[This post was written in the Fall of 2006; prior to the 2006 election]
Whether or not one admires the policies of our current President or GOP-led Congress, the question of follow-through grows with every new policy proposal. Lack of follow-through in the previous GOP administration helped ensure its single term. Lack of follow-through now may turn the Congress over to the Democrats this Fall, and the Presidency to them in 2008. 2,500 miles away in Sacramento the same question exists regarding a star GOP governor. Is it systemic?
The GOP was voted into power in 1994 largely on a promise to reform and reduce government, making it more accountable. Instead, they have made it bigger and less accountable. They have not followed-through.
Bush 41 did not go to Baghdad when it was the logical follow through to Gulf I. As the party leader it was his responsibility to ensure a succession strategy to continue the policies of his party. He campaigned on no new taxes. He followed through on none of these. So we handed him his walking papers.
Bush 43 has made numerous policy pronouncements. His lack of follow through, however, has been startling.
Reforming Social Security? His lack of fighting for what he says he believes has left it short even of the starting gate.
Reforming K-12 education? Even ultra-liberal San Francisco has outstripped Bush in school choice and budgetary reform.
Reforming an activist judiciary? Was nominating someone as unfit as Harriet Meiers rather than renominating a Justice Rogers-Brown follow-through of judicial reform? Was not fighting against the Gang of 14, follow-through on what Conservatives sent him to Washington to do?
The war on terror? Why did it take two tries to get Fallujah right? Why are we not fighting to win? Where is the follow-through? The wars we have won were conducted ruthlessly on the field of combat, were fought to unconditional surrenders, accepted millions of civilian casualties, and resulted in free democratic states around the globe; what we say we want. The citizens of those countries are freer, happier and wealthier than ever before in their histories. So why can Bush not figure this out, fight to win, accept civilian casualties, and follow through?
Does anyone seriously believe that being nice to an enemy citizenry will help us win? Are the citizens in Iraq happy now that we are nice to them while they still are being slaughtered because we have yet to follow through and kill their domestic and foreign enemies? Or do we not really want to win? If we are going to expend blood and treasure, don’t we need to follow through and kill the bad guys? Our efforts to save civilian lives have resulted only in civilian deaths caused by our joint enemy blowing up Iraqis and Americans on a daily basis.
How about his own succession? The most important legacy that can be left by a freely-elected president is to ensure continuation of the policies that got him elected. This is done by preparing the ground for a successor in a similar mold. So why is no succession strategy evident? Because he does not think he needs one? Because he does not want his policies continued? Because he does not believe what he says? Are there any other answers?
2,500 miles away in California the same issue of follow through exists. Star-power Governor Schwarzenegger made a big show of going around a Legislature widely viewed as obstructionist, got four major propositions on the 2004 ballot, and then went MIA during the campaign. He did not follow-through; each proposition failed. Did he just not really believe in them?
Three powerful GOP leaders and a GOP Congress. Nearly twenty years of responsibility. No follow through.
Why is this good for America? Given our place in the world, why is this good for the world? What is the GOP going to do about it?
Do we need to bring the other party back to power to see if they believe in what they say enough to follow-through? Does the GOP have a serious answer to that question?
Or will we hand them their walking papers?