EDITORIAL: by Peter WestmoreNews Weekly
George W. Bush's new direction
, November 20, 2004
The US elections held on November 2 were important for many reasons: the decisiveness of the final vote, the significance of the outcome for President Bush, what it tells us about America, and what it means for the rest of the world.
Despite media predictions to the contrary, the US election was a triumph for the President and the Republican Party. For the first time in many years, the Republicans have both secured the Presidency and won overwhelming control of the US Senate, 55 votes to 44, and the Congress, 231 to 200.
This clearly reflects a new mood in America: a preoccupation with moral values at home - reflected in the emergence of an avowedly Christian vote in America and a repudiation of the "tinsel town" ethos of Hollywood and New York - and a determination to stand up to America's enemies abroad.
President Bush won two states which he had lost in 2000 (Iowa and New Mexico), and decisively won the marginal states of Ohio (by 140,000 votes), and Florida by a margin of almost 400,000 votes.
In the US Electoral College, which actually elects the President, George Bush secured 286 votes, against John Kerry's 252.Legislative program
So President Bush will be able to secure congressional support for his legislative program, and should be able to effect the appointment of his nominees to key Administration posts, as well as the US Supreme Court, where previous Bush nominations have been thwarted by the Democrats' filibusters.
During his first term of office, President Bush was willing to take up unpopular causes. He withdrew America's signature from the Kyoto Protocol on greenhouse gases, refused funding for UN agencies which promote abortion in developing countries, withdrew from the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, rejected the International Criminal Court, and withdrew from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty signed with the former Soviet Union.
The defining moment in President Bush's first term of office was the brazen attack launched by Islamic terrorists on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, on September 11, 2001.
These attacks were quite probably intended to ignite a world conflict between Islam and the once Christian West. Within days, it was obvious that the attack had been masterminded by Osama bin Laden, an Islamic extremist who operated from an extensive network of terrorist bases in Afghanistan.
President Bush sought, and obtained, UN support for military operations against the Islamist regime in Afghanistan in 2001, leading to the overthrow of the Taliban, and its replacement by a moderate pro-Western government in Kabul.
However, the UN Security Council in 2003 refused to join the US in military action against Saddam Hussein's Iraq, which had consistently refused to comply with its UN obligations to open itself to unfettered inspection of possible chemical, biological and nuclear weapons programs.
President Bush nonetheless built a "coalition of the willing" - about 30 nations who supported his position. He called on Saddam Hussein to step down from power, and when he refused, occupied Iraq.
Despite initial success, the military situation in Iraq has steadily worsened. The establishment of a new government in Iraq has been disrupted by the unprecedented opposition it has aroused in many parts of the Islamic world which has a paranoid hostility towards the US in general, and President Bush in particular.
In part, the Americans' own actions in Iraq - their indifference to the widespread looting which followed the fall of Saddam and the destruction of Iraq's infrastructure, their refusal to permit anyone associated with Saddam's regime to play any role in the new Iraqi administration, and the shortcomings of the less-than-adequately-trained US Army - contributed to this situation.Ruthless
But it is also true that Islamic extremists, who were ruthlessly persecuted in Saddam's Iraq, have found that the Americans are a far easier target than the Iraqi dictator, and have embarked on a campaign to defeat the American military occupation and overthrow the interim Iraqi administration ahead of elections scheduled for next January.
President Bush's first challenge is to effect an orderly transfer of power to an Iraqi administration in 2005, and to give it the means to defeat the terrorist challenge.
What he has not addressed is record government debt and America's massive foreign debt, the consequence of the slow deindustrialisation of the US, leaving the country increasingly dependent on imports.
Apart from that, he has an ambitious domestic agenda.
This will include support for a constitutional amendment to defend marriage, appoint "black letter" judges rather than judicial activists to reshape the nation's legal system, reform the social security system, encourage domestic oil production, and overhaul the federal tax system.
If he achieves this, he will have secured America's greatness, at least in the short term.
- Peter Westmore is president of the National Civic Council.