- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 21, 2000

I have a couple of friends who have worked for President-elect Bush in the campaign headquarters in Austin for some time now. Neither knew Mr. Bush before they went to work there. Both told me the same story. They were pleasantly surprised at how instinctively conservative he is on most issues and how loath he is to consult the polls before taking action. One of these staffers told me, "Over and over Bush would ask the question: 'What is the right thing to do?' And then when given the answer he would say, 'Then do it.' "

Another staffer told me about the time that a policy person, seeking to get the governor to back his position, said "we've vetted this with focus groups and they like the idea." The governor bristled and told him that was no reason to support the idea. Rather the question was whether it was the right thing to do and he suggested that the idea didn't meet that test despite its alleged popularity.

Let us hope that Mr. Bush does not lose that sentiment as he crosses the Potomac. If he keeps that focus is it the right thing to do? then he will save the nation much grief. Meanwhile, those of us on the right have a certain responsibility at this moment. We have to lower our expectations. We have to give this president a chance to get settled. We have to realize that Mr. Bush is in a position like no other president has been in more than a century. We have to cut him some slack.

Don't get me wrong. We cannot stand by and say nothing if the president compromises our basic interests. But I don't expect that Mr. Bush will do that. I trust him. But we cannot sit here in judgment of his every move waiting to pounce on him. We can't rerun the campaign. We can't rewrite the platform. Mr. Bush will be sitting in the Oval Office. Either he will take our key issues seriously or he won't. If we attack him on the basis of each rumor which surfaces, or every appointment he makes or we don't approve of each legislative deal he makes not to our liking, we will be in a constant state of war with the new administration. We will get nothing for it except a black eye with the people who run the Bush team.

There is some chance, if we can all work together, that we might be able to accomplish a few major things such as Social Security reform, or medical savings accounts, or other sorts of institutional changes that will benefit the nation in the long run. The president-elect is sure to fashion a foreign policy that is more in keeping with traditional American values and priorities. His approach to national security and the application of American power will go far toward re-establishing America's leadership role in the world. That will be worth it.

He will attend to the pressing needs of our military, which has suffered so grievously over the past eight years. Isn't it interesting how our military leaders and our intelligence community have already changed their tune about the nature of the threats confronting us in the future? After a prolonged policy of "see no evil, speak no evil" about the global situation, the shackles are off and Gen. Henry Shelton and others can speak candidly about the challenges ahead. No longer will we look the other way on the critical shortages and operational problems confronting our servicemen and women.

When Mr. Bush addressed the nation for the first time as president-elect, he was shrewd to have chosen the speaker of the Texas House, a Democrat, to introduce him. He wanted to signal that he was willing to reach across party lines to achieve certain objectives. This can be done without compromising principles. But it cannot be done if there is constant distrust and rancor.

Mr. Bush has asked for prayers for the nation and its leaders. He says compassionate conservatism will be the basis of his administration. Let us honor the president-elect's request. Let us pray for him and the nation. And in the course of doing so, we will honor and help ourselves.

Paul Weyrich is president of the Free Congress Foundation.

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