Experts Contemplate What Bush’s Second Term Will Hold

U.S. President George W. Bush has outlined a series of ambitious domestic initiatives for his second term. But even with his own Republican Party controlling both houses of Congress, the president faces an uphill battle selling his legislative program.

Recent public opinion polls show most Americans are generally optimistic about the next four years under President Bush. With his November victory at the polls, the president is confident he'll be able to push through the bold initiatives he campaigned on.

"I've earned capital in this election and I'm going to spend it for what I told the people I would spend it on, which is, you've heard the agenda, social security and tax reform, moving this economy forward, education, fighting and winning the war on terror," said Mr. Bush.

Now, he faces the challenge of turning ideas into legislative reality.

Economic growth will remain a key priority for the president. Tax cuts were his primary tool for moving the economy forward in his first term. Paired with historically low interest rates, they produced a modest recovery from the economic downturn that followed the 9/11 terrorist attacks. 

But record budget deficits, the war in Iraq and the fighting in Afghanistan leave little for new domestic initiatives. And some economists warn borrowing even more money from international creditors runs considerable risk. They believe without new revenue streams, the deficit will grow unchecked.

The president's economic advisors see it quite differently, saying tax cuts stimulate economic growth, leading to greater government revenue to pay down the deficit and fund new programs.

Much of that growth will depend on factors difficult to anticipate, including oil prices and terrorism.

In running for reelection, the president campaigned hard on what he believed were his superior qualifications to keep the nation safe from terrorism after 9/11.

"The most solemn duty of the American president is to protect the American people,” he said.  “If our country shows any uncertainty or weakness in this decade the world will drift toward tragedy. This will not happen on my watch."

The president moved quickly after his November victory to further bolster homeland security, signing into law the most comprehensive reorganization of the nation's intelligence operations in more than half a century.

"Under this new law our vast intelligence enterprise will become more unified, coordinated and effective,” said President Bush.  “It will enable us to better do our duty, which is to protect the American people."

Better intelligence is just one aspect of homeland security. Thomas Mann, a political analyst with Washington's Brookings Institution, says there is still more to do.

"But now, we're worried a great deal about cargo containers, possibility of weapons coming in via that route, of the security of our borders, the positioning of our state and local first responders," noted Mr. Mann.

Many republicans in congress are expressing similar concerns, most notably on border security, and are demanding the president enact tighter immigration controls. In his final push to pass the massive intelligence overhaul bill, Mr. Bush promised he would. But doing so would collide with the president's own goal of granting temporary legal status to undocumented workers who have jobs. Political observers say a fight on this issue could put passage of his more ambitious domestic priorities at risk.

Reforming social security or simplifying the tax code would be a notable legislative achievement. But political analyst Tripp Baird of The Heritage Foundation suggests with as many as three of the Supreme Court's nine justices possibly stepping down, the president could best be remembered as the man who reshaped the nation's highest court.

"They're the third branch of government, and some say the most powerful because they're not elected, they're appointed and they're appointed for life or until they decide to step down,” he explained.

Chief Justice William Rehnquist has been ill with cancer and others are contemplating retirement. Should he have the opportunity to nominate a new justice, Mr. Bush says he favors those in the mold of the high court's staunchest political conservatives. Legal experts say a more conservative court could reverse many of the court's more liberal decisions including abortion rights and affirmative action.

And that, as much as anything in his two terms in office, would leave George W. Bush's mark on the country for years to come.

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Social Media Aids Counter-Terrorism Investigationsi
Katherine Gypson
December 01, 2015 10:06 PM
In the aftermath of the Paris attacks, officials carried out waves of raids and arrests to break up terror cells. As VOA's Katherine Gypson reports, social media can be a key tool for investigators.

Video Social Media Aids Counter-Terrorism Investigations

In the aftermath of the Paris attacks, officials carried out waves of raids and arrests to break up terror cells. As VOA's Katherine Gypson reports, social media can be a key tool for investigators.

Video Russia Marks World AIDS Day With Grim News

While HIV infection rates have steadied or even declined in many European countries, the caseload has grown rapidly in Russia, as VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow. Over half of the new infections were transmitted through injection drug use.

Video Pakistan Hit Hard by Global Warming

As world leaders meet in Paris to craft a new global agreement aimed at cutting climate-changing greenhouse-gas emissions, many developing countries are watching closely for the final results. While most developing nations contribute much less to global warming than developed countries, they often feel the effects to a disproportionate degree. As Saud Zafar reports from Karachi, one such nation is Pakistan. Aisha Khalid narrates his report.

Video With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?

The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video Political Motives Seen Behind Cancelled Cambodian Water Festival

For the fourth time in the five years since more than 350 people were killed in a stampede at Cambodia’s annual water festival, authorities canceled the event this year. Officials blamed environmental reasons as the cause, but many see it as fallout from rising political tensions with a fresh wave of ruling party intimidation against the opposition. David Boyle and Kimlong Meng report from Phnom Penh.

Video African Circus Gives At-Risk Youth a 2nd Chance

Ethiopia hosted the first African Circus Arts Festival this past weekend with performers from seven different African countries. Most of the performers are youngsters coming form challenging backgrounds who say the circus gave them a second chance.

Video US Lawmakers Brace for End-of-Year Battles

U.S. lawmakers are returning to Washington for Congress’ final working weeks of the year. And, as VOA's Michael Bowman reports, a full slate of legislative business awaits them, from keeping the federal government open to resolving a battle with the White House over the admittance of Syrian refugees.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video After Terrorist Attacks, Support for Refugees Fades

The terrorists who killed and injured almost 500 people around Paris this month are mostly French or Belgian nationals. But at least two apparently took advantage of Europe’s migrant crisis to sneak into the region. The discovery has hardened views about legitimate refugees, including those fleeing the same extremist violence that hit the French capital. Lisa Bryant has this report for VOA from the Paris suburb of Cergy-Pontoise

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

As Thailand takes in the annual Loy Krathong festival, many ponder the country’s future and security. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

VOA Blogs