Do The Right Thing

    This coming Saturday, George W. Bush will take the oath of office as the president of the United States. In anticipation of the peaceful transfer of power -- for which we should all be grateful -- political analysts have been asking, "What kind of mandate does Bush have?" According to the Lexis-Nexis database, American newspapers have run more than 1,000 articles about a possible Bush mandate in the past month. Almost all of them doubted he had one. Well, I think Bush does have one, only it's not the one they're thinking about. It's easy enough to see why the pundits conclude that Bush lacks a policy mandate. This election was the closest in U.S. history, and Bush lost the popular vote. In addition, the differences between the candidates with regards to domestic issues were often a matter of emphasis. Whoever was elected, the legislative priorities of the new Congress would be the same: education, health care, social security, and tax cuts. The fact that Bush defeated an incumbent vice president in a time of almost unprecedented peace and prosperity tells us that there was another kind of mandate in this election. Half the country listed moral concerns at the top of their agenda for voting. And remember that Vice President Gore didn't want President Clinton campaigning for him, even though Clinton leaves office with the highest job approval ratings of any departing president. This should tell us that Bush does have a mandate: It's to change the moral and ethical tone of the government. Americans want a president they can be proud of. Bush's mandate is not policy but to provide moral leadership of a kind we have not seen during the past eight years. So, Bush must act in way that tells Americans that he takes the office, and our regard for the office, very seriously. He must always ask himself, "Are these actions consistent with the dignity of the presidency and the covenant I have with the American people? Will the office be diminished or enhanced by my actions?" The new president must also hold those who work for him to the highest ethical and moral standards. He must not allow what's legal to replace what's right. I know, firsthand, the dangers of allowing this to happen. In the early days of Watergate, had Nixon acted and discharged anyone who appeared to have been involved, there wouldn't have been a Watergate scandal. My advice for President-elect Bush: zero tolerance for wrongdoing. I've interacted with him over the years and believe that he is a man of integrity who wants to do just that. It's important to remember that the founders considered virtue to be the first requirement of leadership. A republican form of government, which is an exercise in self-restraint and self-discipline, requires that leaders set an example for citizens to follow. So, by following up his "so help me God" with godly actions and standards, the new president will go a long way toward restoring our regard and respect for the office of the president. And there is much that he and we can do in furthering this mandate for moral leadership. Over the next two days, I will be talking about just those things that will restore our pride in government and ourselves. I hope you'll stay tuned. And, I hope that you'll pray that our new president understands that his most important task is to do what is right.


Chuck Colson


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