- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 9, 2003

According to a recent memo sent to top political supporters, Democratic presidential aspirant Dick Gephardt plans to " 'reintroduce' himself to America not solely as a Washington figure, but as a Midwestern success story, who has taken the values and lessons learned from his parents, teachers and community and forcefully applied them to his politics and ideas." Apparently, this is necessary so that the former House minority leader can "break out of the congressional box he has been required to operate in." If Mr. Gephardt plans to return to his roots, then that should come as good news. After all, when the Missourian first came to Congress, his views were far more in line with the political mainstream. For starters, he was a dedicated pro-lifer and anti-taxer. As a freshman, he landed a coveted spot on the powerful Ways and Means Committee, later supporting the deep tax cuts of Ronald Reagan in 1981 and cosponsoring the House version of a sweeping overhaul of the tax code that would pass in 1986.
Mr. Gephardt distinguished himself from the party's liberal wing in other areas, too, such as opposing increases in the minimum-wage and federal busing initiatives. So concerned was Mr. Gephardt that moderates in the party were not having their voice heard in the imperiously liberal House that he helped found the Democratic Leadership Council.
But, if Mr. Gephardt plans to reintroduce himself, somehow we doubt he'll find the campaign trail so liberating. After all, it was during his only bid for president in 1988 that Mr. Gephardt lurched to the left. In an effort to secure the union vote in the all-important Iowa caucus, Mr. Gephardt suddenly decided he was against free trade. To appease other liberal interest groups, he flip-flopped on abortion, and offered only tepid support for his own tax-reform bill. He came out in support of the minimum wage.
In Iowa, at least, the makeover worked; Mr. Gephardt narrowly led the Democratic field with 31 percent of the vote. But his sudden liberal conversion hurt him badly in the second primary contest, in New Hampshire, and Mr. Gephardt's campaign never recovered. Neither, it seems, did Mr. Gephardt.
Of course, as with his first reintroduction, Mr. Gephardt's upcoming effort has nothing to do with his own convictions and everything to do with his ambitions. If the former leader of House Democrats now finds himself in a box, it is a box that he created himself.

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