- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 1, 2000

Still seeking a legacy as more than just the Artful Dodger as well as acting as adjunct campaign manager for his vice president Bill Clinton found in his State of the Union address one more opportunity to mount the pulpit and paint a picture of America and his opponents the way he sees them. As the "ultimate impressionist," he paints the GOP with broad, heavy brush strokes intended to make them appear an even cooler shade of cold.

It will be up to the leadership of the majority party if it is to stay the majority party to come out of the strategy retreat scheduled for February with brushes blazing, ready to touch up the GOP's image and demonstrate to the American people what conservatives already know that the policies of the Republican Party hold the key to freedom, prosperity and family values.

From now until the election, Mr. Clinton will "blackwash" Republicans with that old Democratic standby that Republicans are the party of big business (as opposed to the party of big Chinese business, which doesn't appear to be politically damaging). We say Republicans should paint themselves as the party of the employees of big business, and of little business, for that matter.

The GOP believes in free markets and that capitalism works. The formation of capital that comes from low corporate taxes and minimal federal regulation puts people to work and dinner on their tables. The more business is free to prosper, the bigger the dinner for everyone.

In contrast, the Democrats want to regulate and mandate anything that moves. Regulations and mandates cost companies big bucks, forcing them to cut back on the number of employees, their benefits and their salaries which will ultimately cut back those dinners. With regard to education, Mr. Clinton says that the Republicans are the party bent on "destroying our wonderful public school system" (as opposed to the one we have now). Republicans must portray themselves as the party determined to ensure that American children actually get an education.

As House Majority Leader Dick Armey likes to say: freedom works. It works in schools just as it does anywhere else. Despite the Democrats' attempt to throw more and more cash at education, America's children continue to fall behind, especially in the inner cities. Republicans want school vouchers, which give parents the opportunity to make choices for their offspring. Parents want vouchers, too a phenomenon aptly demonstrated when the Washington Scholarship Fund, an organization dedicated to providing vouchers to low-income families, advertised that it would fund 1,000 scholarships in the nation's capital and received 7,600 applications. Last year, the program received 11,000 applications.

What do the "we feel your pain" Democrats say to voucher-parent wannabes? They say Democrats and bureaucrats (if that's not redundant) know better than parents what is best for the future of their children. Republicans will also be accused of being the party of irresponsible tax cuts. But what the GOP wants is to give you a raise, not by increasing the minimum wage, but by letting you keep more of what you earned.

Yes, we are in a period of economic expansion. That, combined with an endless discussion of tax-cutting, may have made people indifferent to the notion of lower taxes. But who would turn up their nose at a 5 percent pay raise? The net effect is the same more of your own money for you to save or spend. And if your employer's business is freed from some of its tax burden, you might even get another raise.

The president wants you to believe that the Republican Party is willing to endanger your retirement security, though it's hard to understand how the Social Security trust fund with no money in it could be in any more danger than it already is.

If the Republicans get their way, for the first time in history Americans will actually own their own private retirement accounts; there will be adequate funds available to them for a comfortable retirement and they will even be able to bequeath whatever is left to their heirs just like the IRAs and 401(k)s millions of Americans already enjoy.

Finally, the president paints his own party in warm and caring tones as the party of "patient protection." Republicans should portray themselves as the party of patient choice. Do patients really want to be protected from their doctor? What people want is the opportunity to shift from a health plan that doesn't work to one that satisfies them. Give patients choices and they won't need protection.

Republicans can't let Mr. Clinton paint them as the bad guys. If they can successfully retouch their image as warm and concerned, they may keep the House and do some good for the American people at the same time.

Kerri Houston is director of PolicyLink. Merrill Matthews, Jr. is a columnist for Investor’s Business Daily.

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