It's a safe bet that George W. Bush, chief advisor Karl Rove, and the rest of the President's re-election strategy team are shifting gears. But while they're at it, they may want to bring the Bushmobile into the shop and set it to pull a little harder to the right.
Who would have ever predicted that on the eve of the President's State of the Union address, Democratic frontrunner Howard Dean would flip out on stage at the Iowa Caucuses, and start acting like the poster child for a "Just say No to Crack" campaign instead of someone who's running for President? Team Bush could be excused for believing, based on Dean's pre-meltdown popularity, that Americans may have had the appetite for a few more liberal ideas to be sold to them under the label of "compassionate conservatism".
The reality is that veering left won't get Bush the support of the loony left crowd, no matter what he does. They'll forever be upset that Bush 'meddled' in the foreign affairs of dictatorial regimes, and that Osama bin Laden isn't on Al Jazeera every week with a regular "Jihadi Update". As far as they're concerned, Bush violated Saddam Hussein's civil rights when he went in and removed the oppressive dictator from power.
Moderate Democrats will ultimately choose Bush over a candidate like current Democratic frontrunner John Kerry simply by virtue of the fact that they feel Bush is a stronger leader than Kerry (53% vs. 39% in the latest CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll), and that they trust Bush more than they do Kerry when it comes to foreign policy issues (50% vs. 44% on the issue of Iraq). This election will be won or lost on national security and the war on terrorism. Kerry has said that if he were to become President, the fight against terrorism would "involve the military now and then," but it would be "primarily an intelligence gathering, law enforcement operation." In short: Back to the Clintonian modus operandi. Come on out, Osama! The coast is clear. Nothing but a little paper shuffling going on here.
And just wait until these figures start taking into account the flip-flopping that Kerry has done on issues such as NAFTA, the war in Iraq, and education legislation--all which are symptomatic of a serious leadership deficit. Kerry has done more waffling than an Eggo factory.
The only thing pandering to liberal ideals will do is alienate Bush's right-wing support base. After asking them to suck up some of the proposals in his speech, tossing them a few dollars for abstinence programs and faith-based charitable work is like buying someone flowers after you've just burned down their house.
Let's start with Bush's proposed immigration reform, which would reward illegal immigrants for breaking the law by granting them 3-year work permits. Any bets that al-Qaeda has already been in touch with the INS to ask about getting their hands on application forms? Why bother forcing foreigners entering US airports and seaports to have their fingerprints scanned and their photographs snapped as part of a new program designed to enhance border security when the back door to America will be left wide open? It's a known fact that al-Qaeda has slipped into America from Mexico. It was only a couple of years ago that the INS was issuing visas to dead 9/11 terrorists who resided at 555 Hole-in-the-Ground, New York, NY. But I suppose we're to assume that the feds have it all under control now.
Here's a better idea. If Bush really wants to show some compassion, he should drop the protectionist tariffs on steel, textiles, and lumber and start walking his free-trade talk. This would improve the economic climate around the world, improve peoples' lives in their own countries, and dampen their need to flee to America illegally. In fact, if Bush was a true free-trader and free-enterpriser who really believed in "matching willing employees with willing employers" as he claims, then he'd open up America to competition with the North American market, and encourage legal competition and immigration across the board.
The bottom line is that Bush knows full well that his immigration legislation will end up being relegated to the dreams of the Islamic extremists--alongside the 79 virgins, or whatever the going reward is nowadays for fundamentalist fruitcakes willing to blow themselves to smithereens in the name of Allah. The chances of Republican majorities in both the Congress and Senate rubber stamping Bush's immigration reform plan are about the same as Al Sharpton's chances of becoming Leader of the Free World. The only mileage Bush will get out of the idea will come from a few more hispanic votes. That is, before people clue in to the fact that the legislation is -- and only ever will be -- a pipedream. And that's provided these people aren't already turned off by the idea of being drop-kicked by Uncle Sam back across the Rio Bravo after their 3-year temporary work permit expires.
Another State of the Union jawdropper was Bush's proposal of an $18 million increase to $122.5 million for the National Endowment for the Arts. Goodness knows it should be one of the President's top priorities to ensure that Americans never have to do without their Shakespeare, jazz dancing and painting! Look, if some performance artists want to take pictures of their private parts, and put them on display in the name of "art", then they should do it on their own dime. As a free-market capitalist, Bush should, again, let the market "fund" these folks. If Bush really can't curb his urge to toss cash at artists, then how about sending them into war zones to paint camo patterns on the side of tanks? At least that would be constructive.
Some of Bush's proposed spending -- particularly with respect to medicare and seniors -- is well-justified. It's reasoned, compassionate, sound governance--and it's undoubtedly more restrained and better planned out than any proposals fielded by the Democrats. Granted that it might have been fun for 'Dubya' to take a little bit of a spin on the left/wrong side of the road prior to the Dean meltdown in Iowa, it's time now to head in for a tune up. Unless Bush wants to forget about winning the next election and instead keep drag racing with loony leftist, Howard Dean, all the way to Arizona! Oklahoma! Missouri! South Carolina! North Dakoka! Delaware! New Mexico! And straight off that big cliff on the 'left'...YYYYYEEEEEEEEAAAAAAAGGGGGHHHHHH!