Bush may come up with second-term surprises

PTI | ByAssociated Press, Washington
Nov 08, 2004 03:45 PM IST

Odd things can happen when presidents no longer have to worry about re-election. Bush embarks on another four years.

Odd things can happen when presidents no longer have to worry about re-election. George W Bush embarks on another four years in the White House unleashed from election concerns for the first time in his presidency, raising questions about what he will do with the freedom of a second term.

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Past presidents have often reached big in their second term, with some accomplishments that build on earlier ones and others that can appear to contradict them. Regardless, with their eyes trained away from the voting booth and toward the history books, many have taken the chance to gamble.

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Take President Ronald Reagan, who made fighting communism the hallmark of his presidency and famously proclaimed the Soviet Union the "evil empire" two years into his first term. But in his second term, Reagan seized on the ascension of Mikhail Gorbachev to power and - despite rhetoric that remained fiercely hawkish - became friends with the Soviet leader and worked with him to steer their nations away from nuclear confrontation.

By the end of his presidency, Reagan had signed a treaty with Gorbachev eliminating the entire class of medium-range nuclear-tipped missiles. The combination of toughness and conciliation helped end the Cold War.

Or take President Bill Clinton, the Democrat elected in 1992 after embracing his party's centrist movement. But it took him until the first State of the Union speech of his second term to utter one of the most famous quotes of his presidency - that "the era of big government is over" - and to tackle the historic welfare reform legislation that dismayed many in the left wing of his party. Possibilities for a second-term Bush exist in part because of circumstances, and in part because of the agenda he has already set. Either way, there's no disputing at least two things: He'll have lots of extra time now that he no longer has to devote time to raising money and campaigning for re-election. It also won't be long before attention will turn to the 2008 presidential contest and he'll be considered a lame duck.

White House political adviser Karl Rove said Bush in his second term "absolutely" would push for a constitutional amendment that says marriage consists only of the union of a man and a woman. Bush believes states can deal with the issue of civil unions between gay people, an arrangement that if enacted would grant same-sex partners most or all the rights available to married couples, Rove said on Sunday.

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