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Bush's ability to unite not shown in week 1

Jan. 30, 2001

The issues President George W. Bush chose to tackle in his first week have left the editorial board skeptical about one of his campaign promises -- uniting the country.

In his victory speech, Bush said that he recognized the closeness of the election and that he intended to govern knowing that neither candidate received a mandate.

While it will take some time before the country can totally put the post-election events behind it, announcing non-divisive issues in his first week of office would have been a promising sign. However, Bush chose to highlight some of the most controversial of all his agenda items.

On his first day in the White House, Bush ordered that all U.S. funding to family planning clinics that perform abortions be halted. He also introduced an education package that includes vouchers -- using public money to fund private schools, a highly controversial measure. Also, he announced plans for an even bigger tax cut than he campaigned for at $1.6 trillion. And his creation Monday of a White House office to administer government funds to religious groups is divisive as well.

These are all issues that Bush campaigned on and it is no secret to anyone that he would push for them. But given the unique circumstances of the 2000 election, choosing to enact these controversial planks of his agenda in the very first week of his presidency does not send a positive signal to the country.

Sticking to non-controversial issues and areas where there is more room for compromise with Democrats during the first week would have gained him respect in the minds of those that did not support him on Nov. 7. And later on down the road, introducing the more controversial parts of his platform would have been less abrasive.

We recognize that Bush has only just begun. However, his actions in the first week set a tone for the rest of his administration. Congress and the electorate are divided politically, and choosing non-controversial issues such as election reform would have sent a more favorable message.

Instead, Bush chose a course of action that may further divide the country.