Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

First Months May Make, Break Bush

The first few months of President George W. Bush’s presidency may determine the success of his administration, according to Georgetown government professor Stephen Wayne.

Wayne started his discussion by highlighting the unusually short 35 day period of the Bush administration’s transition to the presidency compared to the usual 75 days. Wayne said that several research groups conducted transition studies throughout the campaign, including the Presidency Research Group, of which Wayne is a member.

Wayne emphasized three main areas to focus on during a transition: starting the appointment process and preparing the cabinet, setting an agenda and providing the right image.

There have been controversies regarding Bush appointees; Linda Chavez withdrew her nomination as Secretary of Labor after it appeared that she hired an illegal alien.

Another controversy surrounds Bush appointee John Ashcroft for attorney general. Wayne said that Ashcroft was nominated because of his strong religious beliefs, his relationship with the Bush family and the graceful way that he ended the senate race in Missouri. Another key factor involved, according to Wayne, was the Christian Coalition’s strong support of Bush. According to Wayne, Ashcroft’s nomination was an attempt to appease them. “A core constituency is the Christian Coalition, Bush had to throw them some bones,” he said.

The next phase in the transition period was setting the agenda and determining the key issues that Bush will emphasize. Wayne said the main question that Bush dealt with once he was elected was, “whether to modify his campaign agenda or to make his campaign agenda his governing agenda [since] he did not win the popular vote and [because of] the controversy.” Bush decided to govern based on the campaign agenda, Wayne said, thus focusing on education and tax cuts.

Wayne said Bush needed to provide a bipartisan image as part of the transition. “[Bush should] reach out to Democrats as he did in Texas. He is scheduled to go on two Democratic retreats,” Wayne said, adding that Bush is establishing his presidential presence so Vice President Richard B. Cheney is in the spotlight less.

“[Bush] had another problem to counter the perception that he was a heartbeat away from the presidency, that Cheney was pulling the strings.”

Wayne also addressed the potential differences between a Clinton and Bush White House. William Jefferson Clinton (SFS ’68) was intrigued by policy issues and was involved in them, Wayne said.

Clinton was also involved in his speeches. Wayne said that Bush will probably not be as involved in the details as Clinton was.

“Bush has good instincts, [but] he does not have the intellectual skills of his father or the communication skills of Reagan, but he does have some [of the] people skills of Clinton.” Wayne said that Bush created a strong administration and a stable staff.

Wayne said that it is also likely that Bush will be significantly different than Clinton regarding foreign policy.

“This administration will be slow in foreign policy. There will be a reluctance in involvement in peace-keeping,” Wayne said.

Wayne said that adding one more conservative justice to the Supreme Court will probably not reverse such decisions as Roe v. Wade and Miranda v. Arizona. If those decisions were threatened, liberal groups could gain fundraising support and it would drastically hurt Bush’s hopes of reelection, Wayne said.

“Overturn[ing] landmark decisions would cause such a fervor … liberal organizations would become wealthy in one year … [groups] always do better in fundraising when the devil is in office” Wayne said.

Wayne said that former President George Bush would probably stay behind the scenes. The younger Bush will probably seek advice from his father on international questions rather than domestic issues. “We won’t see [former President Bush] in a very public way … [he will be] a silent hand there.”

The speech was presented at the first Faculty Unplugged lecture of the Spring Term on Thursday. These lectures provide the opportunity for students to listen to a more informal lecture and ask questions in a small group setting outside of the classroom.

Wayne is an expert on American presidents and has been teaching at Georgetown for 13 years.

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