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The Buck Starts Here

Wednesday, 22 December 2004 12:00 AM

It is one tremendous gamble Bush is taking, and the odds are against him. But the unequivocal bet here is that he will beat those odds.

Bush has already accomplished enough in his first term to earn him a nomination to the pantheon of great American presidents. Success in his second four years will ensure him that place in history. It will be because he is willing to risk

This is the opportunity the Founding Fathers handed to every president, by the way they conceived this nation and enshrined its potential greatness in the Constitution.

“Accountability” – so what does that mean? The difference from “responsibility” is compelling.

Dictionaries define accountability as the “obligation to report, explain or justify something,” in short, to be “answerable.”

Responsibility, on the other hand, is defined as applying “to one who has been delegated some duty by one in authority and who is subject to penalty in case of default.”

Responsibility, then, is the duty to perform specific acts delegated by the president, who is then ultimately answerable – accountable – for what his deputies do in performance of their assigned duties.

And the dictionary adds: “Answerable implies a legal or moral obligation for which one must answer to someone sitting in judgment.”

The ones sitting in judgment on a presidency are those who, under the Constitution, vested authority in a president – namely, the American electorate. It is to the American people that President Bush will be held accountable by history.

This is a real nutcracker in which the Constitution has placed a president. The temptation is to find ways to wriggle out of that vise before being squeezed to pieces by the weight of office. Most presidents spend their time procrastinating, side-stepping, mealy mouthing, posturing, obfuscating and downright lying to survive the nutcracker.

Bush is giving increasing evidence he is not interested in playing that role. He is striding straight into the nutcracker, intent upon accepting history’s judgment as to whether he survives accountability.

Once a president takes that fateful step, however, he hits an immediate fork in the road.

A president may opt to make few waves, to ride out his days in the Oval Office without initiating anything of consequence, anything resembling fundamental change, which is the mortal enemy of embedded mediocrities of self-perpetuating bureaucracies.

Or, as Bush is doing, he may opt for waking up the echoes and shaking down the thunder from the sky, as they like to sing at South Bend, Ind.

Bush is making no bones about starting a select few major bucks rolling

It’s driving the arrogant class and the leftist masscomm media bug-swatting nuts. They’re unaccustomed to such cheeky upstartery in a presidency. And they correctly sense it definitely could be harmful to the health of their vested-power interests.

The radical-left media are in favor of an accountable presidency, all right. It’s just that they want it accountable to them, conforming with their warped world view and valueless values. The last place they want a president accountable is to the electorate.

Bush understands this and isn’t about to pander to a presumptuous press, which accounts in part for its fury with him. Such predictable, powerful hostility is but one of the natural forces running counter to Bush’s concept of an answerable presidency.

Rather than squatting on the White House south lawn like a hockey goalie, awaiting the onslaught of pucks shot right on, Bush has grasped the offensive. He is putting to work his political capital, earned on Nov. 2, 2004.

Critics will record each pennyweight of his political capital expended as a one-time-only transaction, forever beyond retrieval. However, Bush knows political capital is totally worthless unless, and until, expended, something unique to be invested, not merely spent, appreciating in value and power with each successive reinvestment.

Such a concept sails right over Bush-bashers’ heads. They’ll never get it, and the president wastes precious time trying to educate the likes of them.

The American people are a lot more intelligent. They do get it, and they are the audience to whom Bush is playing – again, to the confoundment of his opponents.

Right now, some of the more-dense members of Congress, in both parties, are making head-on runs against the president, as if he were in the sunset of a lame-duck second term. It wouldn’t bother them at all if they could render him a legless duck.

They resemble nothing so much as spoiled-willful children, testing the limits of their parents’ endurance. Bush has chosen not to coddle them, but rather to treat them as adults – to be held, themselves, accountable for their own actions.

So, how does Bush go about turning such built-in speed bumps and bollards into surfaces against which to bounce back his buck-starting initiatives?

He does it, as he is now beginning to do in press conferences and other public forums, by creating within the general electorate – not merely his own core base – a receptivity for change, followed by a readiness for new ways to turn inevitable change into desired actions.

Bush will lose some battles, but over time he will win more of the ones that really count. And why is that?

Simple. It’s because Bush, more than those opposing him, is in tune with the richer values and deeper aspirations of the majority of American people.

That’s what happened with him in the 2004 presidential and congressional elections. It will continue happening right on to January 2009.

In this sense, Bush is taking a page from Bill Clinton’s playbook: He is now in perpetual campaign mode.

None of this would work for Bush if he opted to wait for each buck to land on his desk.

What Bush is doing – and it’s absolutely fascinating to observe how he and Karl Rove have planned and engineered this – is to start the bucks flying off his desk that he wants to land back there for his signature into law.

This is the secret of a successful administration. This is the secret of accountability.

Anti-Bush masscomm critics are fussing that this president is forming a Cabinet table rimmed by loyalists rather than a choir of discordant soloists.

Had Bush wanted to dodge accountability he would have accommodated those critics. What better way to hide from accountability to the American people than by shrouding himself within a cacophony of disparate advice-givers?

Bush now has Cabinet-level department heads whose primary loyalty is to him, deputies to whom he can give the geo-political coordinates and their marching orders.

That’s the way it should be. That’s the way the Founding Fathers intended it, for only that way can a president be held truly accountable by the American people. It is precisely what George W. Bush wants.

America has a most uncommon president, and Americans are in for most extraordinary times.


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It is one tremendous gamble Bush is taking, and the odds are against him. But the unequivocal bet here is that he will beat those odds. Bush has already accomplished enough in his first term to earn him a nomination to the pantheon of great American presidents. Success in...
Wednesday, 22 December 2004 12:00 AM
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