Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Unrealistic Expectations

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Unrealistic Expectations

Article excerpt

WHAT do we expect of our public servants?

George Bush, with self-admitted limitations as a speaker, had just delivered one of his best speeches. Like the 1988 convention speech, it had been written, or at least spruced up, by Peggy Noonan. Expectations had been built quite high - more by Democrats set on pouncing on it than by the White House. And it seemed to me that the president (and Ms. Noonan) rose to the occasion.

The day after the State of the Union address the Speaker of the House, Tom Foley, was giving his assessment of Bush's speech at a Monitor breakfast. Like most Democrats, he was finding fault. He was concerned about President Bush being "too confrontational." He also viewed the Bush program for dealing with the recession as too little and off the mark.

What occurred to me was that a Republican president who had come up with a Republican approach to dealing with economic problems was being criticized for not proposing answers that only a liberal Democratic president would back.

Most of the critiques I read asserted that the speech's "substance" was weak. These commentators seemed baffled because Bush hadn't come up with an approach that would rely heavily on using the federal government and federal funds to solve economic problems. One writer seemed to feel that the days of the Great Depression are here and that it's time for bringing back FDR solutions, like a the Civilian Conservation Corps.

It's all fair criticism, and expected from partisans though not necessarily from the press. Even these critics admit that Bush "at least at first" gave a pretty good speech. Then they go on to brush this aside and say he flunked because he failed on "substance." But what else except a GOP approach should they expect from a Republican president?

Mr. Foley, always the gentleman, really wasn't too angry with the president - at least not much. He said he would try hard to work out something with Bush. He thought compromise positions might be found - even on the president's capital-gains tax-reduction proposal.

Then there's Bill Clinton. What do we expect of a presidential candidate? …

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