- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 29, 2004

President Bush has had a series of supremely talented economists advising him over the last four years, including Larry Lindsey and Glenn Hubbard, but never had a gifted communicator of the White House economic message.

That deficiency caused Mr. Bush severe heartburn in marketing his first-term domestic legislative priorities and in educating voters about how those policies are working.

In the year before the November elections, for example, the economy soared — with low interest rates and low inflation, respectable job growth, increasing worker productivity, and a rapid rate of growth of gross national product.

Mr. Bush’s policies were working swimmingly, particularly the 2003 tax cut. Yet, the media portrayed economic conditions as if we were in a mini-depression and many voters bought into this depressing viewpoint. The chasm between economic reality and perceptions almost cost Mr. Bush the election.

All this is to say George Bush needs above all else, as he fills the last few vital Cabinet posts, an economic communicator — someone telegenic, charismatic and credible. Of course, this person must also be a gold-plated supply-sider with an unshakable conviction Mr. Bush’s second term agenda is right for the country.

After all, the Bush administration has an incredibly audacious economic game plan: a tax overhaul, Social Security reform, expansion of free trade agreements, tort reform and budget control. If Mr. Bush can accomplish even half of these priorities, he will have a scintillating legacy of achievement.

For all these reasons, the still unfilled position of director of the National Economic Council should be chaired by National Review’s own financial wizard, Larry Kudlow (whose columns appear in this newspaper). I recently joined a growing band of conservative leaders to try to make this a reality.

This choice makes so much common sense, it’s amazing the White House hasn’t already pounced on the idea. Mr. Kudlow’s credentials to be the president’s chief economic spokesman and adviser are impeccable:

• He is regarded on Wall Street as one of the nation’s premier financial economists.

• He is TV savvy (he has his own CNBC program).

• He is right in line with the Bush administration’s thinking on tax cuts, entitlement reform, trade and monetary policy He has advised President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney on economics over the years.

• He is uniquely persuasive and can convince people in the media, in Congress and on Main Street.

• He has a national and even an international following and is highly regarded among Republicans and even many Democrats in Congress.

• Mr. Kudlow has a pure Reaganite pedigree. He worked for the Gipper from 1981-84 as chief economist at the Office of Management and Budget.

• He has worked as senior economic strategist for some of the most prominent investment banking firms on Wall Street, including two stints with Bear Stearns.

• He has had the fine sense to write a brilliant weekly column for NR online and frequently National Review magazine — much to our loyal readers’ enjoyment.

It is well known Mr. Kudlow had a near career-ending substance-abuse problem a number of years ago. It is also well known he has had a blessed and remarkable recovery in his personal/spiritual and professional lives. His only remaining vice is tobacco. (If the White House is a no smoking zone, that, alas, may be a deal killer.)

Should his past problems be a disqualification? In this age of redemption, the answer surely is no. After all, Mr. Bush, earlier in his life, struggled with his own substance abuse demons, and he fully conquered them in admirable fashion.

In fact, in a town that thrives on power and prestige, where those in exalted positions all too often come to imagine themselves masters of the universe, Mr. Bush and Mr. Kudlow share a commendable understanding that the real Master resides in heaven, and no where near the nation’s capital.

My White House contacts tell me that for four years President Bush has sought in vain for a “Robert Rubin of the right.” God news: He really does exist, and his name is Larry Kudlow.

Appointing Mr. Kudlow would be a masterstroke by the White House and would win universal applause —particularly from his conservative friends. This would be Mr. Bush’s most daring and exhilarating Cabinet selection.

What is he waiting for?

Stephen Moore is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute.

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