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Bush to draw on 'political capital' -

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Bush to draw on 'political capital'

Reporter: Maxine McKew

MAXINE McKEW: With a buoyant George Bush asserting, as we've just heard earlier, that he intends to
draw down on his new bank of political capital, it's worth considering what this will mean in
policy terms.

Will the newly mandated President be cautious or ambitious when it comes to both domestic and
foreign policy?

For a sense of what we might see over the next four years I've been joined tonight by David Frum.

Now a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, he's a former speechwriter to President

He also wrote 'The Right Man, the Surprise Presidency of George W Bush', the first of the insider
accounts of the Bush White House.

David Frum joins me now from Washington.

David Frum, good evening to you.

I should say good morning to you?


Good evening to you.


First to the day's big story if I could -- what we are hearing of course is the imminent demise of
Yasser Arafat.

This of course will be the first big foreign policy challenge for President Bush, won't it?

DAVID FRUM: It will certainly be one of many.

I think it may give us something of the answer to the question you proposed in the set-up which was
is the President going to be strong and aggressive or is he going to be conciliatory or cautious
and my answer would be yes to both.

You're going to see that demonstrated I think after the death of Yasser Arafat.

President Bush was very strong in his principles that Arafat had to be excluded from the Middle
Eastern future, that he was a terrorist, that he was a destructive force, had no intention of
reaching a peace agreement and President Bush was also emphatic that he was not to intervene in the
war Arafat started in September of 2000 until Arafat was defeat and Palestinians realised how
disastrous was the course he had led them on.

Now that those two things are accomplished that Arafat is out of the picture and Palestinians have
accepted the reality of their defeat in the war they started, he sees an opportunity to do
something bold and has gone out of his way to say he meant it when he talked about a democratic
Palestinian state and he's going to be looking for new interlocutors there.

MAXINE McKEW: Where else might we see this kind of boldness?

In the last 24 hours the President says he wants to see and promote free societies.

In the short-term, might that mean confronting say Iran, over its nuclear program in a very
muscular way?

DAVID FRUM: In a muscular way yes but not necessarily in the case of Iran.

There is this kind of cartoon image of George Bush that he sees military force as the answer to
every single problem That's really not true.

Iraq was a situation that was very extreme, where there 12 years of failed diplomacy.

In Iran he has been giving diplomacy a very abundant chance.

He's followed the advice of Europeans and others to go through the International Atomic Energy
Authority to enforce the non-proliferation treaty and then to go to the Security Council.

The question for the world and America's friends is going to be -- as we approach the end of that
process, we're going to the Security Council on Iran in November.

If Iran continues to cheat, if Iran continues to insist on maintaining a nuclear program, the
non-proliferation treaty lays out consequences.

Will the Security Council enforce those consequences.

They never did in the case of Iraq.

Will they do better in the case of Iran?

MAXINE McKEW: There's the question of Iraq which will depend on how elections go next year and the
security situation.

This whole one issue could end up defining the entire Bush presidency, it's an open question
whether that will be a positive legacy?

DAVID FRUM: Well, Iraq is a huge question.

I should say here at this point that I think the Australian election had something of an impact on
the American election.

There was a real sense here -- you often heard people point to the re-elections in Spain and
Australia and of course each of those had their own particular circumstances, but things are not
always well understood from across the world.

Do -- are Americans going to vote robustly like Australians not to be intimidated after the
bombings in Jakarta.

Or will they vote like Spaniards?

The Australian example was very powerful in a lot of security minded people.

I think you're seeing in Iraq the beginning, it's already begun -- a major campaign in Fallujah and
other Sunni towns but I think with the idea not of perpetual war but of securing the situation for
Iraqi elections in January.

MAXINE MCKEW: You've made the point there about the crossover with the Australian election.

What was outstanding here was overwhelmingly the question of economic management which was the
issue that prevailed in Australia.

Why wasn't the economy more of a focus in the United States?

Particularly in swing states like Ohio where there've been big job losses, where we see massive
spending on things like Iraq and Afghanistan and the ongoing US Budget deficit.

Why wasn't this a bigger issue?

DAVID FRUM: It's a fascinating question and Bill Clinton could have given his own part of the

Bill Clinton's rule of politics was that elections are about the future, not about the past.

As Americans look to the economic future, you see -- and it's measured in surveys -- very high
consumer confidence.

They really think the economy is getting strongly better -- in many parts of the country the
economy is already really quite strong, as strong as it was in 1996 when Bill Clinton was

Not as strong in '98 and '99, but as strong as it was in '96.

So, I think people feel the economy is OK, not terrific, but OK.

And getting better.

And so they have a high degree of confidence.

I understand that point about local issues in Australia.

We had an American counterpart to that as well, which is that cultural issues were very much on
people's mind, same sex marriage and also the issue of the inability of so many Americans to
identify with John Kerry who seemed such an exotic creature to so many people.

MAXINE MCKEW: Did the scale of the Republican triumph even take you aback?

This wasn't just an increase or a strong vote -- popular vote -- for the President, but extra seats
in both the House and in the Senate?


Yep it surprised me.

I will not pretend to have predicted this.

I thought it would be a squeaker.

As you say, this is one of the most decisive elections we've seen in a long time.

It's true the President did not get as big a share of the vote as say Ronald Reagan in 1986.

But a bigger share of the vote than Clinton in '96.

He's the first President to win a majority of the votes cast since his own father back in 1998.

As you point out.

In the olden days of American politics an incoming President could bring Congressmen with him.

No president successful at that since Dwight Eisenhower, not in real sense.

Reagan did it the first time but not the second time.

For a re-elected president to elect congressmen -- that is a hugely powerful personal statement.

One more thing worth noting -- the exit polls are maybe not fully to be trusted but they've been
trying to tidy them up.

7 out of 10 Bush voters said they liked George Bush.

Only 4 out of 10 Kerry voters said they liked John Kerry.

This is a very personal mandate, very much trust in the man, trust in what he's doing and
willingness to elect people who will support him.

MAXINE McKEW: Let me ask you about the second term.

You made the point -- I mean, you called your book 'The Surprise Presidency of George Bush' Because
you portrayed a leader who in fact was made by the events of September 11, it made him the decisive
person he has since become.

What do you think this victory does mean for him personally and for his wider family for that

DAVID FRUM: A powerful question.

President Bush when he came into office did not at first seem like he would be the kind of
president he later turned out to be.

That's part of the story, there are a lot of questions in the summer of 2001 as to whether this
would be a successful administration.

9/11 did change him.

You see at a very important press conference yesterday, he gave, he told us, he answered the
question and he said his philosophy has been when you earn political capital you must spend it, not
horde it.

I think he understands the dynamics of politics very well.

He's got in domestic policy six to nine months really to make a mark and with the Republican
Congress he has an opportunity to make a mark.

I think you'll see a lot of activity on the domestic front.

A huge battle very soon over the shape of the Supreme Court, Chief Justice Renquist is ailing and
will probably have to be replaced quite soon.

Other justices are old and in foreign affairs, we have a world of problems.

MAXINE McKEW: Now that being the case how does that sit with what the President has said, that he
in fact wants to heal the nation, if he's going to make his mark and move forward on some of those
issues how can he bring a divisive country together?

DAVID FRUM: Well he said he wanted -- I think he was indicating in that press conference -- he
wanted to work with people who share his goals.

This time is different from 2000.

In 2000, many of us urged him and he didn't listen -- many of us urged him -- you need to build
more of a Government of national unity because of the doubtful circumstances of your victory.

You won the election by the rules though it's a political fact.

The other guy got more votes than you and that's important.

At least in our system maybe not in a parliamentary system.

This time I think he has -- he has a clear mandate.

He has the right to govern the way he thinks right.

Much more so than Bill Clinton in 1996.

He must be prudent about that and not go out of his way to alienate people.

I think you'll see in his judicial nominations that he'll try to find people who are both strongly
conservative in the way they would think but also people who reach out to new communities.

I think he has on his short list, a black woman, Supreme Court justice who will be the first, a
Latino in mind who will be the first.

He will be trying to send symbolic images of healing, inclusion, the whole nation without being
pushed off his own agenda.

MAXINE McKEW: How this will sit in the Congress.

One hears that there are fewer and fewer centralists among either Republicans or Democrats.

Isn't the scene set there for a pretty rancorous divide?

DAVID FRUM: Well, I wonder about that.

I think it is certainly true that the Democrats have -- that we have fewer of those crossover
districts, where Republicans from liberal districts and Democrats from conservative districts.

The parties have been tidied.

The conservative districts elect Republicans and the liberal districts elect Democrats.

It doesn't necessarily mean there's ill will.

It means the party system is fitting the realities of the country better.

Here I think is something that will have a chastening effect on everybody.

Democrats, I think, are a little bit in shock at how they misjudged the country.

They really believed that President Bush's culture and social agenda was out of the mainstream.

They thought his stance on stem cells and against same sex marriage would be liabilities for him
and they discovered that especially on the same sex marriage issue, that was a strong asset to him
and they are now having to wonder just as we got the country wrong on gun control back in 1994,
that did we maybe get the country wrong on issues of marriage and family in 2004?

I think you'll see a lot of Democrats re-thinking what they stand for and maybe try to find common
ground on these issues.

MAXINE McKEW: This is time for gratuitous advice, if you were a Democratic strategist already
thinking about the 2008 campaign, how do you win over some of these Republican and particularly
Republican Christian voters on some of these key moral issues?

DAVID FRUM: I think the big mistake John Kerry made in this election -- this is not after the fact
-- I often said this at the time -- was he actually ran on economic issues a very conservative

His economic agenda was extremely modest.

I think he actually could have risked going much more to the left on economic issues, on issues
like -- take people's nursing home bills, not properly covered in the United States -- a lot of
middle class people are worried if their parents are ill.

Medicare covers everything but chronic weakness.

That was an opportunity but it had to be bookended, matched, with a much more conservative attitude
culturally on the family which Americans are very concerned about, on crime, only the symbols of
cultural unity.

So, short answer -- left for the Democrats, go left on economics, right on culture, right on
national security.

MAXINE McKEW: Does it also mean for the foreseeable future, they'll have to look for very good
southern conservative candidate?

DAVID FRUM: It doesn't have to be a southerner but from this point, John Kerry it's hard to imagine
a worse choice and many Democrats said this at the time.

That he really -- from his voice to the way he stood, the way he dressed, to the story of his
personal life, being -- heroism in Vietnam, but then this antiwar protester -- and then the
extraordinary lavish lifestyle, four mansions, his own personal plane provided by his wife's family
fortune -- it's hard to imagine somebody who would be a worse choice.

You can find people -- from the Midwest and from the north east who can connect with southerners,
but they have to be different kinds of people.

MAXINE McKEW: Finally, I want to come back to the question of the expectations of Christian voters
who turned out in big numbers for the President.

They will want the President very much to push ahead for a conservative social agenda.

Is it going to be possible for the President to match their very high expectations?

DAVID FRUM: You know, I actually think that the expectations of those voters are not so very high.

I think it will be easy for him.

I think -- the way it looks to them is they are not looking for trouble with anybody and they're
not trying to impose anything on anybody.

People keep coming after them.

Christian conservatives didn't say, "We have an idea, let's go after the gays."

The same sex marriage issue, they sought the supreme judicial council of Massachusetts early in the
year, said there would be a new Massachusetts constitutional right of gay marriage.

They feel intruded upon.

I think if they have a sense that, that is over, that is subsiding and you'll be allowed to live
your life and have the country the way you think it should, I think you'll find that they are

MAXINE McKEW: Surely pro choice individuals, be they men or women would also feel they are being
intruded upon, equally those people who believe in stem cell research could feel that the committed
Christians are coming after them?

DAVID FRUM: But on stem cells all President Bush did was make regulations about the small amount of
research money that comes from the Federal Government.

His policy says states can do what they want.

Universities and corporations can do what they want with their own money and indeed California in
the same election said California will invest billions in stem cell research and the President's
policy does not stop that.

On abortion the President is looking to judges who will restore the power to make decision about
abortion to the states.

His position is not a ban abortion.

His position is to let each State Government make its own decisions about abortion which I think
offers the hope of a Federal solution to this difficult problem.

Last thing about the expectations -- I saw this so much in the reaction to the right man, which I
went around the country, a lot of the parts of the country I don't know that well talking to people
about it -- people wanted to feel that they had a president who understand them, on their wave

They have a kind of personal comfort with him and it isn't that they have a long laundry list of
things they want him do today.

Rather, they trust him to do the right thing and they'll give him a lot of leeway and elbow room.

MAXINE McKEW: David Frum, for that thank you very much indeed.

DAVID FRUM: I thank you for the invitation.