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The Washington Quarterly 24.2 (2001) 117-122



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The Bush Team's Prospects

Newt Gingrich


When President George W. Bush was governor of Texas, the hallmarks of his administration were the focus on a handful of big issues and the willingness to work with Democrats. Indeed "willingness" is too mild a word. Bush saw himself as a Texan governing on behalf of all Texans. He loved working with Democratic lieutenant governor Bob Bullock and, as Bullock's widow indicated in her speech at the Republican National Convention in Philadelphia, the affection was returned. Reporters who have covered Texas Democrats have noted that the Democrats often comment on Bush's open-door policy, his willingness to listen to them, and his willingness to share credit with them.

The governor of all Texans is now the president of all Americans. He began his presidency by giving a victory speech in the Democratic-controlled Texas House of Representatives, before an audience including Democrats following an introduction by a Democrat, Speaker of the House James E. "Pete" Laney. In his speech he said,

Here, in a place where Democrats have the majority, Republicans and Democrats have worked together to do what is right for the people we represent. We had spirited disagreements and, in the end, we found constructive consensus. It is an experience I will always carry with me, and an example I will always follow.

Not only was the time and place of the victory speech unprecedented for a president-elect, it was also a shining example that Bush intends to display his leadership style from the beginning. He will please Republicans who want him to be firmly conservative but disappoint those who want him to be sharply partisan. He will consistently seek to achieve a key set of goals by including [End Page 117] everyone except the far Left in his calculations. Unlike President Ronald Reagan, who stuck with one coalition of conservative Democrats, Bush will reach out on an issue-by-issue basis to any Democrat who offers new ideas or is willing to help.

This general tendency toward bipartisanship--or even conservative nonpartisanship--will be centrally evident in foreign policy.

The Dream Team

The personalities that will create this environment go beyond the president himself. Bush's initial appointments are remarkably well suited for establishing a national policy on foreign and defense matters. The strength of the Bush national security team guarantees a sound, cohesive approach to foreign policy rather than a partisan approach. They are inclined to approach their responsibilities in this manner by their personalities, by necessity, and by the nature of the very policies that they will follow.

Vice President Dick Cheney built strong ties with many Democrats during his ten years in the House. In addition, his service as secretary of defense during Operation Desert Storm gives him the stature and a practical set of ties with the Democratic Party that will enable him to communicate with colleagues from that party.

Secretary of State Colin Powell is a U.S. icon rather than a Republican leader. He is one of the most widely admired men in the United States, and either party would have embraced him upon his retirement as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. His work with the nonpartisan volunteer organization America's Promise, in which he tirelessly crisscrossed the country on behalf of young people, has increased his stature. His best-selling memoir, My American Journey: An Autobiography, communicated a depth and patriotism that intensified support and respect for him throughout the United States. Because of these activities, he will be able to meet with Democratic leaders in a setting of good will and mutual respect. Additionally, the State Department needs such a great amount of structural reform that he will feel compelled to court Congress on a bipartisan basis to get the changes and resources that he will need to lead it effectively.

National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice has a résumé that will resonate with many Democrats. A child of segregation, she did not attend an integrated school until the tenth grade and...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1530-9177
Print ISSN
0163-660X
Pages
pp. 117-122
Launched on MUSE
2001-03-01
Open Access
No
Archive Status
Archived 2009
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