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Campaign promises could prove troublesome for Bush

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- If New Year's resolutions were easy to keep, there wouldn't be so many Weight Watchers ads in the newspaper every week. Everyone starts with the best intentions. It's just that making resolutions is a lot easier than keeping them.

It's no different for politicians. Like every new president, George W. Bush's road to the White House was paved with promises. Here is the look at the top five that Bush may find tough to keep.

School vouchers: Bush says that low-income parents whose kids attend failing public schools should receive vouchers to transfer their children to private schools if they choose. But almost all Democrats oppose vouchers, as do many moderate Republicans who fear they'll drain money from the public schools.

The president-elect's bargaining power was weakened in November, when voters in California and Michigan rejected pro-voucher ballot initiatives.

Social Security: It was one of Bush's boldest campaign proposals; a fundamental restructuring of Social Security to allow workers to invest part of their payroll tax in the stock market.

With more and more Americans investing in mutual funds and 401(k)s, the idea of private investment accounts may grow more popular over time. But in a Senate divided 50-50 between the parties, the votes aren't there for it today. Only four Democrats supported the idea last year, and three of them have left the Senate.

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Missile defense: Talking tough on national defense last year, Bush promised to quickly build and deploy a national missile defense program, and he said he wouldn't be stopped by the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty with Russia barring the deployment of such a system.

"It is important for us to change the ABM Treaty with Russia, either change it or withdraw from it in order to make sure we have an adequate and effective and reliable theater-based antiballistic missile system," Bush told NBC's Meet the Press.

But with the current missile defense system failing to hit the target in two of the three tests the Pentagon has run so far, it will be hard for Bush to win broad support for a crash deployment program.

Tax cuts: Few of Bush's campaign proposals were more controversial than his call for an across-the-board $1.3 trillion tax cut. But with the economy wavering and the federal budget surplus estimates soaring, he's got a good shot at winning approval of a substantial tax reduction this year.

The question will be, which taxes, and whose taxes, are cut? Bush wants an across-the-board cut in income tax rates, including a big cut in the top rate for the wealthiest taxpayers, from 39.6 percent down to 33 percent.

A frequent rallying cry of Bush's on the campaign stump was his belief that "The federal government in peacetime has no business taking more than 33 percent of anyone's paycheck."

But reducing the top rate by so much -- particularly after a decade in which families at the top have done well enough to trade in the Cadillac for the Mercedes -- is a deal-breaker for Democrats.

Bipartisanship: Beyond all of his policy promises, Bush centered his campaign on a sweeping pledge to reach beyond party lines and soothe the partisan hostilities in Washington.

Bush has a strong record of working effectively with Democrats in Texas, but almost everything that's happened since Election Day has been a reminder of how hard it will be to continue that success in Washington. Democrats are already complaining that Bush hasn't shown more bipartisanship in constructing his Cabinet or outlining his agenda.

A coalition of liberal advocacy groups are gearing up to oppose John Ashcroft as attorney general. Environmentalists are waving the red flag over Interior Secretary-nominee Gale Norton. And Linda Chavez's nomination as labor secretary collapsed after it was revealed she housed an illegal immigrant during the early 1990s.

On the other side, conservatives are warning Bush against too many compromises with Democrats.

In the end, if Bush wants to make good on his hard promises, nothing will test him more than his pledge to build real bipartisan cooperation in a capital that's grown addicted to conflict.


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