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Jewish World Review May 3, 2002 / 21 Iyar, 5762

Debra J. Saunders

Debra J. Saunders
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A speech like air kisses | SPEAKING before the Commonwealth Club in San Jose Tuesday, President Bush knew he was in enemy territory. That is, in the more liberal part of a state that preferred Al Gore to Bush in 2000 by a margin of 53-42. But he never let folks see him sweat.

Dubya had entered the land where 40-year-old bike messengers think he is stupid. Where it is a tenet of faith that only liberals care about poor people and that all Republicans are rich and pinched and care about only one thing -- helping their rich friends. He had come to the land where it is a conceit that only liberals can enjoy a sunset.

Bush doesn't take on that nonsense directly. He simply spoke about his philosophy of compassionate conservatism, and how it is designed to help the less fortunate. "There are young Americans growing up here under this flag," he lamented, "who doubt the promise and justice of our country. They live in neighborhoods occupied by gangs and ruled by fear. They are entitled by law to an education, yet do not receive an education."

With no partisan references, he gave a simple explanation as to why many people -- like me -- become Republicans. They share the ideals of Democrats, but realize that the "guvmint"-program approach doesn't always work. "America doesn't need more big government, and we've learned that more is not always the answer. If a program is failing to serve people, it makes little difference if we spend twice as much or half as much. The measure of true compassion is results.

"Yet we cannot have an indifferent government, either."

Bush was Reaganesque in his optimism, yet he still demonstrated sympathy for people who may have made bad decisions in the course of difficult lives. You won't hear Bush bashing "welfare queens." Instead he saluted a former welfare recipient who "happened to be a mother of a chronically ill child and a victim of domestic violence." She praised welfare reform, she said, because working made her feel "like an adult again."

The rhetoric works because he's sincere. He likes people. He wants less fortunate people to succeed. He wants to lead by inspiring, instead of by niggling and nagging.

It's a very different style than that of Bill Clinton or Gray Davis. Bush doesn't whine, as Clinton used to about Republicans, about what Democrats say about him. Bush didn't use the word Democrat and he didn't refer to the many broadsides that the left has launched his way.

When Bush told the audience at a Santa Clara fund-raiser for GOP gubernatorial hopeful Bill Simon that he considered the Oval Office a shrine, partisans, of course, got the unspoken reference to Clinton's un-shrinelike behavior. Attendees grinned and winked knowingly at each other. And then, poof, the moment was gone. No fingerprints.

Bush also never mentioned Davis by name in San Jose. He took a swipe at the Davis energy plan, or lack thereof. At the fund-raiser, he noted that the hardball Team Davis -- with its tendency to belittle Republican Simon as too inexperienced -- was borrowing from the playbook of former Texas Gov. Ann Richards -- who lost to Bush in 1994.

There was one additional element at play. Bush was in town to tout Simon's candidacy -- after Bush had supported rival Dick Riordan in the primary. There is still a lot of tension between the Bushies and Simon's crew, and Bush used the occasion to assert his dominance.

In front of donors, they were buds, with the Bush hand slung over the Simon shoulder. So Bush likened his Texas bid for governor with Simon's bid here. But Bush did most of the talking and Simon most of the listening.

Plus, the Bush speech, with its rare recognition of the Bush philosophy -- was too big to leave much room in news accounts for Simon's candidacy. The whole exercise left the Simon camp more resentful than grateful, and more angry than contrite. (Sort of like Ann Richards.)

In more than one way, the Bush speech was like a kiss to the cheek that touches no skin.

Comment JWR contributor Debra J. Saunders's column by clicking here.


05/02/02: Bush should end bad sentences
04/29/02: Get ready America, California is gettin' into the slave reparations business
04/26/02: Saudis' money for martyrs
04/24/02: Oooh la la, Le Pen
04/15/02: Drill Alaska -- for the children
04/11/02: A good marriage with an esteemed soul mate -- well, nothing beats it
04/09/02: Tied up and Taliban
04/05/02: No justice in reparations
04/01/02: Schools, yes; fat police, no
03/25/02: The government-induced doctor shortage
03/22/02: Conservative hypocrisy on school drug testing?
03/20/02: And now, about Russell Yates . . .
03/18/02: Bush isn't worried about alienating loyalist voters
03/13/02: No exit strategy
03/11/02: Simon hits the big time
03/06/02: He got away
03/01/02: Mary, Luke, Paul, John and Noah
02/25/02: These are good days for veep
02/21/02: Dirty bill for a dirty mess
02/19/02: Score one for Greta
02/15/02: Dose of justice needed here
02/08/02: Sunshine all around
02/04/02: Does citizenship matter?
02/01/02: End the coverup
01/30/02: Try this for "troubling"
01/25/02: Camp X-ray or Club Med?
01/23/02: Let's stop the deluge of porn e-mail
01/21/02: No 'Little Boy Lost'
01/16/02: Son of Supercar
01/12/02: Beware the European view of the death penalty
01/09/02: Other people's children
01/07/02: It doesn't fly
01/03/02: Going from the Atlantic City Boardwalk to Berkeley
12/31/01: In America, punishment should fit the crime
12/28/01: What I'd like to see in 2002
12/24/01: Don't heckle ink monopolists
12/21/01: Mumia finds safety in numbers
12/19/01 The self-help PBS shopping network
12/17/01 Caught on tape
12/14/01 Know when to hold 'em
12/10/01 Old friends
12/06/01 I read the news today, oh boy
12/03/01 It's not cricket
11/28/01 Admissions and omissions
11/26/01 Guns and abayas
11/21/01 Depraved minds think alike
11/19/01 Guilty, a la carte
11/14/01 Interpreting the entrails of Election 2000
11/12/01 Life and liberty
11/09/01 Safety is as safety does
11/07/01 More hot air on global warming
11/05/01 Bumped Pakistani's molehill
11/01/01 Freedom snuffed out
10/29/01 Give war a chance
10/26/01 Airline bill needs liftoff
10/22/01 The Riordan Principle
10/19/01 Before America gets tired of the war on terrorism
10/17/01 Patriot games
10/15/01 I was a 'McCainiac,' and I have seen the light
10/12/01 University of Censorship's fall semester
10/11/01 Poor little rich boy, Osama
10/07/01 Don't feed Israel to the beast
10/05/01: bin Laden is not our Frankenstein monster
10/04/01: Where no man has gone before
09/26/01: Who's bloodthirsty?
09/26/01: What's to understand?
09/20/01: Barbara Lee's line in the sand
09/14/01: You gotta love this country
09/13/01: ENTER TERROR
09/11/01: You can't clone ethics
09/06/01: NOW's goal: equal rights for women without equal responsibility
08/30/01: What's love got to do with it?
08/24/01: A clean, well-lighted place for junkies
08/20/01: Bush should stand up for justice
08/08/01: Don't give Peace (Dept). a chance
08/03/01: Lose a kid, pass a law
08/01/01: Welcome to France, killers
07/30/01: Why it's easy being green (in Europe)
07/26/01: If disabled means expendable
07/23/01: Condit should not resign
07/18/01: Feinstein should learn her limit
07/16/01: A drought of common sense
07/13/01: The catalog has no clothes
07/05/01: It's Bush against the planet
07/03/01: The man who would be guv
06/29/01: Wheeled, wired and free
06/27/01: O, fearful new world
06/25/01: End HMO horrors
06/21/01: Either they're dishonest or clueless
06/18/01: Freedom is a puff of smoke
06/15/01: In praise of going heavy: Yes, you can take it all
06/13/01: McVeigh: 'Unbowed' maybe, but dead for sure
06/11/01: Gumby strikes back
06/08/01: Los Angeles' last white mayor?
06/07/01: Kids will be kids, media will be media
06/04/01: Draw a line in the sand
05/30/01: Just don't call him a moderate
05/29/01: Operation: Beat up on civil rights
05/24/01: Of puppies, kittens and huge credit-card debts
05/22/01: Bush needs an energy tinkerbell
05/18/01: Divided we stand, united they fall
05/16/01: Big Bench backs might over right
05/15/01: Close SUV loophole
05/11/01: Kill the test, welcome failure
05/09/01: DA mayor's disappointing legacy
05/07/01: If it ain't broken ...
05/03/01: They shoot civilians, don't they?
04/30/01: Executions are not for prime time
04/12/01: White House and the green myth
04/10/01: The perjurer as celeb
04/04/01: Bush bashers don't know squat
04/02/01: Drugging our oldsters
03/30/01: Robert Lee Massie exercises his death wish
03/28/01: Cheney's nuclear reactor
03/26/01: Where California and Mexico meet
03/16/01: Boy's sentence was no accident
03/14/01: Soft money, hard reform
03/12/01: Banks, big credit lines and consumer bankruptcy
03/09/01: Free speech dies in Berkeley
03/02/01: When rats have rights
02/28/01: Move a frog, go to jail?
02/26/01: They knew they'd get away with it
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02/16/01: The jackpot casino Carmel tribe?
02/14/01: You can fight school success
02/12/01: Hannibal -- with guts this time
02/08/01: A family of jailbirds
02/05/01: Reality's most demeaning TV moments
02/01/01: Justice for the non-Rich
01/26/01: Hail to the chiefs of D.C. opinion
01/24/01: A day of mud and monuments
01/22/01: Diversity, division, de-lovely D.C.
01/19/01: Parties agree: Give back the money
01/17/01: Get tough with the oil companies, or forget pumping more Alaskan crude
01/15/01: Mineta better pray that no attending confirmation senator has ever driven to San Jose during rush hour
01/12/01: Europeans should look in the mirror
01/10/01: Dems' reasons for dissin' Dubya's picks
01/08/01: Jerry, curb your guru
01/03/01: A foe of Hitler and friend of Keating
12/28/00: Nice people think nice thoughts
12/26/00: The Clinton years: Epilogue
12/21/00: 'Tis the season to free nonviolent drug offenders 12/18/00: A golden opportunity is squandered
12/15/00: You can take the 24 years, good son
12/13/00: Court of law vs. court of public opinion
12/08/00: A salvo in the war on the war on drugs
12/06/00: Don't cry, Butterfly: Big trees make great decks
12/04/00: Florida: Don't do as Romans did
11/30/00: Special City's hotel parking ticket
11/27/00: No means yes, yes means more than yes
11/22/00: The bench, the ballot and fairness
11/20/00: Mendocino, how green is your ballot?

© 2000, Creators Syndicate