The elections are over with most races clearly decided. The Senate and House are now controlled by the Democrats. Lots of pundits are spending their time discussing how the new leadership is going to lead. Are they going to appease the liberal base or govern from the middle? Are they going to punish the Republicans or they going to be more collegial? The question we should be asking is, how is President George W. Bush going to lead? He calls himself ''The Decider,'' but he was reminded that we live in a democracy and actually, Mr. President, the American people are the deciders.
Bush tossed aside his campaign promises of being a ''uniter not a divider,'' dumped his post 9/11 bipartisan White House meetings with congressional leadership, and worshiped at the altar of the biggest dividers of the last quarter of a century, Donald Rumsfeld, Karl Rove, Vice President Cheney and Tom DeLay. As the head of the Republican Party, the president allowed the most sexually explicit nasty ads to be placed on television and radio by the Republican National Committee and its respective Senate and House campaign committees. Most of those ads backfired. The ads depicting scenes from now Sen.-elect James Webb's novels backfired, the ads in N.Y. Congressional District 24 against Rep.-elect Michael Arcuri were inaccurate and about as low as you could go. The one in Tennessee depicting Harold Ford Jr. with a Playboy bunny worked. But, the Bush Administration's ''architect'' Karl Rove allowed these ads to air without a peep from the ''Decider in Chief.''
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Nasty campaigning aside, if recent history is any example, President Bush is going to look over his shoulder, see the sun setting on his final opportunity to create a positive legacy and do what President Bill Clinton did so magnificently. He will take the rallying cry of the newly elected and make it his own agenda. The Gingrich revolution of 1994 and the ''Contract with America'' forced welfare reform and fiscal reform on President Clinton. Clinton embraced it, balanced the budget and had huge White House ceremonies at the time complete with balanced budget buttons handed out to supporters and press alike. He still touts ''his'' advances in welfare reform. It was as if he thought of the whole agenda and sold it to the Congress and American people.
President Bush is dumb like a fox. This week he presented to the American people a new possibility for a secretary of defense. He said he did not want to influence the election by announcing the retirement of Secretary Rumsfeld. It seems as though, however, the secretary's departure was always Bush's Plan B. Plan A was to keep Rumsfeld if the Republicans won the election. Plan B was to dump him if they lost. Rove will most likely suffer the same fate and he will be gone within months. The architect's roof couldn't withstand the stiff winds of war.
Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) wanted Rumsfeld gone before the election and believes his staying there cost him his chairmanship. No matter how many political carcasses lie in waste around him, George W. Bush is defiantly a survivor. I predict the is going to reclaim the uniter mantel and govern from the almighty middle, taking a page from his predecessor William Jefferson Clinton.
The same president who just a few days before the election would not commit to working with Sen. Harry Reid and leader Nancy Pelosi is now inviting them to lunch, all with big smiles sitting in the Oval Office together and pledging to work for the good of the American people. I wouldn't be surprised if a bi-partisan caucus didn't end up having a few eggnogs together in Crawford at some point during the holidays. Those of us who watch trends, as we do at Talkers Magazine, could have given President Bush and Mr. Rove some advice: Go for the middle. Stop with the rancor. The American people are tired of it.
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Now it looks as if the president has the message. It's too late for the election, but it's not too late for the American people. He now has the ability to save himself and most importantly, the nation from a legacy of divisiveness.