THE REAL GEORGE BUSH?….The good folks at the Economist have decided to start sending me their magazine again ? apparently based on the fact that I am sending them money once again ? and the Lexington column this week really hit home when I read it. He is talking about President Bush’s real agenda and says:

Mr Bush’s tax-cut strategy is at heart a more ideological gamble on the future: he argues that lower taxes and a simpler tax structure will make the economy more efficient in the long run?meaning eight, ten, 20 years out.

Something similar applies to Iraq. Mr Bush is on the verge of committing America to an immense enterprise….[As] he made clear in last week’s speech to the American Enterprise Institute, it would be an earnest of America’s commitment to the democratic transformation of the Middle East, which would help to solve the Israel-Palestine problem. But this too will take years, even decades.

The fact that Mr Bush is looking so far into the future is in many ways admirable. But it casts a shadow of doubt over his divisive tactics. For in both domestic and foreign policy, the president is committing America to a long haul without doing the work needed to prepare people for the setbacks that will be inevitable along the way.

Lexington seems quite sure ? for reasons that are unstated ? that these long run plans really are at the heart of Bush’s agenda. But how does he know this if, as he says, Bush has declined to actually spell any of this out? To me, for example, his economic plan seems rather exquisitely timed to produce good news right around summer 2004.

Although there are certainly many who would oppose war with Iraq regardless of Bush’s true motives, there are many others for whom this is key. But in the end I wonder if it matters. Even if a democratic transformation of the Middle East is truly something he believes in, it will never happen if he’s not willing to expend even the modest political capital it would take to talk about it, let alone push the appropriate programs through Congress.

Unlike Lexington, who seems to think he can see directly into Bush’s heart, the rest of us can only judge him by his words and actions. On this score, it seems like wishful thinking to suppose that he is truly committed enough to a democratic Iraq to take the risks necessary to see it through. That’s too bad.

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