President-elect George W. Bush has not backed down on his proposed $1.3 trillion tax cut over the next 10 years and this has provoked the ire of most Democrats and their Big Media allies.
These partisan critics, who will never tire of reminding Bush that he "has no mandate," claim his insistence on sticking with those "huge" tax cuts are violating the spirit of bipartisanship, which he'll need to govern effectively.
A few points: The tax-cut plan was the centerpiece of Bush's campaign; he'd be foolish to abandon it unless he absolutely has to, but certainly not before the 107th Congress even convenes. You don't give away your strongest bargaining chip without getting something in return. Plenty of Americans can remember what happened to George Bush Sr. when he reneged on his campaign promise of "Read my lips - no new taxes." Campaign centerpieces cannot be ignored.
But even more importantly, as president - in command of the nation's bully pulpit - Bush has a good chance of building a mandate for his tax cuts, even in a balky, 50-50 Congress. Tax cuts are, after all, one of the government's principal tools to revive a slowing economy (hopefully, before it slides into recession).
Despite the closeness of the election, there are other ways Bush can construct a mandate - and prove his ability to govern. Start with small steps, and with each success, strive toward larger ones.
A good place to begin is by pushing popular legislation that had broad bipartisan support in the last Congress, but was shot down either by President Clinton's vetoes or his administration's opposition.
In the tax cut realm, this would include repeal of the marriage penalty and the estate tax. The latter tax, a.k.a. the death tax, is a punitive levy on success that adds nothing of substance to federal coffers. The death tax also gives Uncle Sam a serious public relations black eye - a metaphor for Big Government as grave-robber, literally.
Other good bipartisan legislation that a Bush administration would support, which the Clinton administration opposed, includes a partial-birth abortion ban; bankruptcy reform; IRAs' expansion; and Medicare reforms that the bipartisan Breaux Commission sought last year but, due to Clinton's opposition, never got off the ground.
Scoring early victories on these needed and widely supported changes would surely dispel all reservations that Bush can't govern effectively.