- The Washington Times - Monday, January 22, 2001

This much can already be said consistency and focus promise to be two of the qualities characterizing the presidency of George W. Bush. Repeatedly over the inauguration weekend, Mr. Bush was asked how he felt on taking the oath of office, on entering the White House, on following in his father's footsteps. All subjects on which a certain former president could easily have waxed eloquent for hours. Needless to say, the questions are typical of our times, but Mr. Bush's repeated answer echoed back to a time perhaps a time to be revived again? where duty, not emotion came first. Mr. Bush simple said he was "humbled" and "honored." He also said that "I am looking forward to getting to work." So he will today, his first active day in office, receiving security briefings, meeting with congressional leaders of both parties, working on his legislative agenda of which an education package will be the first installment.
Education, an issue that most Americans agree desperately deserves attention, will be the first test case of the Bush bipartisan approach. Democrats have already warned that anything including vouchers will meet their determined resistance, to no one's great surprise. Still, Mr. Bush will be true to the agenda on which he was elected and which he reiterated in his moving inauguration address on Saturday.
After an election so bitterly fought and contested, it was appropriate for Mr. Bush to emphasize his commitment to national unity as indeed it ought to be incumbent on his political opponents to considered this a hand stretched out. Mr. Bush spoke of "civility, courage, compassion and character," appealed to ideals that guide this nation even when we as fallible human beings fall short.
However, even in reaching out, Mr. Bush managed to stay true to the priorities of his agenda, talking of reclaiming America's schools, reforming Social Security and Medicare, reducing taxes to spur the economy and "reward the effort and enterprise of the American people" He spoke of rebuilding the nation's defenses, and confronting weapons of mass destruction. Crisply and eloquently, the speech brought together the policies and the themes of his campaign, accountability, responsibility, compassion, civic duty and faith. It truly was a conservative speech, but without the hard edges.
The religious themes running through Mr. Bush speech came as a welcome reminder of the source of the strengths of this nations a source that many have sought to marginalize and dismiss in recent decades. Yet, here faith was also a theme that commentators would find it hard to brand with the usual label of the "religious right." Mr. Bush spoke of faith-based acts of charity and service. "I can pledge our nation to a goal: When we see that wounded traveler on the road to Jericho, we will not pass to the other side," speaking of Jesus's parable of the good Samaritan and also of his trademark concept of compassionate conservatism. At the same time, he called synagogues as well as mosques, as well as churches, to raise the nation's spirit.
The task for Mr. Bush now is to bring his leadership to that agenda as his new administration navigates Washington's often treacherous and inhospitable landscapes. Ronald Reagan was the last president to do so and in the process capture the higher ground. May Mr. Bush learn from his example.


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