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Jewish World Review March 16, 2001 / 21 Adar, 5761

Stanley Crouch

Amity Shlaes
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Consumer Reports

Bush still has some pretty serious image problems he better address ASAP -- THE anger that still attends the subject of the election of President Bush is a very stubborn passion. It is not going silently into the night of history. People are still howling and stomping mad.

But we got a better deal than Bush himself may get before this year is out. We learned without a doubt that the individual vote surely does count. All manner of voting reform legislation is going on, some of it to the left of Lenin, perhaps some to the right of the Ku Klux Klan, all of it the kind of reaction to a major historical moment that we should have.

There should be voting reform. By the time we have finished redressing the problems brought to light by the Florida controversy, we will be fairly sure that the kinds of troubles that occasioned so many debates and created so much bad blood will not come around again.

At this moment, however, Bush still has to create an image of himself that will do real battle with the predictions that he'll be a paper President upon which wealthy figures in the shadows will write their wishes, expecting them to be made into policy.

His faith-based initiative will gain ground and support as long as those given grants have inarguable track records. If some think that only Christian organizations should get federal money, such people should be put in rooms with walls made of mirrors and left alone. If what they do works and does not have some kind of wacky bigotry attached, like the Nation of Islam, then full speed ahead. Judge them on their record. No more, no less.

Image problem

Bush's tax cut plan will prove less of a problem than his recent reversal of a campaign promise to slow global warming. That gives the impression that, on some issues, he might well be a paper President. But, as we know, men of power can turn around more than once. There are too many political dangers connected to environmental issues, even when some of the loudest defenders of the environment are nearly nuts and have no ability to accept the hard fact of life on this Earth, which is that something has to go for something else to continue to exist.

Eventually, even Republicans are going to have to step up to the worst facts about the environment. They, too, will have to accept the truth that profit cannot be such an idol of worship that it prevails over other concerns.

The need to reduce earnings in the interest of society is a demanding truth that we as Americans find ourselves perpetually returning to as we adapt our policies to bring the profit motive in line with morality and ethics.

With the economy bobbing and weaving and the Russians preparing to walk Iran into its own nuclear moment, Bush is going to need all the public confidence he can get. So he has to make sure that those who believe they can write their will on his image merely because they are wealthy might as well be trying to write on the wind.

It's even more important that he prove that to this nation, which could give him and his party much more appeal.

JWR contributor and cultural icon Stanley Crouch is a columnist for The New York Daily News. He is the author of, among others, The All-American Skin Game, Or, the Decoy of Race: The Long and the Short of It, 1990-1994,       Always in Pursuit: Fresh American Perspectives, and Don't the Moon Look Lonesome: A Novel in Blues and Swing. Send your comments by clicking here.


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