Campaign 2000: Bush comes out for limited government

Editor's Note: This is the first in what will be a series of occasional features in's Daily Briefing section on what the candidates for the presidency in 2000 are saying about the federal government and how they would manage it.

As he kicked off his run for President this weekend, Texas Governor George W. Bush called for a smaller, more effective government.

Bush also called for a stronger military as he made a high-profile appearance in Cedar Rapids, Iowa on Saturday.

"Government should do a few things, and do them well. Government should not try to be all things to all people," Bush said. But, he added, "I will rebuild our military power, because a dangerous world still requires a sharp sword."

Bush laid out general principles about the role of the federal government, but said "there will come a time" for more specific plans. In general, the leading GOP candidate says he advocates a "limited" government.

In Texas, Bush has promoted cooperation between the state government and religious organizations to address social needs. Bush said he would try to make it easier for the federal government and faith-based groups to work together in an "army of compassion" that would attack problems like drugs and poverty.

In previous speeches, Bush has also said Texas' "limited" government can provide a model for the federal government.

In his state of the state address in January, Bush said: "Here in the nation's second largest state-the world's 11th largest economy-we meet for only 140 days only once every two years. And we get the job done, because limited government works. Limited government brings focus. It requires us to put aside posturing and politics to find common ground."

In what has already become a campaign catchphrase, Bush has described his leadership philosophy of cooperation between government, religious institutions and community organizations as "compassionate conservatism."

"My guiding principle is government if necessary, but not necessarily government," Bush has said.

Bush's domestic policy advisor, Indianapolis Mayor Stephen Goldsmith, described the governor's leadership philosophy as "a Fourth Way," to Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne Jr. The term "Third Way" has been used to describe the politics of President Clinton, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, and other candidates who have tried to balance social activism with efforts to reinvent and cut back government.

Goldsmith is an advocate of public-private competition as a means of improving government services. In Indianapolis, Goldsmith launched competitions for such city services as street sweeping, trash collection and waste water operations. The mayor claims savings of nearly $400 million in his seven years in office by making public workers defend their jobs against private companies. He has also become a nationally recognized leader in public administration circles, appearing before congressional committees and at management seminars to tout the benefits of managed competition.

Bush and Goldsmith also share a belief in performance measurement as a public administration tool. Speaking at a conference in March 1998, Bush described five management principles that "when applied to government, can transform the public sector and help create sound public policy":

  1. Set priorities.
  2. Set clear, understandable, measurable goals.
  3. Focus on results.
  4. Align authority and responsibility.
  5. Encourage innovation.

Bush said agencies have damaged public trust in government by trying to do too much.

"Oftentimes, government has failed. The result has been false hopes, broken promises and cynical customers," Bush said.

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