The Vision Thing

Bush expresses resolve and a deep conviction about [TBA]

"Four more years!" is the traditional chant on the incumbent's campaign trail, but as Dan Balz reports in today's Washington Post, this also seems to be the only substantive item in President Bush's contentless campaign for a second term:

… with the election less than four months away, one of the biggest mysteries surrounding the president's campaign is what he would actually do if he wins a second term.

Bush's failure to detail a second-term agenda — beyond his pledge to keep waging an aggressive war on terrorism — represents a stark contrast to his previous campaigns, in which he set out a handful of priorities almost from the opening day and rarely deviated from them.

Throughout the year, Bush has focused on Iraq and terrorism and on drawing attention to improved economic statistics, but has barely begun to make the case about second-term priorities. Whether there is room for a bold domestic agenda, given the fiscal strains his first term has created, and whether Bush has fresh ideas on issues such as health care, education and the economy are questions yet to be answered.

Balz talks to several unnamed "presidential advisers" who insist that Bush does have an agenda for a second term and that all will be revealed — someday, perhaps at the convention, or maybe in October, but most likely some time before the actual election in November.

If a candidate has a clear vision and a clear agenda, and if that candidate has a plan for the policies to make that vision and that agenda a reality, then the candidate will want to spend as much time as possible talking to the American people. That's how one builds support for one's agenda. That's how one creates a mandate for leadership in a democracy.

If, on the other hand, a candidate desires power but has no clue what he would use that power for other than to preserve it for himself, then the less the people are told about his agenda, the better.

Balz's report seems to suggest that the White House is hoping to announce it's "agenda" as close to the election as possible in order to prevent the public, the press and his political opponents from having adequate time to evaluate these proposals.

When George W. Bush appeared on Meet the Press back in February, Tim Russert asked him to explain why he thought he deserved a second term. The president dodged the question, saying only that he "looked forward" to having the opportunity in the months ahead to talk to the American people about his plans for a second term. This was a bit odd — here he was speaking directly to the American people on network television, but all he told them was that he looked forward to having the chance to tell them something later. Since then spring has come and gone and it is now high summer and still we hear little more than chants of "four more years" and the continued assurance that President Bush looks forward, someday, sometime in the future, to explaining his vision.

This is not how someone behaves if he actually has a vision for the future. Bush doesn't. He's still just stalling for time while his advisers and aides work to cobble together something that could pass for an agenda for a second term, provided no one looks too closely.

"The bad news is we're lost and we don't know where we're going," the captain says. "The good news is we're making excellent time."

  • SPG

    If we go by past claims versus the actual policy, then there is no reason for bush to outline an agenda since he will not do what he claims anyway.

  • TEd

    I had this same problem covering a student election. My interview went something like this.
    Me: What goals do you want to accomplish if you win this election?
    Candidate: I want to increase communication between the students and faculty.
    Me: How are you going to do that?
    Candidate: Communication is very important.
    Me: Do you have any specific policies that you’ll pursue if elected?
    Candidate: I don’t have a personal agenda here.
    Me: Do you have a political one?
    Drove me absolutely nuts.
    I think another reason why this hasn’t proved to be such a horrible thing for the Bushies is that they got in office (minus the whole Supreme Court debacle) on the strength of Bush’s likability, his perceived values, “morality” (whatever the hell THAT is), and other perceived qualities.
    Gore was the one who ran on specific policy proposals. (Yes, I know Bush had these, but Gore relied on them more than Bush) He was ridiculed endlessly for being smart enough to know these, for being boring when he explained them.

  • http://peat.blogs.com/peat/2004/07/focused_vision.html Peat

    FOCUSED VISION?

    Fred Clark at slacktivist doubts that Bush has a vision for the next four years. He does make a persuasive case that a candidate with “a clear vision and a clear agenda” has “a plan for the policies to make

  • http://peat.blogs.com/peat/2004/07/focused_vision.html Peat

    THE HYPEROPIA THING

    Fred Clark at slacktivist doubts that Bush has a vision for the next four years. He does make a persuasive case that a candidate with “a clear vision and a clear agenda” has “a plan for the policies to make

  • none

    I don’t think that the fact he hasn’t explained his agenda means he doesn’t have an agenda. Another explanation is that he doesn’t think the American people would approve of his agenda. Better to keep everyone in the dark, assuming that Baby Bush has our best interests at heart and that whatever he does will, by definition, be what’s best for us.

  • Brad

    Making the rest of the tax cuts permanent is a clearly and often articulated part of a second term agenda.

  • Patrick Mullins

    “In fact, the sadly incomplete report does nothing of the kind. It takes the public up to the question of Mr. Bush’s involvement and then ducks, announcing that an examination of the president’s role is due after the election. Thanks to that compromise, the Republicans did not block it, and Democrats could justify endorsing it as an unfinished work.”–from Andrew Rosenthal’s NYTimes editorial of the other day.
    This is common knowledge by now, of course, but if such things can be put off, why should the trolls think they should have to say anything about governing in a second term except “We like it here.”

  • http://www.reachm.com/amstreet/archives/001224.html the american street

    Of T-shirts, nothing, and Muslim voters

    Views from elsewhere plus a nifty T-shirt.

  • Jon H

    Another disturbing thing about that Russert interview was the rest of his answer to the question you mention.
    Bush just kept saying “I want to lead”. “I want to lead”. “I want to lead”.
    Disturbing.

  • Jon H

    Another disturbing thing about that Russert interview was the rest of his answer to the question you mention.
    Bush just kept saying “I want to lead”. “I want to lead”. “I want to lead”.
    Disturbing.

  • http://amptoons.poliblog.com/blog/000973.html Alas, a Blog

    Here a link, there a link, everywhere a link link

    Unfortunately, these links have been hanging around on my desktop long enough that I know longer remember the source for most of them. My apologies to everyone I fail to credit… Good article in The Chronicle of Higher Education, which…


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