- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 7, 2007

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Newt Gingrich said the odds are “80-20” in the Democrat’s favor for 2008. Nevertheless, the Republican candidates — except for Mitt Romney — don’t yet see the need to make a clean break with President George Bush (43).

In fact — and as also suggested by Mr. Gingrich — no Republican candidate can be a serious contender in ‘08 unless he or she casts off all the Washington political baggage of the last 20 years, Republican and Democrat. Traditional Republicans shouldn’t think of this as disloyalty: They simply have to find a “new direction” for their party if they want a chance to win in 2008.

While Hillary Clinton clearly represents a continuation of the post-Ronald Reagan, 20-year Bush-Clinton dynasty, the Democrats have their own set of internal ideological struggles:

(1) John Edwards is this spooky, Jimmy Carteresque character. Listen to him and you’ll hear the same kind of clueless, feel-good stuff Mr. Carter still says. An Edwards presidency, like the Carter administration, would suffer from an obsession with micromanaged “social justice programs” — an introspective, but sharp turn to the left with which very few will be comfortable. Like Mr. Carter, Mr. Edwards would be a one-term president, remembered as a pleasant, but helpless lightweight who got elected only because Americans were sick of Washington altogether. Mainstream Democrats and Republicans alike should hope this doesn’t recur.

(2) For the Democrats, the only fresh ideological break from the last 20 years is represented by Illinois Sen. Barack Obama. But is seems as if Mr. Obama will be sucked into the Clinton camp as the vice-presidential candidate and thereby be reduced to zero influence (a modern-day John Nance Garner) as all of the important and/or substantive matters of state will be in the new, “ambassador at large” portfolio of presidential hubby Bill Clinton.

And, like the Reagan administration that marginalized Vice President George H.W. Bush (41), we can bet a Hillary Clinton administration will marginalize a Vice President Obama — but for far different reasons: Mr. Bush was marginalized because conservatives regarded him as a national security and tax policy accommodator. Mr. Obama will be marginalized because the Clintons’ super-sized egos won’t tolerate the camera competition he represents. In short, Bill already hates him.

Can anybody take the Republicans in a new direction? It’s definitely not John McCain — he’s way too anchored to the past. It could be Mitt Romney, Fred Thompson or Rudolph Giuliani — or a combination thereof, or perhaps one of them paired with Joe Lieberman as a vice-presidential candidate — provided they can develop their candidacy in a way that reflects the demographic realities of the new electorate. Translation: To have a chance of winning in 2008, Republicans must:

• De-emphasize traditional social conservatism and make ideological space for the social activism such as represented by California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, former California Gov. Ronald Reagan, former Gov. Mitt Romney and former Mayor Giuliani. Absent another terrorist attack in the United States before the 2008 election, health care and Social Security will be “the big issues” — and Republicans need well-thought-out policies and concrete proposals to offer. Voter age demographics alone make this step an absolute necessity if Republicans are serious about winning.

• Embrace a fundamental new national security strategy holding the sponsors of terror at real risk of strategic attack. This is something Democrats would not do (witness Mr. Obama’s silly statements on this issue) even if sponsored terrorists with nuclear weapons threatened to attack us.

Bottom line: If there’s not a socially enlightened Republican platform, get ready for eight more years of the Bush-Clinton-Bush-Clinton post-Cold-War dynasty. This translates into a very simple reality: For domestic politics, the Democrats will tax us more and spend our money the way they want, as opposed to having Republicans tax us less and spend our money the way they want.

In case you missed it, the central theme here is “tax and spend our money.” Republicans have demonstrated they are even more generous with our money than the Democrats. In fact, the only issue here seems to be who gets to spend it.

However, there is something far more important for our future: We will continue to wear a target on our backs until we hold the sponsors of terror at real strategic risk of strategic attack — and show we mean it as we did during the Cold War. If the Democrats feel the political heat from being “left” of this equation and so far they have been — they need only ask themselves what Harry Truman would have done.

Daniel Gallington is a senior fellow at the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies in Arlington, Va.

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