Column: So Bush Wants the Line-Item Veto?

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Mr. Thompson, Professor of Public Administration, University of Nevada, Las Vegas, is the author of Gambling in America: An Encyclopedia.

As a Las Vegan (not "vegan"), I am given tidbits about national politics that come from the mouth of a very important Nevadan. Frank Farenkopf served as the national chair of the Republican Party, and he is now the President of the American Gaming (aka "Casino Gambling") Association. He is also the chair of the commission on presidential debates. In his latter role, he was privileged to drive candidate W to the first presidential debate, and candidate Edwards to the vice presidential debate. From his words to a local reporter he observed the following: W was totally out of focus on the way to the first debate. He expressed that he was tired and that he had not spent all his time in Florida in debate preparation. Of course, this seemed to be obvious to most debate viewers. While not being an excuse, but rather an explanation, he told Farenkopf that he had instead spent too much time visiting communities and people who were harmed by the recent rash of hurricanes to hit Florida.

Secondly, Farenkopf also observed that Edwards seemed consumed with selecting the correct tie after he came to the debate site. He frantically tried on one tie after another. Obviously this was an exercise in coping with an anxiety that also seemed to be apparent in the debate, albeit not one that subtracted much from his substantive performance.

As the Edwards effort could be described as "sort of a tie" vis-a-vis the effort of Cheney, no more need be said. Regarding W, when I heard the report of his comments to Farenkopf, I did not think it an excuse. Instead I thought that it was evidence of extremely poor decision making on part of W and on the part of a staff who should be looking out for his best interests. Certainly, I thought, W could have done his hurricane politicking AFTER the debate. If this was indicative of his decision making capabilities, I opined that maybe this explained failures in other decision making situations, ergo, perhaps in policy making re Iraq, etc.

But now the results are in, and my mind is swaying back to another thought. W kept his eyes on what was most important to the people, albeit, he let his eyes be taken OFF of THE PRIZE momentarily. It hurt him for sure, but also, for the people of Florida perhaps it left an impression--their problems were more important to W than was his debate performance. Service to people is ALWAYS the PRIZE, and his solid victory in Florida confirms that he can make good decisions.

Ah, but in his first news conference he has now brought up an old STUPID idea. As president he wants to have a line item-veto. Remember, Senator Dole got a legislative line item-veto through Congress in 1996, but "thinking" that he was about to be elected President, he did not want President Clinton to have the "advantage" of using the item veto, so its date of effectiveness was made 1997. BAD, BAD decision. Just think what Dole could have done if the line item-veto would have been available to Clinton in 1996. He could have pointed his finger at every stupid pork idea in the budget-individually, and he could have personally blamed Clinton for each dollar appropriated. For example, consider that $85,000 dollars were allocated to the University of Montana for studying the anal temperatures of grizzly bears. Without the line item-veto, the appropriation might sail through mostly unnoticed as part of a big (billion dollar) education budget. With a line item-veto, Clinton could be held responsible for either "wasting" tax money, or conversely attacking an appropriation for a specific state.

W doesn't "get it." He wants to expose himself to having to review every line of the national budget, and for every minuscule but politically stupid sounding idea, he will have to take the heat either from a congressman for messing with a constituency, or he gets attack as a mis-spender. The stupid idea is part and parcel of what political scientists consider good government on their texts about state governments, but alas like the 2004 election the political scientists are wrong again. Seems strange W would be listen to THEM now, doesn't it!

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