- The Washington Times - Friday, August 4, 2000

Bedrock conservatism

Texas Gov. George W. Bush advertises himself as a "compassionate conservative," but the "conservative" half of that phrase "forms the bedrock of the strategy that Bush advisers will pursue in search of victory in November," the Wall Street Journal reports.

"The strategy is based on a simple belief: There are more conservatives than liberals in the American electorate, and nearly all of them now are Republicans. That's the legacy Ronald Reagan, who wrenched millions of conservatives from their ancestral Democratic homes, bequeathed to today's GOP. From the beginning of his campaign, Mr. Bush's first priority has been to keep these conservatives content, and that will continue to be the case through the fall run toward the White House," reporters John Harwood and Jackie Calmes write.

"Despite much advice to the contrary, candidate Bush has refused to shrink from his conservative positions. He's pushing a sweeping tax-cut plan, even though his congressional counterparts have retreated this year in favor of more modest cuts.

"He's offering a controversial proposal to partially privatize Social Security that many Republicans in Congress dare not touch. And he's resisting popular gun-control measures, despite fierce Democratic attacks.

"He also brushed off GOP moderates in selecting a solidly conservative, anti-abortion running mate in Dick Cheney. The goal: to nail down the two core elements of a winning coalition, a phalanx of Southern and Western states and white male voters nationwide."

Drained of vitality

"By suppressing dissent on the platform and about primary reform, and by muting vigorous criticism of Democratic policy, the GOP except for Cheney drained its 2000 convention of vitality," New York Times columnist William Safire writes.

"My right-wing brethren are loath to knock this. Because Clinton stole conservatives' clothes on curbing welfare and stole swing voters' hearts by harping on hope, many approve stealing the Clinton approach to campaigning," Mr. Safire observed.

"But touchy-feely, above-the-battle mutual back-patting, so universally advised by consultants, smacks of smugness and calls to mind the candidate atop the wedding cake.

"My ideological allies will say I'm a controversialist who needs a public scrap to sell his wares. (How do they know what's in my heart?)

"Not every expression of outrage at hypocrisy on high is 'the politics of personal destruction.' Not every wave of media boredom is a 'vast conspiracy' to deny coverage. Not every reminder of demonstrable lying is 'beating a dead horse.' Not all spiritedness is mean-spiritedness.

"And if Bush's smiling-in-lockstep strategy backfires, the next GOP convention may be much livelier."

A Newtonian moment

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, "like his nemesis Bill Clinton, is an elemental force not given to facing the world with bowed head and averted eyes," USA Today political columnist Walter Shapiro writes.

"If Napoleon could return from Elba, if Richard Nixon could transform himself into a respected former president, if the current occupant of the White House could get away with it all, Gingrich must have figured that he was ripe for a comeback," Mr. Shapiro said.

"When he arrived for an interview with USA Today on Wednesday morning [in Philadelphia], it was as if almost nothing had changed. Gingrich might be a bit puffier, his thatch of hair might be turning from gray to white, but his style is unaltered by his months in the shadows.

"Asked a simple question about the Republicans' image, the former college teacher launched into a multipart exposition on the history of modern conservatism, which began with Barry Goldwater. 'We're at the beginning of what I think is Chapter 4,' he said, 'building on the success of the Contract With America, which really capped the Reagan Revolution.'

"It was a vintage Newtonian moment, analytical and immodest, as Gingrich implicitly argued that his Republican takeover of the House in 1994 not only fulfilled the mandate of Ronald Reagan, but also paved the way for the nomination of George W. Bush. Not bad for a two-term House speaker, whose role at this convention is somewhat akin to Banquo's Ghost."

A liberal definition

The Media Research Center points to a report Wednesday on ABC's "World News Tonight" as a possible preview of the media's approach to the fall campaign.

Reporter Dean Reynolds argued that George W. Bush's "much talked-about compassion clashes with his record." Mr. Reynolds went on to define compassion as supporting specific liberal policy prescriptions.

"He went along with having an openly gay congressman address the convention last night, yet Bush opposes hate-crimes legislation, gay marriage and gay adoption," the reporter said. "He is the candidate who talks of making health insurance available to all who want it, but has fought to limit federal insurance for children.

"Bush is the candidate who has proposed a huge tax cut as a way to help the working class… . But more than 60 percent of the relief would go to the richest 10 percent of Americans. And while he speaks of the need to protect the environment, Bush supports mostly voluntary efforts to do it."

Hillary's other foe

Believe it or not, first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton actually has an opponent in New York's Democratic primary, scheduled for Sept. 12. He's Dr. Mark McMahon, a 39-year-old surgeon from Manhattan's Upper East Side who collected more than 44,000 signatures to get his name on the ballot.

Dr. McMahon, in an interview with the New York Press, said he was "incensed about the idea that the Democratic Party brokered this deal, where Hillary came and presented her prerequisites to save the party from [New York City Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani], and one of those was that there would be no primary."

Surrendering ideals

Retired Gen. Colin Powell, in his speech to the Republican National Convention, urged party members to sacrifice for ideals, while in effect arguing that "they should also surrender one of their best ideals: a colorblind America," syndicated columnist James Pinkerton writes.

"The Republican platform says something different: 'We believe rights inhere in individuals, not in groups. We will attain our nation's goal of equal opportunity without quotas or other forms of preferential treatment.' But of course, nobody reads platforms, while everybody listens to Powell."

How soon they forget

"You'd think that the last Republican vice-presidential nominee would have VIP tickets to the GOP convention here, but noooo," Paul Bedard writes in the Internet version of U.S. News & World Report's "Washington Whispers" column (www.usnews.com).

"Minutes before [Tuesday] night's session got under way in muggy Philly, Jack Kemp and his wife were walking up to the white security tent outside the First Union Center when none other than current veep choice Dick Cheney's motorcade drove up.

"The Kemps and about 50 others were held up by security as the cars whisked by. But even when security let up, the Kemps were stuck at the back of the line and surprisingly few people even took notice of their last pick for No. 2."

They never forget

"Neil Bush, son of the former president, recalled to Colorado delegates [Wednesday] how, four years ago, when his son Pierce was 10, he asked him to list the greatest presidents," the New York Post reports.

Pierce named George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Ronald Reagan.

When Neil Bush reminded the boy that he had left his own grandfather off the list, the youngster looked up at him and said, "Dad, what about the economy?"

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