- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 3, 2004

What a relief. After three hard years and Tuesday afternoon’s early exit- poll scare, it looked like the nation was about to enter the danger zone internationally and the extreme gridlock zone domestically. But on a popular-vote-winning margin of about three percent, President George W. Bush has retained his portfolio as the nation’s first magistrate for another four years. With Republican pickups in both the House and the Senate we are close to the point where the Republican Party will have true working control of both the executive and legislative branches of the federal government.

While one-party control of the government is a mixed blessing, the positive side is the capacity to actually make policy decisions and implement them in law and practice. Gridlock is not without its appeal as a check on the always high chance of new law being worse than the status quo.

But the country faces many structural problems that require reform of fundamental law. As we pointed out yesterday on this page, bringing into fiscal balance the twin programs of Social Security and Medicare is urgently needed. In fact, it was urgently needed a decade ago. We are almost at the crisis point. Domestically, this should be the first priority of the Republican-Party government that was elected yesterday.

Even harder to come to agreement on — but every bit as important — is an immigration and secure-borders law. On this matter, Mr. Bush needs to listen much more closely to his party and to the general public. A large majority of all Americans want secure borders and a reversal of the current presence of large numbers of illegal immigrants in America.

A market-oriented energy policy that actually results in large quantities of new energy is another high priority that should be doable in the next session of Congress.

The fourth area that needs, if not overhaul, then substantially more White House and congressional attention, is homeland security. There is so much more to be done, and better methods of operation must be developed.

This is an area where true bipartisanship is quite feasible. The Department of Homeland Security and its programs are so new that party lines have not yet hardened, and there are many Democrats in town who are highly qualified and strongly motivated to work with a second Bush administration for the common good. Mr. Bush should definitely make several senior appointments of Democrats in that least partisan of all government agencies.

Finally, on the policy front, both the president and Congress need to take a deep second look at the likely demands on our military to determine how much larger the Active, Reserve and Guard forces need to be over the next decade. We are not at all convinced that the current levels are adequate for the dangerous world in which we live.

Much has already been said on television since Tuesday afternoon on the hardening of the partisan vote reflected in the election returns. Doubtless the nation remains evenly divided, but we do not judge that to be a danger. What was dangerous was the refusal in 2000 of the losing side to accept the legitimacy of the election. We can be thankful that that will not be an issue this time. Of course, magnanimity in victory has been a time-tested method to gain cooperation in the government that follows.

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