Skip to main content
ad info

    Editions | myCNN | Video | Audio | Headline News Brief | Feedback  




Analysis indicates many Gore votes thrown out in Florida

Clinton's chief of staff calls White House over vandalism reports

Gephardt talks bipartisanship, outlines differences



India tends to quake survivors

Two Oklahoma State players among 10 killed in plane crash

Sharon calls peace talks a campaign ploy by Barak

Police arrest 100 Davos protesters


4:30pm ET, 4/16









Texas cattle quarantined after violation of mad-cow feed ban

CNN Websites
Networks image

Novak Syndicated columnist Robert Novak is co-host of CNN's "Evans Novak, Hunt & Shields," as well as "Crossfire." He is providing exclusive convention analysis for

Robert Novak: Inauguration speech is Bush's first test

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The last two inaugural addresses by new presidents were surprises. Each new president took positions not even hinted at in his campaign. In 1989, the senior President George Bush followed his contentious, confrontational candidacy with a call for lowered voices. In 1993, after a campaign in which he had promised everything to the voters, President Bill Clinton implored them to make personal sacrifices.

Will Bush follow the same dubious course as his Republican father and his Democratic predecessor in floating something new and not entirely coherent? There is no sign that he will do so Saturday, but there was no signal from either Bush senior or Clinton when they departed from previous statements.

So, Test No. 1 for George W. Bush's is whether he will not stray from his clear ideology and policy agenda in an effort to please people who never have -- and never will -- support him.

To be sure, the new president is well aware that he is being sworn into office after the nation's most bitterly disputed electoral count since 1876. Without a mandate from the American people, it is not possible for him to lay out a clear and decisive agenda such as President Reagan offered at his first inaugural in 1981.

Test No. 2, therefore, is whether Bush -- as an elected president who finished second in the popular vote -- is able to sound a healing, conciliatory tone without also seeming to be apologetic and defensive.

In the background of the Bush inauguration is the debate over the new president's proposed tax reductions. Prominent supporters wish his inaugural address would include something like this:

"We have been laboring under the highest peacetime federal burden in the history of the Republic. Of course, we could not continue prosperity, growth and full employment with taxes at that level. So, to avoid an economic slowdown and pain for Americans, we must reduce tax rates across-the-board for everybody who actually pays taxes."

Consequently, Test No. 3 is whether Bush will go beyond generalities and talk about so political and combative, but still highly important, a question as tax reduction. I am not optimistic on this one.

Finally, Test No. 4 is the familiar one applied always applied to new presidents. Has he inspired America?

This test has been passed by some 20th century presidents -- always in their first term inaugural. Franklin D. Roosevelt did in 1933, during the depths of the Depression, when he said the only thing for Americans to fear was fear itself. John F. Kennedy did in 1961, at a time when the country seemed unsure of itself, by urging citizens to ask what they could do for their country. Ronald Reagan did in 1981, in the midst of Jimmy Carter's malaise, by calling for a peaceful revolution to get the federal government off the backs of its citizens.

Most presidents flunk Test No. 4. The last three inaugural speeches -- the senior Bush's and both of Clinton's -- were duds. All were inspiration-free. George W. Bush's address will be judged mainly by whether they surpass those efforts.


Saturday, January 20, 2001



Back to the top  © 2001 Cable News Network. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines.