Fears about Bush’s 2nd term overblown

Say hello to four more years of the Bush administration. Despite what the man with the “Support the Ohio Recount” signs on the back of his pickup thinks, the Bush dynasty is here to stay for another presidential term — and what would another presidential term be without some fresh doses of speculation.

The most entertaining place to start would be to examine the fears of the far left. As far as they are concerned, Halliburton will have telescreens in mass production within a year and abortion will be outlawed. Because Bush is a man of faith, he is going to start using State of the Union addresses as evangelical revivals, and because he doesn’t have to run for another term, he has an excellent opportunity to invade all the Middle Eastern countries and complete his construction of Bushistan.

Entertaining? Yes. Realistic? No. Yet it is always intriguing to see how these ideas permeate, across the country and then across the ocean. Watching French coverage of the election after watching C-Span was a great way to get a feel for the more simplistic views of what a second Bush administration could mean, and all the more amusing since it was badly translated. In France, they do segments on how Bush is skilled at “pretending” to be one of the common “hicks” to win elections; in America, they attack him for really being so. French coverage managed to keep from sounding desperate, but it painted Bush as a man ready to bring the religious crusade home, determined to convert everyone to his wacky form of Christianity. There is no mention of the support Bush won or his defense of Islam in the days immediately following Sept. 11, or the fact that his faith-based initiatives did not make Christianity a prerequisite.

Of course, we can just look to what Bush says his priorities are: the war on terror, reforming the tax code and Social Security. But this is not an entirely trustworthy predictor either. Of course Bush will pursue these things, but what that actually means is another question. One thing is for sure: Bush is definitely comfortable with his victory. Sometimes politicians seem to start trivial fights that really revolve around something larger; why the Bush team had to come out and use the disputed word “mandate” is questionable, but it sparked several days of excruciatingly silly debates over the meaning of the word on all the pundit shows.

It is interesting to watch the ever-so-mild — but still visible — change in Bush’s demeanor since his win this November. In his first press conference, he was relaxed, confident and not afraid to joke with the reporters — in a tone suggestive of the underlying hostility between him and much of the press. He seemed to feel more free to toss around his sense of humor and direct the conference on his own terms, since, after all, he doesn’t have to apologize to anyone for such trespasses anymore. With no third term in sight, it’s safe to say that we will be seeing a little more of the honest Bush personality, the type that doesn’t trip on his words as often, because they were not preconceived by some outside brain.

And beyond the man himself, there is his new and improved cabinet. Anyone besides John Ashcroft would have been more appealing and less offensive, and what’s more, he’s being replaced by Alberto Gonzales, a man whose lack of pro-life passion makes some Republicans further to the right uncomfortable, and who will be the first Latino attorney general of the United States. Whether his other policies will be any less troubling than Ashcroft’s remains to be seen.

And who can forget our new secretary of state, Condoleeza Rice? Apparently when Democrats appoint minorities and women to high positions it reflects their progressive natures, but when Republicans do it their appointees are deemed unqualified. But bringing out that charge is one of the easiest things for critics to do, and doesn’t really stick if you actually try to apply it fairly to all the incredible and talented leaders throughout history who could now easily be attacked for having been “unqualified.” Besides being an excellent choice on her pre-White House credentials alone, Rice’s contact with the entire Bush cabinet for four years can hardly be discounted when trying to find someone “experienced.”

Yet second terms can be perilous things, no matter who you have riding along with you. If Bush were concerned about his legacy, he would stick to domestic issues that aren’t too controversial and try to handle the situation in Iraq without making any drastic moves. While there is almost no sense in believing that Roe v. Wade is in any serious danger of being overturned or that Bush is going to try to turn all of America into Jesusland, it is evident that steering clear of controversy is not Bush’s style, and we can probably expect our share of new “outrages” that will have the Bush lovers and the Bush haters facing off. As Bill Clinton opens his new library this week, he worries about his legacy. As Bush faces his new term, he might just laugh in the face of those who tell him to do the same.