The next Bush administration (part two)

Restructuring domestic management

The next Bush administration (part two)

By Quentin Langley

Dateline 24 July 2004

One aspect of his international policy management that the President will need to reproduce is to appoint operators of real stature and commitment to key economic portfolios. There also needs to be a theme, and one that moves beyond tax cuts. That theme should be free trade: cutting tariffs, campaigning for free trade abroad, and slashing red tape at home. I would like to think that this free trade agenda could even be extended to agriculture, but I seriously doubt that the administration will pick up this idea, or that Congress would go along with it if they did.

The economist Irwin Stelzer has suggested that US Trade Representative Robert Zoellick would be a Treasury Secretary who would make free trade his signature. Former Senator Phil Gramm – a former professor of economics – would be another alternative, though perhaps they should be deployed in combination, with Gramm becoming Commerce Secretary. That would create a vacancy for Trade Representative, and one contender would be Rep Henry Bonilla. The White House flirted with backing Bonilla for Gramm’s Senate seat, but that didn’t work out. A Trade Representative who is fluent in Spanish and has a close relationship with the President would be a real asset to the team.

This leaves the question of how Don Evans will be deployed. Evans is the President’s oldest friend, and will not be departing the administration. The President needs a senior figure whom he completely trusts to help him analyse the submissions he receives from the different domestic departments – exactly the role Condoleeza Rice fulfils on international policy. Evans is highly qualified for such a role, and could very comfortably fill the role of Chief of Staff.

How then to fill the domestic spending departments? After a good start, the reforming agenda of Rod Paige’s Education Department petered out. The role requires a charismatic figure of real stature to campaign, chivvy and push for school choice. One possible choice is Washington Mayor Anthony Williams. But it is probably better to leave him in place to implement the voucher plan for the District of Columbia. It is also a good thing to have a prominent Democrat supporting vouchers, and tempting him into a Republican cabinet would undermine that impact.

An imaginative choice, which would clearly communicate the priority being given to the education agenda, would be Colin Powell. A passionate advocate of choice for parents in urban ghettos, such as the one where he grew up, Powell has the stature and the leadership skills to make school choice a reality. While he is usually associated with his high profile national security roles, it is often forgotten that for seven years after stepping down as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs he ran a charity dedicated to creating opportunities for poor kids from the inner cities, especially the minority kids who predominate there.

Would Powell accept? The State Department is the senior department in the federal government and moving to Education would be a move downwards. But this very fact would be a message. Powell would take Education only on his own terms, and his willingness to do so would reinforce the message that this is something in which he passionately believes.

What then of Health and Human Services? Tommy Thompson’s tenure has been little short of a disgrace. What is needed now is someone with real commitment to reform, combined with legislative and executive experience. The man qualified beyond any other is former Delaware Governor and Congressman, now serving as President of the National Centre for Policy Analysis in Dallas, and as an occasional columnist for the Wall Street Journal – Pete Du Pont. Under his leadership we could expect to see real movement towards Americans taking control of part of their social security investments, so boosting the economy, personal choice and responsibility, and retirement incomes.

Copyright © 24 July 2004

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