During the last year of his presidency, Ronald Reagan waged a two-prong strategy to solidify the gains of his administration: He pushed the Soviet Union to make real arms reductions and set the stage for the fall of the Berlin Wall, while on the domestic front he and his Cabinet campaigned relentlessly to hold the line on regulation and taxes.
President Bush, in contrast, remains strangely almost silent about the successful Iraq “surge” strategy despite an opportunity to deliver defeat to the defeatist Democrats who still, against all evidence, claim the war has failed. And on domestic policy during the past week he waved a flag of complete surrender. He gave up on making his tax cuts permanent without so much as a political whimper, and he signed on to a massive “tax rebate” that will enlarge the deficit and do little for long-term economic growth.
And the capper is that he did it in the name of making peace with a Congress that is even more unpopular than he is.
The GOP candidates for president, each of whom has detailed a pro-growth economic strategy, were left to twist slowly in the wind as they took pains to avoid criticism of their sitting president.
What should the White House do instead?
Senate Democrats, by insisting upon an even more larded-up “stimulus” package, may hand Bush an excuse to pivot toward pro-growth policy for the long term: insistence upon making his tax cuts permanent in order to avoid a massive tax increase come 2010, bolstering the dollar, and encouraging the Fed to hold firm against inflation.
Alas, it seems doubtful that the White House will do anything of the kind. The best one might hope for is that congressional Democrats conjure up a “stimulus” so offensive to economic sense that the president will use a rare veto, with an end result of little or no action.