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GEORGE W. BUSH, THE 2004 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION, AND G.O.P. STRATEGY
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The big question of the day is whether George W. Bush is unbeatable in 2004. The Democrats offer Vermont Governor Howard Dean as a possible pre-Primary frontrunner. Former General Wesley Clark appears to be the most attractive Democrat based on the simple premise that he is, for all practical purposes, not a Democrat. On the surface, the Republicans would like to face Dean since they have the potential of defeating him in an electoral sweep greater than any in U.S. history. This brings to mind the George McGovern nomination of 1972, when Nixon won 49 states. However, that election did not bring America together. Watergate divided a still-divided country further.

            It is possible that the best Democrat candidate for America is Clark. Clark would not lose to Bush as thoroughly as Dean. While the temptation for the G.O.P. is to want an opponent they can win big against, the Dean candidacy would create a divided electorate since his only issues are the usual hate-Bush, hate-America tirades. Defeating such rhetoric will feel good, but might it not be better for somebody like Clark to maintain a modicum of patriotism on the Democrat side of the aisle?

Bush's re-election will be based on lessons learned from his father. In the Spring of 2003, he faced the same prospects at the same time in his Presidency as his dad did in 1991 - a successful war, popularity, and no G.O.P. or third party challenger on the horizon.

The first Bush Presidency was successful in the lens of history. He liberated Panama, the Berlin Wall came down, he put together a 28-nation coalition to knock Saddam out of Kuwait, oversaw renewal of Israeli-Palestinian talks, and saw the liberation of 100 million in Eastern Europe. He managed to go in half a year from 91 percent approval to 37 percent of the vote.

He was a victim of his own success. Foreign affairs, his strong suit, was not an issue in 1992. He had treated conservatives with disdain and did not have their loyalty. After Clarence Thomas he gave in on a "quota bill." Where Reagan spoke of a "shining city on a hill," Bush scornfully referred to the "vision thing." Lee Atwater, his conservative guru, died at just the wrong time.

While W has gone out of his way to learn from the lessons of his father's defeat, and his role model is more Reagan than Bush I, he still treads in dangerous territory. Bush recognizes that he is not President of the Republican party or of the conservatives. He is President of the Democrats, the independents, the old, the young, black, white and other, gay and straight, hawk and dove, and all of America. After his razor-thin 2000 victory, he made a strong pitch to reach out to the other side of the aisle in his first year. This is a fairly common tactic.

But Bush, who has never been a true blue conservative (Texans knew this) has taken the "Nixon goes to China" playbook and pushed some very liberal agendas. It could hurt him, not so much with voters but with the economy, in his second term. It threatens his legacy and the future of the party, and the country.

In 2003, he proposed a radical Medicare overhaul, aimed at making the government a de facto prescription pharmacy. This is a bad idea that has been tried before and always falls short, at great cost to taxpayers. Exactly what the Bush-Karl Rove strategy is may be beyond me, but it has the potential for pratfall.

Bush is making compromise with Democrats, theoretically to get them to come along with him on other, more important issues. It all might be "inside baseball," as his dad used to call it, but from Main Street all we see is more hatred from Democrats. Bush's judicial nominees were stonewalled in the most atrocious manner.

In the second Bush term, without re-election to worry about (although his successor and his legacy will be considered), Bush must address some of the hardest domestic issues to face any President since FDR. The Baby Boomers will start to retire. Medicare and prescription drugs are just the tip of the iceberg. Social Security, which became a boondoggle decades ago, will become all-but insolvent. In 1972, the day after beating McGovern, Nixon asked all the heads of his "plumb" departments to hand in their resignations. Most were hired right back beginning with his second term in 1973, but the plan was to re-tool the Federal government. It was an ambitious plan, derailed by Watergate. Even Reagan failed to follow up on what Nixon started. Since then, the government has just gotten bigger. It is time for a President to stand up and tell the American public what they must hear and deal with. Social security as we know it must be trimmed down, along with the entire Federal apparatus, or else we face a fiscal crisis in the next 20 to 30 years that has not been experienced since the 1930s.

No Democrat will do this. Only a Republican can make this call. Economists and government experts have been warning us for years. Those of us with political savvy know it is coming. But the public is largely unawares.

Some Democrat wild cards in 2004 include an Al Gore draft (not likely, since he does not want to lose to Bush again). Hillary's name is always brought up. She will run only if Bush is very weak, which is not in the cards. She probably would not want to run a campaign that she loses by a huge margin. However, she and Clark could be in conspiracy together. Clark could have been asked to place his name in the hat. If he runs strong in the Primaries, he might be asked to step down and run as Hillary's Vice-President. Possibly Hillary could be a Vice-Presidential candidate, as well.

As for other races, Jerry Springer (a Democrat…who knew?) chose not to run for the Ohio Senate. With California back in Republican gubernatorial control (Schwarzennegger), the Golden State is back in play and ready to re-assert itself as the most important political state in the nation.

My strategy would be to run National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice, a California resident and former provost of Stanford University, for the state's U.S. Senate seat in 2004. If she succeeds, it will get rid of the ultra-liberal, out of step Barbara Boxer once and for all.

In 2006, Rudolph Giuliani needs to come back and run for the New York Senate, pinning a costly defeat on Hillary Clinton that will slow her '08 Presidential ambitions and deprive her of her public perch.

In 2008, with four years in the Senate from California under her belt, having already won a campaign in a huge media state that represents the world's seventh largest economy, Rice would be an excellent Presidential candidate. As a black woman, she would deprive the Democrats of an enormous demographic. It could be the final nail in their coffin as a viable party. If her opponent is Hillary, she will take a huge portion of the women's vote. Her ethnicity could augur a seismic shift back to the party of Lincoln.

Of course, she would have to make it through the G.O.P. Primaries, where Rudy Giuliani could run. Other contenders include Arizona Senator John McCain, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R.-Tenn.), New York Governor George Pataki, Florida Governor Jeb Bush, and a dark horse Colin Powell (not likely, but not impossible).

 

 

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