Published January 14, 2015
Monday begins Bush's first full week back at the White House since his re-election. Promising to spend the political capital he earned on a very ambitious agenda, the president took White House chief of staff Andy Card and national security adviser Condoleezza Rice (search) with him to the Maryland retreat to talk strategy.
There is much to consider:
Who will be in the Cabinet? How will Bush deal with the nuclear ambitions of North Korea (search) and the prospect that Iran will become a nuclear power? Will the insurgency in Iraq be quelled?
Domestically, there's the question of how to push for tax, medical liability and Social Security reforms. And then there's the stalled Middle East peace effort.
Bush's first week as a second termer-elect begins slowly. No public events were scheduled Monday or Tuesday and the only thing on Wednesday's calendar is a dinner. The public schedule picks up Thursday when he meets with visiting British Prime Minister Tony Blair, his steadfast ally in Iraq.
At his post-election news conference Thursday, Bush acknowledged that some of his decisions were unpopular abroad. He said U.S. security interests would still drive his decision-making.
But he added: "I will reach out to others and explain why I make the decisions I make. Whatever our past disagreements, we share a common enemy, and we have common duties to protect our peoples, to confront disease and hunger and poverty in troubled regions of the world."
Bush is under pressure from U.S. allies in Europe to play a more aggressive role in reviving the Middle East peace process. The election ballots were still being counted when Blair declared that the Mideast conflict is the most important political challenge in the world today.
There is little the Bush administration can do right away as long as Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat continues his battle with a possible terminal illness. However, down the road — especially if Arafat's eventual successor is able to temper violence and negotiate with Israel — the administration could play a role in breaking the Israeli-Palestinian standoff.
Although White House aides have said they see a new opening for Middle East peace in Bush's second term, the president did not fully embrace Blair's assessment. "I agree with him that the Middle East peace is a very important part of a peaceful world," he said Thursday.