Military Outweighs Domestic Goals

By Middlebury Campus

Author: Drew Pugsley

Last year when President George W. Bush and Vice President Al Gore battled for electoral votes and the presidency none of us realized how important Mr. Bush’s plan to boost military morale would be. But after eight years of Defense Department cuts and virtually stagnant growth in intelligence capabilities, this issue is definitely getting a lot of much deserved attention. President Bush also promised education reform, social security reform, tax cuts and bipartisanship. Post Sept. 11, many have questioned the current administration’s strategy, or lack thereof, in tackling this lofty agenda. Does the Bush team lack the knowledge and experience to achieve these ambitious goals? I contend that Bush’s agenda has, out of necessity, been slightly altered and that he and his administration are well poised to deal with these extenuating circumstances while simultaneously tackling the issues that got him elected.

Given the significant changes in the international environment since Sept. 11, obviously there must be a response that is reflected both in foreign policy as well as the domestic agenda. However, the domestic agenda need only change slightly as long as it can be effectively implemented. Our priorities must change. While something must be done about Social Security and a patient’s bill of rights, improving the morale in the military and national defense and intelligence capabilities probably supercedes those problems at this point.

The Bush administration, especially if it has any desire to be re-elected, must now prove to the people that it can get laws passed and bills signed while fighting terrorism. Before Sept. 11, a tax package and instant tax rebate had been signed. Coupled with 10 federal funds rate cuts in the past year, this “economic stimulus package” was designed to revive the reeling economy that President Bush inherited. An education reform bill, also introduced before Sept. 11, has not yet been reconciled between the two houses of the Congress. Despite a relatively productive first seven and a half months in the Oval Office, President Bush has made little progress in his domestic agenda since then. If the president wants to maintain his astronomical job approval rating, he must find a way to channel this new patriotism and bipartisanship generated by the events of Sept. 11 into cooperation and positive support for his domestic policies in Congress. The stalled education reform bill must be passed and some progress must be made with Social Security. Most importantly the Bush administration must demonstrate that it can use one hand to fight terrorism and strengthen the military while using the other to promote its agenda on the Hill. Enter Tom Ridge. He, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Secretary of State Colin Powell must, with Bush and Cheney’s participation in diplomatic missions, continue to combat terrorism through military force and diplomacy. In the meantime George Bush must perpetuate his bipartisan message in pushing his agenda through Congress. I am confident that Bush’s security team and the new cabinet level Office of Homeland Defense can successfully achieve these goals.

The Bush team has not forgotten the promises it made during its campaign last year. However, it is now faced with the incredibly precarious problem of balancing its unique foreign policy objectives with the implementation of the national agenda. It is time for us to put the devastation of Sept. 11 behind us and begin doing business as usual. This means that not only should people start buying plane tickets again, but Congress and the executive branch need to find a happy medium between the “war on terrorism” and actual legislation. The creation of the Office of Homeland Defense shows that President Bush and his staff are committed to this goal. I absolutely believe that something definitely needs to be done about education. Something certainly should be done about Social Security and a patient’s bill of rights or other health care issues. And if the Bush administration wants to be reelected to a second term they will address these problems. However, the United States has just realized that real threats to its security do exist in the world and that this problem will not just go away if we continue to ignore it.