I was musing today on what President Bush would have to do in order to assure that he has a legacy to be proud of after his second term is up. Despite his detractors his first term was certainly not a disaster, but it also wasn't a huge success. With three years to go, he still has the opportunity to use his time wisely and leave behind a legacy which he can be proud of, even if it doesn't please all of his critics.
Given Bush's past performance and apparent personality it seems to me that the model of James K. Polk is one for him to consider. Polk went into office with four specific goals, achieved all four of them and chose not to even run for reelection. All four were somewhat controversial, but absolutely necessary for the country, and by focusing just on those issues and spending all of his efforts and political capital on them alone he was able to achieve 100% success. Polk's goals, BTW were to end the federal role in domestic improvement programs, restore the treasury without creating a national bank, substantially lower the tariff and resolve the nation's border issues by acquiring Oregon, Texas and California.
Four goals in four years seems like a reasonable target for a president, even today, and if James K. Polk who was a political genius could only achieve four it might be unrealistic for the intelligent, but less remarkable Bush to do any better. Even completing three important goals would probably be a pretty impressive victory. Bush's goals should be as clear and as simple as Polk's and need not necessarily be as ambitious as Polk's massive land grab from Mexico. Bush has already identified important issues he wants to take action on, so what he needs to do now is focus on them and follow through to completion come hell or high water. He needs to drop the petty issues, and focus on the four most important issues which he has already expressed commitment to and make sure those goals are achieved, not by half measures, but as completely as possible.
What I would recommend is that he pick 3 to 4 goals from the following list of the five most important issues currently facing the nation and make them happen.
Goal 1: Health Coverage for All Americans - This is the easiest of the four issues, because our system basically works. What we have right now is a hybrid system with managed healthcare for those who pay for it, and publicly underwritten healthcare for those who can't afford to pay for it. The problem in the system is those who aren't poor enough for Medicaid and either choose not to or are unable to pay for their own insurance. The answer for them is a system halfway between Medicaid and private insurance - government mandated and underwritten gap insurance. Short term coverage provided to anyone who seeks medical care and does not already have coverage or qualify for Medicaid, which the recipient pays for at a discounted rate because it is partially underwritten by the government. Coverage would be limited, and some costs would be recovered from the client, so the costs would not be high. This approach avoids the pitfalls of socialization, preserves the quality of the private system and makes sure everyone is covered.