BUSINESSWEEK ONLINE : DECEMBER 18, 2000 ISSUE
NEWS: ANALYSIS & COMMENTARY

Slim Mandate, Big Headaches: What W Would Have to Do


The Battle of Florida will dramatically downsize any grandiose goals of a Bush Presidency

BUILD CONSENSUS
As President, Bush would have to work on his backroom bonhomie with legislators when he was not barnstorming the nation as part of an Endless Campaign. The goal: overcoming deep public divisions over the shape and role of government to build consensus for centrist policies.

RETHINK THE AGENDA
Once, Bush thought the election would provide the backing for his dream of a conservative society built upon self-reliance and sharply limited government. But that vision, and grandiose thoughts of a $1.6 trillion tax cut and partial privatization of Social Security, would be deferred. Instead, Bush would try to rally lawmakers around popular ideas such as school reform, new drug benefits for seniors, modest defense spending hikes, and limited tax relief for heirs and married couples.

ACT BIPARTISAN
The new President would pick respected Democratic figures for his staff and Cabinet without lapsing into tokenism. And he'd have to make good on his promise to share political credit for legislative accomplishments with the opposition party.

KEEP THE RIGHT IN CHECK
Nominally, Republicans would seem to control both sides of Pennsylvania Avenue, with the Democratic Huns at the gate poised for a congressional takeover in 2002. That could lead arch-conservatives to call for immediate action on their wish list while the getting was still good. Bush, at a minimum, would have to tell hard-liners that his commitment to national unity precluded action on some of these pet items. And he'd have to struggle to keep unyielding conservative leaders such as House Whip Tom DeLay and his Texas sidekick, Majority Leader Dick Armey, in check.

PREPARE FOR THAT RAINY DAY
The economy's rapid deterioration has raised recession fears. The bond market and the Fed would be watching closely to see if Bush would keep fiscal policy from spinning out of control, thus making future Fed monetary easing more difficult. Bush claims he would discipline GOP lawmakers and halt yearend spending binges. But if he were to keep calling for his giant tax cut, his credibility would be undermined.



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