Separate but Equal Branches: Congress and the Presidency

By Charles O. Jones | Go to book overview

10
Bush and Congress

It's easy to underestimate George Bush because he's so damn genteel and nice. -- Thomas Ashley

Bush is a genuine conservative, an American Tory. There are known characteristics of that breed: they care about the society and the government that is handed to them; they want to make small adjustments; they want to keep the boat afloat. Bush is a professional in public service, which means that he has respect for other professionals. -- Nelson W. Polsby

In a postelection article entitled "Low Expectations," Burt Solomon of the National Journal explained that Bush entered the White House "with no obvious mandate and with a residue of bad feeling left from the unsavory campaign." Therefore, Solomon reasoned, "there's little expectation that Bush's first 100 days as President will rival Reagan's or Franklin D. Roosevelt's in 1933. Nor should they." 1 Solomon quotes Richard E. Neustadt as saying that he would not be surprised if Bush "tried to lower expectations."

This kind of analysis was typical in the aftermath of the 1988 election. No one concluded that Bush's forty-state win carried with it a mandate for specific action on the nation's agenda. George Bush had not spoken to the issues in the campaign, and the Democrats had retained virtually their same healthy margins in the House and Senate. It was not an inspiring election for those who believe in party government and who test the political system by its principles.

By the end of its first year, the lowered expectations of the administration had the approval of a near-record number of Americans. George Bush's popular approval far exceeded that of Ronald Reagan at the end of his historic first year in office. It was also markedly higher than that of any other post-World War II president ex

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