The Bush II administration is looking a lot like Bush I, though it also bears some resemblance to the Nixon-Ford and Reagan years. In choosing cabinet members and close advisers, President-elect George W. Bush is reaching into the Republican past for a range and depth of government experience wanting on his own résumé. If there is a political equivalent of comfort food-familiar and consoling-Bush II looks to be it. Oh maybe, the Asiago cheese from Wisconsin (Governor Tommy Thompson), and the smoked elk from Colorado (Gale Norton) are a culinary reach for the down-home cook. Yet, those familiar faces, some from decades ago, belong on the comfort-food menu, especially for all of those who still hanker for Reagan’s third term.
Presidential delegation to more expert and experienced cabinet members was the practice of both Dwight Eisenhower and Ronald Reagan, neither of whom was a policy wonk. On the other hand, both men were deeply trusted and regarded with affection by a large number of Americans. Bush does not come to office with that cushion: he lacks charisma and shows few signs of political acuity. Nor will he be sheltered even temporarily by the regard of the electorate. Half of registered voters didn’t go to the polls at all, and the more-than-half who did voted for his opponent. In unprecedented circumstances, the presidency is Bush’s to win, or not, post-election.