On Nov. 7, more than 100 million Americans will cast their ballots for president of the United States. The man they elect will not only be the commander-in-chief of the world’s only superpower, he will also become the leader of the strongest military alliance in history. Americans will elect the leader of the world’s most powerful economy in an era of rapid technological and financial innovations that have linked nearly all of the world’s economies. In sum, the presidency brings with it responsibilities awesome in their power.
The 2000 election will take place during the longest economic expansion in U.S. history and at a moment when the nation is at peace. Yet, despite the immense wealth and widely shared prosperity that the American entrepreneurial spirit has generated since Ronald Reagan unleashed it nearly two decades ago, major challenges threaten the long-term viability of the American dream. And despite the relative peace that prevails today, the nation faces significant national security challenges. These include terrorism in the Middle East and at home; the emergence of nuclear threats from rogue nations, from North Korea to Iraq and Iran and an evolving strategic challenge from an increasingly aggressive Chinese dictatorship.
Texas Gov. George W. Bush far surpasses Vice President Al Gore whether the qualifications are measured in terms of political priorities, leadership, personal character, governmental philosophies or vision of the future. On issue after issue, as we have argued repeatedly on this page, Mr. Bush offers the correct approach to the problems confronting America.
Mr. Bush would arrive in Washington with clear but limited priorities. Contrast this approach with that of Mr. Gore, whose acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention was but a laundry list of federal promises to solve every problem, real and imagined. Mr. Bush embraces the philosophy of Ronald Reagan, who said of Jimmy Carter in their 1980 debate: “He seeks the solution to anything as another opportunity for a federal government program.” Mr. Bush has been saying precisely that about Al Gore.
Mr. Bush re-emphasized his agenda Tuesday night in his closing remarks at the last of three presidential debates. This agenda includes reforming Medicare and Social Security, rebuilding the military and encouraging a public school system in America that would ensure that no child is left behind. Let there be no doubt that Mr. Bush, unlike President Clinton, would not hesitate to use his political capital to address the long-term challenges facing America.
After setting these priorities, Mr. Bush promises to return a portion of the federal government’s burgeoning budget surplus from whence it came and to where it belongs the pockets of the taxpayers of America. On this issue, Mr. Bush explains the philosophical differences between himself and Mr. Gore: “I don’t think the surplus is the government’s money. It’s the people’s money. I don’t think the surplus exists because of the ingenuity and hard work of the federal government. I think it exists because of the ingenuity and hard work of the American people, and you ought to have some of the surplus so you can save and dream and build.”
Mr. Bush’s priorities represent what he has rightly called the “missed opportunities” of the Clinton-Gore administration, making it clear that bipartisan proposals, which emphasize market-oriented reforms, would form the foundation of his Medicare-reform plan.
A central feature of the Bush Social Security reform would permit workers to invest a portion of their taxes in private investment accounts. True to form, Mr. Gore has essentially endorsed the status quo for Social Security, preferring to demagogue the issue while ignoring the certainty of long-term fiscal catastrophe. Once again he confirmed a crucial difference between his philosophy of government and Mr. Bush’s. Mr. Bush trusts the people to act in their own best interests, to take responsibility, opportunity and accountability for themselves. Mr. Gore places his trust in the government at the expense of the freedom of Americans.
Nobody who has heard Mr. Bush’s pledge to “end the soft bigotry of low expectations” and who is even remotely familiar with the success Texas has enjoyed in improving the education of minorities questions Mr. Bush’s determination to duplicate those improvements nationally. Mr. Gore, alas, trumpets the status quo endorsed by the teachers unions that lavish campaign cash on the Democratic Party.
After eight years of Bill Clinton, character must play a role in the nation’s choice. For several reasons, Mr. Gore fails this test. The director of the FBI and the former chief of the Justice Department’s campaign-finance task force both believe Mr. Gore may have committed perjury in the campaign-finance scandal. Moreover, Mr. Gore has proved himself to be a compulsive prevaricator and a flip-flopper of rare talent. By contrast Mr. Bush has pledged to restore honor and decency to the White House and given every indication that he will keep that promise.
An overriding issue is national missile defense. One thing is certain: Russian President Vladimir Putin, who effectively vetoed Mr. Clinton’s earlier commitment to begin deploying a relatively ineffective anti-ballistic missile (ABM) system, would have no such veto power over Mr. Bush’s pledge to deploy a “robust” ABM system. Mr. Gore believes that the anachronistic ABM Treaty must remain the “cornerstone” of U.S. strategic nuclear policy.
Mr. Bush’s performances during each of the three presidential debates underscores the irrelevance of early concern over his so-called “gravitas.” He has demonstrated a compelling understanding of how the world works, and a reassuring attitude toward the role of government, together with a winning charm.
For all of these reasons, The Times endorses George W. Bush of Texas with confidence, with gratitude and with unqualified enthusiasm.