• 91°

Bush already making good on promises

By By SONNY CALLAHAN
U.S. Representative
Out on the campaign trail last year, then-Governor George W. Bush promised that if elected, his presidency would set the tone for an end to the often bitter and rancorous partisanship which has besieged our nation's capital these past few decades.
And less than a month into office, the new president seems to be making good on his pledge.
Make no mistake, President Bush doesn't owe his election to African Americans, liberals or other groups who opposed him tooth and nail on election day. For instance, the president only received nine percent of the African-American vote last November, the smallest share of any Republican presidential candidate going back to Barry Goldwater in 1964.
And yet, time and again, the new president has reached out in ways that have left some Washington pundits scratching their heads.
Last week, for example, President Bush invited members of the Congressional Black Caucus to the White House to seek their input on his agenda. The meeting, which had been scheduled for 45 minutes, ran twice that long.
Over the weekend, the president extended a most unusual olive branch by attending a retreat for Democrat members of the House and Senate.
Has Mr. Bush lost his sense of direction, some loyalists have asked?
To the contrary, the president has simply done what he said he would do: reach out, build consensus and get things done.
Moreover, he seems intent on following the same kind of outreach that worked so well for him when he became governor of Texas.
Some people may have forgotten the fact that Governor Bush was able to turn his most powerful political rival in Texas, then-Democratic Lt. Gov. Bob Bullock, into one of his biggest allies.
And with the help of the lieutenant governor, Governor Bush was able to win passage of many of his legal, education and welfare proposals for the Lone Star State.
Along the way, the Bush charm also helped to make inroads into constituencies who had never before felt comfortable with a conservative Republican.
Make no mistake, the first few weeks of any presidency don't guarantee the next four years will be a success.
There will be many legislative battles where the president will end up on one side and the members of the loyal opposition will be squarely on the other side.
But this effort, coupled with what appears to be a sincere motivation on the president's part, can't hurt. In fact, it can only help.
Putting a nail in the coffin of the estate tax
Sometimes, I look back over the changes that have taken place just during my 16 years in Congress with amazement.
In 1984, when I first asked the people of south Alabama to allow me to serve them, the federal budget was nothing more than a sea of red ink.
A balanced budget seemed about as lofty a goal as was my opportunity to hop in a spaceship and fly to Mars.
Not only were massive deficits being recorded – they soared to $386 billion in 1992 the world was a different place as well. The Soviet Union, for instance, had their missiles pointed directly at the United States, Germany was still a nation divided and the spread of freedom and democracy in Latin America and elsewhere was slow going.
If you fast-forward to today, you've got to agree a lot has occurred in a relatively short period of time. Communism has declined dramatically and we are looking at a total surplus of $5.6 trillion in 10 years.
Perhaps there is no better example of this than the current move that is underfoot to eliminate the so-called "death tax."
I've long been a proponent of doing away with the estate tax. It is, in my view, a punitive tax that bears a heavy burden especially on small family-owned businesses and farms.
Last year, there was broad bipartisan support in both the House and Senate to repeal the estate tax. Unfortunately, it fell victim to then-President Clinton's veto pen.
However, the new Bush administration has signaled that eliminating the death tax is a top priority. Here's one vote in Congress they can be sure to count on.
It has taken us 16 long years to get in the position where the opportunity to eliminate the estate tax is now a realistic probability, as opposed to a long-shot possibility.
Like many other things in life, some things are worth the wait.
Until next week, take care and God Bless.