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: Bill Keller's Profile of the President
When I saw the lengthy New York Times Magazine cover story of January 26, “The Radical Presidency of George W. Bush,” by Bill Keller, I put it aside to read later and finally got around to it this last weekend. I’ll admit it put me off at first with a series of photos showing Ronald Reagan morphing into Bush, but because Keller is in the top tier of American journalists, perhaps the next executive editor of the Times, I decided I had to see what this was all about. The article is easily the best single assessment of Mr. Bush I have encountered in the world press. I wrote a friend at the Times that if I were still publishing the MediaGuide, I would consider Keller’s piece an easy pick for a “Top Ten” of calendar 2003. It is not necessarily that I agree with the whole of his profile, but that it does ring true, with a spectacular finish that justifies those photos that first put me off. You can read the article in its entirety at this link [http://www.nytimes.com/2003/01/26/magazine/26BUSH.html] , but here is that great finish:
There was about Reagan, like it or not, a dream of America and its potential that was often utopian. It was easy to ridicule – as the first President Bush did with his memorable sneer at the “vision thing” – but it made Reagan more than the sum of his adviser and his constituencies.
What is Bush’s morning in America? He clearly has the instinct to do big things, and barring some failure of leadership – a serious misadventure abroad, a corroding economy – he has the license. What does America look like if he succeeds?
Two years ago the question would have seemed ridiculous. We knew America had to be governed from the center. That was the lesson of Bill Clinton’s popularity, it was the constraint imposed by a divided electorate and in Bush’s case it was the price of a minority victory. Bush has no mandate. But Bush, like Reagan, seems to believe that presidents make their own mandates.
What Bush is striving for, on the evidence of the choices he has made for far, is bold in its ambition: markets unleashed, resources exploited. A progressive tax system leveled, a country unashamed of wealth. Government entitlement programs gradually replaced by thrift, self-reliance and private good will. The safety net strung closer to the ground. Government itself infused with, in some cases supplanted by, the efficiency and accountability of a well-run corporation. A court system dedicated to protecting private property and private enterprise and enforcing individual responsibility. A global common market that hums to the tune of America productivity. In the world, America rampant – unfettered by international law, unflinching when challenged, unmatchable in its might, more interested in being respected than in being loved.
If he fails, my guess is that it will be a failure not of caution but of overreaching, which means it will be failure on a grand scale. If he succeeds, he would move us toward an America Ronald Reagan would have been happy to call his own.