- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 29, 2001

Ever since Franklin Delano Roosevelt, modern American presidents have been required to undergo microscopic examination of their accomplishments at the 100-day mark of their first term. In keeping with that tradition, last week President George W. Bush granted a spate of interviews with broadcast, cable and print media. On the policy fronts, both foreign and domestic, the end of the first 100 days finds Mr. Bushs policies to be works in progress, as they inevitably must be at this early stage. In almost every case, however, the progress has been in the right direction, often times significantly so.

Consider Mr. Bush´s efforts to enact his 10-year, $1.6 trillion tax-relief proposal, the centerpiece of his economic agenda. The House approved the full amount of tax relief in its budget resolution. The Senate, which is evenly divided between the parties, approved nearly $1.3 trillion in its budget resolution. Conferees are now resolving the differences. It will be a major accomplishment for the young administration, which has already signalled its intention to fight for more tax relief next year. If Mr. Bush may be falted for anything on this issue so far, it would be his reluctance to wield the the presidential powers of persuasion to "encourage" the few recalcitrant Republicans in the Senate to support his tax-relief plan.

Mr. Bush has been active on the regulatory front, mitigating the effects of his predecessor´s last-minute binge of regulatory overkill. He signed congressional legislation repealing the repetitive-motion regulations that went into effect four days before Mr. Bush entered office. Mr. Bush wisely jettisoned the Kyoto Protocol, arguing that the treaty, by requiring the United States to make disproportionate reductions in so-called "greenhouse gases," would have precipitated severe economic dislocation here. On the energy front, Mr. Bush assured interviewers last week that, despite some confusing signals coming from other members of his administration, he understands the necessity of exploiting the energy resources of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The administration´s energy task force, which will be issuing its report next month, will also almost certainly recommend other domestic-supply-related solutions, including the nuclear option, to the nation´s short-term and long-term energy crises.

Reforming public education has been one of Mr. Bush´s primary goals, but the education bill has become bogged down in the Senate in a fight over funding. Regrettably, Mr. Bush sent an early signal that he would not insist on his proposal to offer vouchers to the parents of school children forced to attend failing schools. His grateful opponents pocketed the concession, and then they focused their demands on higher funding. The lesson to be learned from his pre-emptive concession on vouchers would be the need to control the urge to compromise until his opponents are willing to offer something in return.

While the White House has yet to offer its initial slate of judicial appointments, all reports indicate that Mr. Bush´s judicial selection team is determined to avoid his father´s fiasco with the appointment of David Souter to the Supreme Court. Mr. Souter has proved to be one of the Court´s staunchest liberals. To his credit, Mr. Bush did eliminate the undeserved role in the judicial selection process played by the politicized American Bar Association (ABA). Before Mr. Bush shut the racket down, an ABA committee was permitted to pass judgment on potential nominees.

On the foreign policy front, Mr. Bush´s performance has been mostly solid. He coolly handled the crisis with China, which held 24 American crew members of a surveillance plane operating over international waters as hostages for 11 days. After securing the return of the crew members, Mr. Bush approved a sizable, if not ideal, defensive-arms package for Taiwan.

In the Mideast, Mr. Bush has rightly reduced the role of the United States. Keeping Mr. Arafat out of the White House, where he was the most frequent foreign visitor during the previous administration, sends the right message. Unfortunately, Secretary of State Colin Powell did just the opposite when he equally criticized both the Israelis, whose recent military drive into the Gaza Strip was provoked by Palestinian mortar fire directed at Israeli civilians, and the Palestinians, whose violent intifada has now entered its eighth month.

With Latin American neighbors and Canada, Mr. Bush is pursuing a highly promising free-trade area involving 800 million people. To negotiate the pact, he will need congressional approval for trade-promotion authority, also known as fast-track authority. Mr. Bush probably has not underestimated how difficult obtaining such authority will prove to be, but his strongly held free-trade credentials suggest that he will be willing to spend the political capital necessary to obtain trade-promotion authority that truly promotes trade.

Most national security matters have understandably been put on hold, pending Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld´s top-to-bottom Pentagon review. Mr. Rumsfeld may outline his plans for Mr. Bush as early as this week, when the president is also expected to deliver a major speech about national missile defense and nuclear arms policy.

For all the attention paid to Franklin Roosevelt´s first 100 days in 1933, it should be noted that the Great Depression, at which all that 100-day energy was directed, continued for more than 10 years, ending only during World War II. For his part, President Bush has had a promising start during his first 100 days, but it´s probably true that his long-term impact will be most affected by policies and reform projects such as the military, Medicare and Social Security all of which lie ahead.

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