As the dust settles and Democrats settle down to the chore of arguing that President Reagan was denied a mandate because he was denied the District of Columbia and his opponent's home state, the political system is slipping into what is called the "honeymoon" period, which lasts until the winner of an election claims a mandate to do something. Alexander Woollcott said that reading the last chapters of "The Brothers Karamazov" always "chokes me up and fills me with a love of mankind which sometimes lasts till noon of the following day."
The political "noon of the following day" -- the end of the honeymoon and the beginning of a normal, which is to say occasionally stormy, marriage -- is coming soon anyway. So Reagan should go ahead and raise a lot of dust by raising questions that only a second-term president can raise.
It has been so long since we have had one of those exotic creatures that we need to re-invent the rules for them. But for the fun of it, he could begin by proposing the following:
Repeal of the 22nd Amendment. In 1988 Reagan may (I am not prejudging this) be a tad too old to seek a third term. So he is just the fellow to propose uncluttering the Constitution of the two-term limit on presidents. No one should be a lame duck the day she (I am looking after President Kirkpatrick's interests) is inaugurated. Being a lame duck makes the chief executive less fearsome, and fear is what makes Washington work -- well, okay, 97 percent fear and 3 percent devotion.
Repeal of the War Powers Act. It is unwieldy, unclear and clearly unconstitutional as a derogation of the responsibilities of the commander in chief vested in the presidency and exercised by most occupants of that office. No president has yet quite complied with the act. Repeal would be the straightforward approach.
Abolition of the Federal Election Commission and all limits on campaign spending and giving. The FEC is a bureaucracy that exists to enforce limits on spending, which are limits on the quantity of political speech. Fortunately, the FEC fails to do that. It must fail, given the inventiveness of the American mind regarding loopholes of all sorts. Still, the mere existence of the FEC is unaesthetic, and an affront.
"Quarantine" Nicaragua. This was the good idea from the Mondale campaign. I do not know precisely what he meant by it, but he now has the spare time to explain it. He proposed it when he was trying to get back to the center after his competition with Gary Hart for the Democratic "peace" constituency. Reagan could embrace the idea as an example of bipartisanship in foreign policy. What fun.
Repeal the law pertaining to special prosecutors, who now are known as "independent counsels." Too often a special prosecutor is used as a means of harassing officials of the executive branch (for example, Hamilton Jordan and Ed Meese). Besides, the law probably is unconstitutional. It establishes a law-enforcement function outside the president's control, although the Constitution vests in the president the duty to see that the laws are faithfully executed.
Challenge the court rulings that say the First Amendment means that political "protesters" have a constitutional right to litter Lafayette Square. The square, directly across Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House, is frequently littered with huge, unsightly signs proclaiming various political and religious obsessions. These signs are the work of "protesters" who actually are mere exhibitionists. They are not making arguments; they are making a mess. Millions of people have their enjoyment of the nation's capital diminished by these acts of visual aggression. Citizens should have a right to pass through important and lovely public spaces without having their senses lacerated, just as they have a right not to be grabbed by the lapels and forced to listen to political outbursts.
Repeal of the American League's designated-hitter rule. I have hitherto addressed the president sharply about this and my patience is not inexhaustible. Conservatism means keeping your cotton-pickin' hands off fundamentals. Reformers messed with baseball's fundamentals. Today's conservatives are promiscuous amenders of the Constitution. Surely they can see the need to restore baseball to its pristine condition.
Now, these proposals would bring the honeymoon to a screeching halt, but no marriage can be all bliss. As Dan Jenkins says in his hilarious new football novel, "Life Its Own Self," marriage is one year in Heaven and 20 years in the light-heavyweight division.