- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 23, 2001

The voice on the answering machine was a familiar one, calling from Little Rock. The lady wanted to talk about the inauguration of George W. Bush.

"This is a great day for Arkansas," she said, "and that's just the way I like it. That may be a cold rain beating against the window but all I see is the sun shining. I just wish my husband had lived to see it." There was a pause on the line. "I will say that when he died last summer, as much as he was suffering, he managed a more graceful exit than Bill Clinton made this afternoon."

Arkansas folks have a particular reason to celebrate. The days of whine and rogues are over at last. Bill and Hillary are no longer Arkansans, having scuttled like scalawags to the safety of Union lines, and now time can begin to erase the calumny, slander and libel the 42nd president of the United States called down on the people and place whose reputation he spent with ruthless and greedy abandon.

But they're not celebrating just in Arkansas. The sun is out all over the place.

George W. shot out of the gate with a rush yesterday, putting down markers of what we can expect from his presidency. Nearly everything he said and did looked and sounded pointed, like the tip of a cold blade, and a lot of it inevitably reminded everyone of the man gone to the suburbs of Gotham.

"I expect every member of this administration to stay well within the boundaries that define legal and ethical conduct," the new president told senior advisers after they were sworn in by Vice President Dick Cheney. The president told them to be civil and respectful to everyone, even to those eager to knock, grouse and pick at nits. "There is no excuse for arrogance."

But he is making it clear, with things as small as the bumper-sticker license tags he ordered stripped from the presidential limousine where Bill Clinton had put them to taunt the new president, to issues as large as abortion. He has an agenda, and he won't flinch from it.

Some people, who may not be as thick as they let on, don't yet get it. Ari Fleischer's first press briefing was an interesting exercise in dealing with people who think Elvis, or at least an Elvis impersonator, will be back any minute now. The correspondents were incredulous to discover that the new president, whom many had derided during the campaign as the class dunce, actually knows who he is, what he thinks, where he wants to go and has definite ideas about how to get there.

On the very anniversary (No. 28) of the Supreme Court decision finding a constitutional right to an abortion, the new president ordered that the $425 million foreign aid budget be kept in effect, with an important exception: the government spigot splashing money on organizations that provide abortions, or assist in providing abortions, be turned off at once. This was not in the script the media mavens prescribed. In their script, George W. mollifies the left, not the right. Isn't that what "bipartisanship" means? Wouldn't Al Gore have mollified the conservatives if he had been elected, perhaps with a loud, clear call to ban partial-birth abortion? (Of course he would.)

George W. will make his first foreign trip next month, to Mexico, which he clearly intends to make a high-profile neighbor. He will convene a meeting of top bureaucrats to discuss California's electricity shortage, but the White House regards this as "mostly a California matter." Neither the president nor his spokesman said so, but this is what Californians asked for. They don't want smelly, noisy, polluting power plants, like those in places like Cleveland and Kansas City and Knoxville, Tenn. They've got a taste of what life is like when they have to sit around like grown-ups in the cold and the dark, talking to each other instead of watching television. The prospect is scary.

The president is at work preparing his education package, to be put on display in a Rose Garden ceremony today. It will include a school-voucher program that makes Democratic teeth itch. Democrats are determined to keep schools as bad as they are if that's what it takes to pay off the teachers' unions.

The president called in Republican legislators, perhaps to do a little of the spine-stiffening that Republican legislators always need, and told them that he still wants to cut taxes by $1.6 trillion over a decade. He has plans for the military, for Medicare, for Social Security. Finally, he warned Democrats: "I am not worried about my legacy."

That's exactly the way to get a legacy, and George W.'s will be one of restoration not a restoration of a Bush dynasty, but a restoration of decency, honor and dignity. Not just at the White House, but throughout American life. The hour has found its man.


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