Advice for President-elect Bush (or Gore).
Dear Mr. President-elect:
Congratulations on having survived one of the longest counts in presidential history.
You have a lot to do between now and Jan. 20, but don't let the press of time or the
temptations of politics distract you from the only task that matters: getting as much
as you can of the program you campaigned on through the Congress.
Your first temptation will be to play politics with the dying embers of the Clinton
administration. Don't do it. There are a lot of pardons coming, to the likes of Webb
Hubbell, Susan McDougal, former Gov. Jim Guy Tucker of Arkansas and the other 11
convicts in the Clinton vortex. There is nothing you can do about it, so don't waste a
minute on it. Ditto for the coming Clinton disbarment in Arkansas. Just deserts and
all that, but let the press worry about that one. Clemencies for politically correct
convicted cop-killers may be coming too; they will speak for themselves and you
can't undo them.
Executive orders will flow from the White House until the morning of January 20, for
they are the liberals' favorite way to govern. To quote Clinton spinner Paul Begala:
"Stroke of the pen. Law of the land. Kind of cool." These are worth some time and
effort, since you have the power to alter or undo them by means of your executive
orders. So have your counsel go through them and correct whatever mischief you
As you begin to structure your cabinet, keep in mind the old adage that anyone who
volunteers to serve in the cabinet is the wrong person to put there. Beware of paying
off helpful constituencies with the appointment of political hacks.
Three important things to remember in naming a cabinet, for the press will tell you
otherwise. First, the job of a cabinet secretary is to carry out the policies of your
administration, not to represent in the cabinet the views of some interest group.
Second, a cabinet that "looks like America" is of little importance compared to a
cabinet that thinks like America. There are few people who think like Ralph Nader or
Jesse Jackson, so the number of people in the government who think like them
should likewise be minimal. A "bipartisan" cabinet is an illusion too; policy is the only
thing that counts.
Find an attorney general of the highest integrity, and have him assist local
authorities in the prosecution of vote fraud in Florida. Likewise select an outstanding
secretary of the Treasury, for your administration (and all of us) will rise or fall on
the state of the economy.
As for policy, a few specifics need to be attended to. Free trade is the most
important international issue (and maybe the most important economic one), so tell
the French and the rest of the Eurozoners that we will not be a party to
protectionism, or protectionist regulation of the Internet either, and get fast-track
trade-negotiating authority through Congress while your honeymoon lasts.
President Clinton's Russian policy has been a disaster, but Strobe Talbott is gone at
last, so appoint a realist instead of a sympathizer and start over. And no more secret
protocols on Russian arms sales.
Propose a uniform ballot for federal candidates. Big-city pols, Jesse Jackson and the
unions won't like it, but it is the right thing to do. It will reduce vote fraud by ending
double punching, and while it may not keep a lot of dead people and Florida felons
(at least 450 are known to have voted in just a few counties) from casting ballots, it
will begin to restore some badly needed integrity to urban voting.
Better find a way to drill for and refine some more crude oil in this country; windmills
won't rescue us from growing shortages and higher heating oil prices. Better get
some well-spent dollars into the military too; it is not nearly as effective a fighting
force as it needs to be, and military weaknesses have a way of showing up at the
worst possible moment.
Draw a bright line between yourself and William Jefferson Clinton. Disclose all, be
straightforward, don't triangulate, obfuscate, cheat or lie.
As for your own policies, govern as if you had won by a sizable margin. Faint hearts
never forged successful policies. Negotiate with the other party, not with your own.
Put forth the full program you ran on; don't hold back hoping to appease your
opponents, for the opposite party in Congress is unappeasable.
So, Mr. Bush, go full bore with your across-the-board tax cut. The timing is right, a
slowing economy needs a stimulus. Get a repeal of the death tax, reducing the
marriage penalty, and increased IRA contribution limits to the Ways and Means
Committee in your first week in office. They passed Congress before, and they will
again. Get your Social Security commission and the new Medicare commission (Sen.
John Breaux would be a good choice for chairman; you don't want him in your
cabinet since you need him in the Senate) to work by March 1. Then go ahead with
your education plan; parents are ready for a way out when schools have repeatedly
And a helpful hint: cancel the White House subscription to the New York Times. It
will be opposed to all this and most anything else you do; its editors haven't
endorsed a Republican in 40 years and they're not about to start with you.
As for you, Mr. Gore, if you somehow make it to the White House, you are entitled to
one get-even: No appointments to anyone from Arkansas or Tennessee until their
voters understand who's in charge here and get with the program. Then you need to
tend to your personality again. People didn't like the sighing-superiority shtick of
your first debate, and they won't like the partisan pit bull you were in the Senate
either. So why not be the real you, an old-fashioned New Deal liberal?
In the campaign you proposed a round $900 billion in new spending. Better hurry,
for time is short; a recession could drain away that surplus faster than you can say
"no controlling legal authority." Republican moderates will support your spending
increases a lot of the time, so it won't be as difficult as you think. You can keep your
promises, reward your constituencies, and at the same time build in the necessity for
a really big tax increase when the next recession reduces revenues. It must be a
"fair" and "just" tax increase of course, say only on "the wealthiest 1%" you kept
talking about in your campaign.
Your biggest challenge will be to get the Kyoto global climate treaty ratified. It’s a
mess at the moment, with this vast right-wing "carbon sink" charade designed to
avoid any tax increases on big oil companies. Better replace those Clinton
negotiators for starters, but this will be a tough one. So be bold and fair and just,
and make your first proposal as president a big BTU tax. I know you and Bill Clinton
couldn't get it through in 1993, but you don't have to carry him around your neck
any longer, so you can do it. Then the elimination of the internal combustion engine
could highlight your second term. And what a great legacy that would be.
Best wishes to you, Mr. President-elect, and Godspeed. I look forward to seeing both
you and the former vice president at the inauguration.
Mr. du Pont, a former governor of Delaware, is policy chairman of the Dallas-based National Center for Policy Analysis. His column will appear Wednesdays.