President Bush and his running mate took a victory lap in front of their supporters gathered at Washington's Reagan Center, an hour after Sen. John Kerry made his concession speech from Boston's Faneuil Hall.
Bush -- thanking, among many others, the man he referred to as "the architect, Karl Rove" -- spoke in broad, vague language about the war on terror: "With good allies at our side, we will fight this war on terror with every resource of our power, so our children can live in freedom and in peace." But, aside from general references to reforming the tax code and "strengthening the Social Security for the next generation," Bush didn't talk issues; he instead invoked a litany of virtues, as if closing a feedback loop with those voters who yesterday told pollsters he was a "strong leader."
But for the 49 percent of the electorate that nearly turned him out of office, Bush made only the most perfunctory gesture of conciliation: "To make this nation stronger and better, I will need your support, and I will work to earn it." If he follows through on that with the same fervor that he worked to live up to his self-styled "uniter, not a divider" label, it's going to be a bitter four years.
A taste of that future came in Vice President Dick Cheney's introduction to Bush, which -- after crowing over Republican gains in Congress -- boldly claimed last night's nail-bitingly close results as a "mandate." Here we go again.