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Briefing and Opinion
November 5, 2004

Vin Weber and Bill Galston
Promises and Politics
Former Republican CongressmanVin Weber and Democrat Bill Galston of the University of Maryland predict how bipartisan interaction in Bush's second term will impact five key issues: the war in Iraq, Supreme Court appointments, Social Security reform, health care, and tax reform.
Iraq War

The president's hand has been strengthened precisely to allow him to be more effective in the war on terror, because of his election.

My hunch is that the Democratic Party will conclude that this is Mr. Bush's war to conduct and to win. There is going to be a hiatus, a period of some months, during which the president in the beginning of his second term will be given more reign to conduct this war.
The Supreme Court

I don't think you can avoid a big nasty fight over a Supreme Court nomination. It's been widely reported now that moral concerns outpaced everything else in the voters' priorities. The place those issues come to the fore is in the Supreme Court nomination, and the Democrats have indicated an absolute intransigence and a willingness to use the rules of the senate to block the nominees, even if a strong majority of the senate favors them. So it's going to be a real test of wills, but eventually the country's going to get tired of a vacancy that can't be filled, and somebody's gonna blink

This is a life and death issue for the modern Democratic Party. Democrats believe that the Supreme Court in the last two generations has played an important role in establishing a regime of rights for a modern democracy. President Bush has said that his model for judicial appointments to the Supreme Court is Justice Scalia, or if that's too moderate, Justice Thomas. And if he deliberately scours the country for justices in that mold, then there will be the political equivalent of nuclear war on the floor of the senate.
Social Security

Every speech he gave he talked about establishing private accounts and reforming Social Security, and I think that he knows that the opening to do that politically is now or probably never. I think the president understands this is really a big deal and he's going to push for it.

Democrats have already indicated that they are willing to consider private accounts as an addition to the current system, but not as a replacement for it.

Health care can become a real morass. You get sucked in and there are a lot of bad tradeoffs that you have to make. I'm not a skeptic about his ability to accomplish it. I just look at healthcare as a very tough issue.

I think a lot of Democrats, including some surprises on the liberal side, are quite willing to go the tax credit private market route as opposed to a more traditional government program route. He might be surprised how much he can achieve on a health care front.
Tax Reform

When I see him talking about tax reform again and again and again, and he talked about it in his campaign stump speeches, I assume he's serious about it. That's a solemn promise that the Republican Party and the president made in this campaign. In my view that's sort of a non-negotiable item.

Democrats are prepared to have a conversation about tax reform, because they believe in tax reform. If the president wants to make permanent the kind of tax cuts that democrats have opposed, they'll continue to oppose them, and the president will probably at the end of the day get his way.