Shortly, President Bush will stand again before the Capitol and the American people and take the oath of office to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States. Every President has taken that Constitutionally-mandated oath, and each one of them has done so to the best of his understanding and ability. How to do so, of course, is what campaigns are about.
What can we reasonably expect from this President in the four years to come? The President's approach to the economy, the environment, social welfare, health care, education, crime and homeland security will likely be consistent with the approach of the last four years. Likewise, the diligence with which the President has pursued his foreign policy will probably remain consistent — the war in the Middle East, relations with European countries, the nature of attention to China and the African and South American continents and the consideration of trade and other treaties will not change significantly.
Those policies make up a large agenda for America and its President, and are rightful concerns of all United States citizens. As Jews, we are no less concerned about all of those matters — whether we support or challenge the President's approaches — than any other American. However, there are three areas I commend to your special attention from the vantage point of Americans who are also Jews.
The first, quite obviously, is Israel. President Bush has been a steadfast supporter of Israel and its government, so much so that we might be tempted to take it for granted. But that would be a mistake. First of all, just as there are different streams of political thought in this country, Israel has a richly complex political life, and our support for that vitality must be a part of our support for Israel. We should lift it up to our foreign policy community. Secondly, complacency during times of support for Israel reduces our ability to act if and when that support should wane. Vigilance and visibility are essential ingredients in maintaining our place at the table.
The second concern we must have is the role of religion and religious language in public life. Ironically, the President himself is almost irrelevant to this concern. It is the (cultivated) perception among some religious communities that their particular values were validated in the last election. President Bush is as comfortable with the language of his faith as, for example, Senator Lieberman is with his. We must be certain that such language is recognized as a reflection of the man, not the office, by responding directly and unapologetically to those who would confuse personal belief with public policy.
The third concern is for our country. We live in a deeply divided society, as the last election cycle illustrated. The bitterness and anger on both sides that flourished during the campaign did not dissipate when the polls closed. It should be Mr. Bush's top priority to heal the schisms that remain among the people. Unfortunately, there is plenty of salt to be poured by blues upon reds and vice-versa. The President cannot accomplish this task alone, or even with a coordinated effort of advisors and allies. He will need the best efforts of every one of us.
Congratulations, Mr. President. We are all desperate for you to succeed.