Book examines successes, failures of President George W. Bush's domestic policies
Former President George W. Bush achieved domestic policy successes that were remarkable in light of his tenuous standing with the public and the sharp partisan divisions that he faced in Congress, Indiana University School of Public and Environmental Affairs Dean John D. Graham writes in his recently published book, Bush on the Home Front (Indiana University Press).
Graham, who previously served as administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs in the U.S. Office of Management and Budget (2001-2006), takes a balanced approach when examining Bush's effectiveness on policy issues such as taxes, education, health care, energy, environment and regulatory reform. He employs three criteria in his evaluation: whether the reform is promising, whether it is primarily attributable to efforts of the Bush administration, and whether the reform is likely to reshape public debate on the issue in the future.
"When historians examine the effectiveness of the Bush presidency, much of the focus is on his controversial foreign policy initiatives," Graham said. "The results of my research suggest that Bush was, in fact, a bold and activist president on domestic issues and a surprisingly effective policy maker. Some of his successes caused a fundamental change in how an issue was perceived and debated."
Graham finds that a classic bipartisan strategy doesn't work for presidents trying to pass legislation in today's polarized Congress. "Although Bush's presidency is bookended by a controversial election in 2000 and one of the lowest popularity ratings in history, he was able to find success by recognizing his tenuous political standing, analyzing the competing interests of Congress, and choosing policy initiatives with a broad appeal among Republicans and at least some support among key Democrats in the Senate," he said.
By employing a cross-partisan approach, Bush worked closely with moderate, key Democrats to design legislative packages they found appealing, while maintaining the support of his base. "President Bush maximized this strategy to achieve legislative successes on tax cuts, nuclear energy and Medicare prescription drug benefits, to name a few."
Graham also analyzes Bush's failures in domestic policy such as Social Security reform, immigration reform and tort reform. He reveals why these initiatives failed to attract even limited Democratic support and why they offended Bush's Republican base.