- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Presidencies tend to run out of energy and ideas after their first four years, which is why new people are needed to reinvigorate a second term.

President Bush’s Cabinet is, for all intents and purposes, exhausted after an intense first term run at full throttle on foreign and domestic fronts. Even a high-energy team like this can tire and, administration insiders say, there is a clear need for new thinking and higher octane in its ranks.

Secretary of State Colin Powell, a class act who served ably and with distinction throughout four years of foreign-policy turmoil, was clearly worn down by the internal policy disputes over the Iraq war and made it clear early on he was ready to call it quits.

At the same time, the White House, particularly Mr. Bush, grew tired of the constant news media focus on the policy divisions between Mr. Powell and the president’s harder-line defense and foreign policy advisers, namely Vice President Dick Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice.

Miss Rice’s takeover at State will end that long-running quarrel. She is joined at the hip with Mr. Bush on staying the course in Iraq, playing hardball with our adversaries in Iran, North Korea and elsewhere, and pursuing diplomacy, not for its own sake, but to accomplish strategic national security goals.

Yet, clearly, the seemingly insoluble postwar insurgency in Iraq has stretched U.S. military capabilities to the maximum — with no end in sight. There is a need for some imaginative, daring and strategic outside-the-box thinking, and that has been in short supply in the Pentagon and elsewhere in the administration’s national security team.

But, too, the administration has been given some windows of opportunity on several foreign policy and national security fronts that could give Miss Rice some early successes at State.

Iran has sent fresh signals it may be willing to abandon its nuclear program under the right terms, including an end to international sanctions. Iran looks across its border at Iraq and, seeing Mr. Bush has secured a second term, doesn’t want to be next on his hit list. So Miss Rice has a golden opportunity to nudge Iran’s government in our direction. If she can work out an agreement in Mr. Bush’s second term, it would be a major step against nuclear proliferation.

Another huge peacemaking opportunity in the Middle East is the latest shift in the Palestinian ranks to a new and more moderate leadership after Yasser Arafat’s death. Timing is everything in diplomacy, as in politics, and Miss Rice has a once-in-a-lifetime chance to negotiate a settlement between the Israelis and moderate Palestinian leaders as a major legacy of Mr. Bush’s hard-line anti-terrorism policies in the region.

On the domestic front, it appears the president’s economic team, led by Treasury Secretary John Snow, will stay on to handle what are undoubtedly Mr. Bush’s two biggest challenges: making his $1.7 trillion in tax cuts permanent and a broad-scale reform of the federal tax system.

Mr. Bush has yet to name the blue-ribbon panel that will study his reform plan, but my recent interviews with economic advisers who helped him design his first-term tax cuts provide an advance peek into what the president will likely propose.

A week of discussions with Mr. Bush’s top outside advisers at the Hoover Institution last week suggested they want the president to go well beyond simplifying the tax code to additional reductions in taxes.

“The best thing to do is what President Reagan did and keep lowering the income tax rates across the board,” said Martin Anderson, Ronald Reagan’s first White House domestic adviser and a key member of Mr. Bush’s economic advisory team in the 2000 campaign.

Another Bush adviser, economist John Cogan, told me he wants the president to pursue “a simpler tax system that has fewer tax deductions and credits and lower tax rates on both the corporate and personal side.”

This was also the view of senior Hoover fellow Michael Boskin, former chairman of the President’s Council of Economic Advisers, who was on Mr. Bush’s advisory team on tax policy.

To those in Congress who fear eliminating tax breaks to broaden the base enough to keep the tax reforms revenue neutral, Mr. Boskin offers this compelling supply-side advice: “You wouldn’t have to broaden the base as much as [cutting] the tax rates because of the economic growth effects from lower rates.”

In other words, lower rates will, as Mr. Reagan showed, lead to stronger growth, which produces more tax revenue that will reduce and eventually eliminate the deficit.

All this certainly points to an ambitious second term, full of hope for a more peaceful and safer world and a stronger economy. But Mr. Bush knows none of this will be easy. That is why he is changing, rearranging and re-energizing his team for the harder work ahead.

Donald Lambro, chief political correspondent of The Washington Times, is a nationally syndicated columnist.

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