- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Next week, Republicans gather for their national convention in New York — the first time in history the GOP has held its quadrennial confab in the Big Apple. And while recent national political conventions are low man on the hard-news totem poll, these party meetings, when a sitting president is unopposed, are even more languid affairs, with few fights over platform policies and no dramasurrounding the nomination outcome.

Conventions, however, even when the nominee is known in advance, have a variety of important political purposes, from firing up the rank-and-file troops to reintroducing the candidate. Together these factors can produce electoral energy — a kind of political plutonium that pundits call the “bounce.”

Yet as I wrote in this column the week before the Democratic convention, historically low network news coverage, coupled with a record number of voters saying they “already made up their minds” and the earliest vice presidential pick ever, all conspired to attenuate the expected Kerry bounce.

My prediction was accurate. Boston provided little political helium to the Democratic ticket — more blip than bounce in post-convention polls. For the same reasons, the Bush-Cheney ticket might suffer a similar fate after the Republican convention — many, if not all, of the same blip producing circumstances exist.

But there are also some big differences.

Unlike Mr. Kerry, President Bush will not spend his convention week “redefining” himself. The Massachusetts senator accumulated one of the most liberal voting records in Congress, including a weak record on national security. Mr. Kerry’s Boston convention meticulously avoided this part of his past, trying to reinvent him as the John Wayne of the Mekong Delta — a remake so transparent it left some voters — particularly some swift boat vets — skeptical.

Instead of recreating himself, Mr. Bush will be reassuring, reasonable and reminiscent — another alien concept in an environment dominated by the latest MoveOn.org ads. His convention speech will provide a unique opportunity to reassure voters that his pre-emptive policies were a prudent and rational response to Iraq in a post-September 11 world. He should draw heavily from Norman Podhoretz’s recent piece in Commentary, “World War IV,” which persuasively argues, “the road we have taken since 9/11 is the only safe course for us to follow.”

Explaining his actions in the context of preserving our way of life, protecting our safety and expanding freedom globally, (as opposed to Michael Mooresque, distortions and exaggerations), will appear reasonable to most fair-minded people. Mr. Bush should use his convention speech, as he stands literally blocks from the carnage where Islamist radicals slaughtered thousands of innocent Americans, to remind voters about the consequences of half-measures and a “more sensitive” approach to foreign policy. Voters who view Mr. Kerry’s remake as disingenuous may find the president an attractive foil to the overly nuanced senator.

Next week, Mr. Bush also can fill the void demagogues like Michael Moore and Al Sharpton have wrought on the American electorate — a huge missed opportunity for Mr. Kerry at his own convention. The Moore-Sharpton axis hijacked the Democratic Party’s greatest virtue — idealism — and replaced it with hate and sarcasm.

Gone are the days when Democrats focused on big ideas like ending poverty, improving housing or expanding educational opportunities. Even if you disagree with New Frontier or Great Society prescriptions, you respected their energy and convictions. By embracing the likes of Messrs. Moore and Sharpton and opportunistically “remaking” Mr. Kerry, Democrats rejected idealism in favor of distortion, irony and cynicism.

Mr. Bush can fan the embers of idealism among Americans next week. He should remind voters about his dream of an “Opportunity and Ownership Society,” that lifts people out of dependency through welfare reform, home ownership and educational excellence. He also should continue to articulate a foreign-policy narrative, standing on the shouldersofRoosevelt, Churchill and Reagan, by proposing to rid the world of Islamist fascism, freeing people from dictators and spreading democracy across the planet — this generation’s rendezvous with destiny.

These are the big ideas of our age — an idealism Democrats sacrificed on the altar of post-modern irony and sarcasm. Instead of “remaking” himself, Mr. Bush only has to articulate where he’s been all along. He should ask Americans, as Mr. Podhoretz did at the end of his essay, if they are ready to “act upon the responsibilities of moral and political leadership that history has yet again so squarely placed upon our shoulders.”

The “bump” may be small if many voters already decided. But, if hope and idealism trump fear and sarcasm, and voters embrace “what-you-see-is-what?you-get” candor over “nuanced repackaging,” Mr. Bush will get a Big Apple bounce.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times is switching its third-party commenting system from Disqus to Spot.IM. You will need to either create an account with Spot.im or if you wish to use your Disqus account look under the Conversation for the link "Have a Disqus Account?". Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide