- The Washington Times - Friday, January 4, 2008

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Sometime between now and Super Duper Tuesday, we’ll start talking about what really matters and where the remaining presidential candidates stand on any given issue. Right now, even after Iowans have given us a fairly clear Polaroid, we and the candidates are still focused on the inconsequential.

Don’t let the candidates off the hook.

All eyes remain on the assets of the Obama Girls (Oprah Winfrey and Amber Lee Ettinger), and Bill and Hill are still trying to figure out who’s on first. As for Fred, Rudy, Mike, Mitt and John, suffice it to say they’ve repositioned themselves so much they’d put Beulah the Buzzer out of business if the game were Truth or Consequences instead of American politics. And John Edwards? Do we really have to go there? The only question for John is does he use mousse, hair spray or Dippity-Do?

Fortunately, Super Duper Tuesday (Feb. 5) will be here in no time at all, and by then voters in more than a dozen states will winnow the wheat from the chaff, soothing our chafing.

The nervous Nellies will calm down, too — especially the conservative ones who don’t want candidates to stand up and discuss public education out in the open. They’re afraid (and rightly so) that politicians will either over-promise or push the federal government’s already nebby nose further inside our classrooms. While I hardly blame skeptics for discouraging federal intrusion, I think we nonetheless should face facts: It won’t be long before Congress again turns its attention to reauthorizing NCLB and before the presidential candidates turn their attention toward pressing domestic issues.

So listen closely to Rudy, Mike and Mitt, who, in their former roles, experienced firsthand the heavy hand of the federal Education Department. Are they in bed with the educrats and educationalists? Or with the parents and advocates who want to educate America’s children by any means necessary?

It really would be most interesting to see and hear Rudy, a former Democrat, articulate his education policy in the coming weeks (instead of listening to him glorify himself as a self-anointed First Responder).

Occasionally appearing and sounding more like a Republican clone than a Republican conservative, Rudy is taking the politically expedient road to the White House via the delegate-counting I-95 corridor, kissing off Iowans for New Englanders, who already know him, and Floridians, who’ve been relocating to the Sunshine State since Brooklynites like Al Capone and other gangsters began setting up shop there.

Florida, like Texas and California, is voter rich with seniors, Hispanics, military bases and pro-death penalty constituencies — the very people whose decisiveness can make or break a candidate.

But voters and voting blocs reject one-note candidates. If Rudy Giuliani wants to make inroads he’s got to set himself apart and tell Americans what he stands for, something he has yet to do.

Inside the Giuliani camp, during forums and debates, and at klatches with voters, people need to ask themselves: Is Rudy being asked the right questions?

Do we know what the Education Department would look like if Rudy were president? Will he sustain NCLB or will the Democrat in him take over, which would likely mean that he will be more in tune with the mob and dirty union tricks, whose interests are in, well, the mob and unions, not the health, education well-being of America’s youth?

Did Rudy support charter schools and home schooling as mayor? If so, what specifically did he do? If not, now that charters and home schooling are flourishing, what would a Giuliani administration do to encourage and support such schooling of choice?

Many of Rudy’s advisers — at least the ones with respectable records — are based right here in Washington, where the media cover every twist and turn of public education. So Rudy should have perspectives on at least three systems — D.C., New York City and New York state. He can add a fourth by reading my editor-in-chief’s column, Pruden on Politics, which appeared on Jan. 1. In it, Wes Pruden gives quick study lessons on what’s going on with charter schools in California in general and Los Angeles in particular. Wes’ column and a little more research would add two to Rudy’s list. (Another issue is single-sex education, as reflected by Phil Brand’s op-ed published today.)

Look, Rudy and his people have got to know that America is not New York-centric. Sure, we think New York is a great city. But most Americans would not want to live there. And although Americans continue to “Barack the Vote,” it’s clear that voters don’t necessarily want to send Washington insiders from one end of Pennsylvania Avenue to the other.

Voters say they want change, and they say that every election cycle by either changing the occupants of the White House or changing the occupants of Congress. 2008 isn’t any different. Out with the old, in with new.

The only certainty at this moment is that George W. Bush is out. Whether Rudy gets in is up to the American electorate. It’s time for “America’s 9/11 Mayor” to articulate, articulate, articulate or get off the Republican pot.

And Happy New Year to you, too.

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