IT DIDN'T TAKE LONG for President Bush to put his Democratic critics in their place.
They've been complaining that he is indifferent to domestic problems and spends most of his time jetting to faraway places with strange-sounding names.
But as soon as he returned from his latest jaunt, Bush struck back. And he did so with stunning political force.
Before dashing to the golf course, he made a speech to a gathering of law enforcement officials; and made his position on a key domestic issue perfectly clear.
He is against crime.
This delighted the law enforcement officials because they, too, are against crime, which is why they went into law enforcement instead of bond trading on Wall Street.
Bush's bold stance took many political observers by surprise. Among them, Jack DeRipper, a Republican strategist and media consultant.
DeRipper said: "It took a lot of courage on Bush's part to come out against crime and to stand up for law and order. Remember, there are millions of criminals in this country, and many of them vote.
"By putting principle ahead of political expediency, he is running the risk of losing the vote of the mugger bloc, the smash-and-grab bloc, the shoplifting bloc, the cartage-theft bloc, the drug pusher bloc and the wild-eyed fiend bloc, just to mention a few.
"But by daring to stake out this anti-crime position, he has made it difficult for the Democrats, especially if they run a candidate who comes out against law and order and in favor of crime."
Is that likely?
"Anything is possible, except that which is impossible. But I believe that this shows that there is no validity to the claims that Bush doesn't have any domestic agenda. And I'm sure that this will be only the first in a series of strong domestic positions that he will take."
"A better life for everyone. I believe that he really feels strongly about that and will make that a significant part of his domestic agenda."
But doesn't that risk alienating those who believe it is their right to be unhappy and miserable? Or those who don't want some uppity neighbor to have a better life?
"Yes, but as I said, he is willing to take an unpopular position if he believes it is the right thing to do."
And what other domestic issues will he address?
"Cleanliness. I'm sure that at some point he will come out in favor of cleanliness. I base that on the fact that he believes in leading by example, and he is very clean himself. In fact, I don't think we have had a cleaner president in this century. Have you ever seen him with gravy on his tie, wax in his ears or foreign matter on his nose?"
Not that I recall.
"Of course not. Part of the reason is that Republicans in general are very clean. Studies have shown that most surgeons are Republicans, and you've noticed how fussy they are about washing their hands. In contrast, the majority of coal miners are Democrats. So ask yourself: Would you want a coal miner taking out your gall bladder?"
I suppose not. But what can he do to encourage cleanliness?
"He could appoint Vice President Quayle to head a White House Commission on Cleanliness. Quayle would be an excellent choice because he is also a very well-scrubbed person. The Democrats will be hard-pressed to find a vice presidential candidate who has cleaner fingernails. And if he were ever in an accident, God forbid, the nurses would marvel at the spiffiness of his undergarments."
I'm sure of that. But what are the other national issues?
"Domestic tranquillity. Bush is ready to take a stand in favor of it. And the strength of his belief in this issue can be seen in the White House itself. Those who have visited the White House can attest to the tranquillity of the domestic help. They are tranquil and contented, in contrast to the mood of the domestic help during the Carter years, when many of the domestics were unhappy with having to boil peanuts and cook raccoon."
But what about issues such as the environment? The Democrats say that Bush is vulnerable on that point.
"He is a great believer in preserving the environment, and no president has demonstrated it more dramatically."
In what way?
"You have seen how often he goes fishing, haven't you?"
Yes, many times.
"Well, he hasn't hurt one fish yet."