- The Washington Times - Friday, November 24, 2000

At the risk of sounding impolite, Bob Dole is like a bad penny that just keeps rolling back into the public arena at the most inopportune times.
On the Sunday morning talk shows this week the four-time failed presidential candidate served up the single most atrocious piece of advice imaginable for our presumptive next president, George W. Bush. When asked by Tim Russert whether Mr. Bush will be forced to move away from the "radical" agenda of the right, Mr. Dole said W. would be well advised to "back off on the tax cut. I wouldn't want the tax cut to be the first order of business." Well, what should be the first order of business? Mr. Dole suggested Mr. Bush "reach across the aisle" and push bipartisan legislation on issues like Medicare reform and prescription drug benefits.
In other words, if Mr. Bush is declared the victor, he should immediately abandon his own agenda and take up Al Gore's. Ingenious.
What's frightening is that the Bush insiders just may be listening to this dreadful advice. If they do, George W. Bush's presidency, assuming there is one, will be a colossal failure. How many times do Republicans have to relearn the lesson that when they abandon their conservative/libertarian bloc of voters, they don't expand their base, it evaporates. The political graveyard is full of contemporary examples. Gerald Ford. Papa Bush. And, yes, Bob Dole.
But I'm confident Mr. Bush has the shrewd political instincts to reject the flawed game plan Mr. Dole and many in the media have pronounced. The Bush advisers I've talked to say their strategy is to do just the opposite of what Mr. Dole recommends: to make the tax cut plan the pillar of the legislative program of a George W. Bush administration. Tax cuts should be sent to the Republican Congress immediately after the Inauguration.
It's absurd for the press to maintain that tax cuts are "radical" and controversial. After all, many moderate Democrats in the House voted for death tax repeal, marriage tax penalty relief, and IRA expansions just a few months ago. Moreover, exit polls on Election Day revealed that a slight majority of Americans (53 percent) favored the Bush tax plan. No, that's not a ringing mandate, but it's evidence that across-the-board tax cuts are still politically popular.
Mr. Bush's economics team also needs to read the tea leaves: the economy is showing signs of losing steam. The growth rate has been cut in half, from 4 percent to 2 percent, over the past six months. It's still the economy, stupid. Tax cuts can and should be promoted to the public as an anti-recession safety net. To put it in the language of his old man, tax cuts mean "jobs, jobs, jobs."
Mr. Bush isn't even in the White House yet and the jackals in the press are already trying to set him up for a fatal fall. They're calling for Mr. Bush to retreat from his anti-tax platform because the election was so close. Nonsense. This isn't the first close or even disputed election in history. There have been many American presidents who successfully advanced their agenda even though they had smaller percentages of the vote count than Gov. Bush got. John F. Kennedy had a slew of legislative victories (including a tax cut) following his narrow and disputed election of 1960. One of the nation's most successful presidents, Thomas Jefferson, won a disputed election. This didn't cause him to moderate his stance on the issues. He never retreated from his core convictions that the federal government should play a limited role in domestic affairs and that the states had primacy in our federal system. He was resoundingly re-elected.
OK, want a more contemporary example? In 1994 a prominent governor won a narrow victory and then proceeded to enact a whirlwind, populist, conservative agenda that included tax cuts, toughened education standards, litigation reform, and work-for-welfare requirements. Each of the initiatives had powerful political enemies. Four years later that governor was re-elected in one of the greatest landslides in Texas history. President George W. Bush should use the same winning strategy that he did as governor.


Stephen Moore is president of the Club For Growth.

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