Strategic choices and the early bush legislative agenda Chapter uri icon


  • The George W. Bush administration commenced under difficult circumstances. There was never a possibility it could move a large, contentious agenda through a closely divided Congress. Within this context, the White House made a number of smart strategic choices to increase the probabil-ity of advancing its proposals. First, it made an accurate evaluation of its strategic position. It was neither intimidated by the closeness of the election or its polarizing resolution nor was it prone to overreaching. For example, when Bush saw that school vouchers were not going to pass, he expended little political capital on their behalf. The administration set priorities and focused on them. The president moved quickly on his highest- priority legislation, getting most of what he wanted in the $1.35 trillion tax cut-the largest since 1981. All was not smooth sailing, however. Most policies had less saliency and thus brought less unity to Republicans than tax cuts. Although the president effectively exploited the opportunities in his environment, he was unable to increase his political capital. Going public did not move the public, and Sen. James Jeffords of Vermont left the Republican party, shifting the majority in the Senate to the Democrats (and eclipsing the president's success on the tax cut). Bush inevitably had to become involved in lower-priority policies and had to make substantial compromises on core items on his agenda dealing with education and the faith-based charities. The administration seemed headed for similar compromises on defense spending until the terrorist attacks of September 11 dramatically increased its salience. Copyright 2003 by Martha Joynt Kumar and Terry Sullivan Manufactured in the United States of America All rights reserved.

author list (cited authors)

  • Edwards, G. C.

complete list of authors

  • Edwards, GC

Book Title

  • White House World: Transitions, organization, and office operations

publication date

  • December 2003