Why Bush Has No Fear

Charles Krauthammer, writing in the current TIME, explains “Why Bush Has No Fear.”

There is an unusual feature to the second Bush Administration that is extraordinarily important but has been almost entirely overlooked. For the first time in a half-century, a two-term presidency will end without sending out its Vice President to seek a mandate for succession at the next election. Vice President Cheney will not run for the presidency, and everyone knows it. When these eight years are over, the Bush-Cheney Administration will simply close up shop.


[T]he fact that Bush-Cheneyism will never have to seek popular ratification again gives Bush unique freedom of action. Which, in the hands of a President with unusually ambitious goals, will yield perhaps the most energetic — to some, the most dangerous — presidency of our lifetime.

Bush is fully aware of his situation. Hence the remarkable alacrity with which, after the election, he seized the moment. No two-month vacation to unwind. No waiting for the January Inauguration to set the agenda. He waited but two days to lay claim not just to victory but to a mandate.

Then, even more audacity. He not only claimed his mandate. He defined it right on the spot. Seizing the third rail of American politics, he promised to reform Social Security with, at minimum, partial privatization. He then added his intention to radically redo the tax code — which includes entertaining such ideas as entirely abolishing the Internal Revenue Service by going to a national sales tax. You cannot get more radical than that. His subsidiary aims, earthshaking in any other context but almost minor in this one, are kneecapping the lawsuit industry with serious tort reform and installing a conservative judiciary that will long outlive his presidency.

And within days of spelling out exactly what he wanted to do, he made clear how he was going to do it. Bush immediately went about seizing the commanding heights of his government. Bush’s trusted consigliere, Alberto Gonzales, is sent to take over the Justice Department. The White House counsel post and the Education Department are given over to close Bush advisers. Most important, Bush turns over the State Department — foreign-occupied territory in the view of most White Houses — to his closest foreign-policy confidant, Condoleezza Rice. Then he gives her job, National Security Council chief, to her deputy. Not since Nixon moved Henry Kissinger from the White House to the State Department has a President so seized the foreign-policy apparatus.

Interesting. May it be true. At some point, one has to actually govern rather than worrying about the next election. Otherwise, what’s the point of winning in the first place? Sadly, it seldom seems to work out that way. Bush hasn’t even been inaugurated for his second term and there’s already speculation about 2008.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Rodney Dill says:

    I seriously doubt that Bill Clinton gave much consideration to Al Gore’s aspirations, other than lip service (no pun intended). I think Bill was much more concerned on how history would perceive him, and in that respect he acted in his own best interests. In being saddled with a Repulican Legislature the best he could do was go along with them and take credit for what was accomplished.

  2. Anjin-San says:

    Look for Cheney to resign in about 2 years for health reasons, so that a candidate for 2008 can be groomed.

  3. Attila Girl says:

    In Clinton’s case, he’s always had an obsession with his legacy. I don’t really get the feeling that G.W. cares so much what people think.

  4. John "Akatsukami" Braue says:

    Look for Cheney to resign in about 2 years for health reasons, so that a candidate for 2008 can be groomed.

    Whence comes this obsession with viewing the Vice-President as the heir apparent? The elder Bush was the first sitting Vice-President to win election as President since Jefferson — and it can be argued that Amendment XII changed the nature of how one got the office so radically that Jefferson and John Adams shouldn’t be held out as precedents.

    Anyone who has ambitions to be President in 2009 should deliver as firm a “No!” as possible if asked to replace Cheney.

  5. Anjin-San says:

    Attila Girl…

    I find myself in agreement with you, GW does not care much what people think. Thats a bit scary in the leader of a democracy…

  6. Attila Girl says:

    But heartening in a leader during a war.