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Jewish World Review June 28, 1999 /14 Tamuz, 5759

Mona Charen

Mona Charen
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Behind the George W. frenzy --
HAVE REPUBLICANS collectively fallen into a swoon for George W. Bush? Have they bet the farm on someone who is untested in national politics and almost utterly unknown to the American electorate?

Yep, as they say out there where his middle initial is pronounced "dubbayuh." Whether the gamble will pay off eventually remains to be seen. But it is not difficult to understand the secret of George W.'s appeal. In the first place, in contrast to most of the other contenders for the Republican nomination, George W. Bush is a professional politician -- the second-term governor of one of the largest states no less. He takes the field against a publishing heir, a columnist, a radio host and a social activist, in addition to a ridicule-plagued former vice president, a former education secretary and two sitting senators from states with 13 electoral college votes between them. (Arizona has eight; Utah has five.) In light of this, George W. is being greeted the way an Air Force officer would be on a commercial plane that had just lost its two pilots: "Just tell us you can land this thing."

But the other reason George W. is creating such giddiness among Republicans is that he promises to release them from the "mean-spirited" tag the Democrats have so successfully hung around their necks for decades.

Here is a Republican, son of a president, white, Protestant and wealthy, who nonetheless was able to pull 49 percent of the Hispanic vote in the last election. Here is a Republican who believes in tax cuts, welfare reform and faith-based institutions but who speaks of "compassionate conservatism." Has the messiah come?

Many Republicans are prepared to say yes. They are panting to find a leader who will make conservatism cool again.

They seethe at being misrepresented and disrespected by those whose ideas have failed over and over again. Some of this longing to be seen as "nice" was in evidence at the Republican convention of 1996. When Robert J. Dole announced that Jack Kemp would be his running mate, the delegates buzzed with excitement. Jack Kemp the quarterback! Jack Kemp the tax cutter! Yes, all that. But above all, the buzz was for Jack Kemp, friend of minorities!

It has been the neat trick of Bill Clinton and company to get credit for Republican policies while simultaneously smearing Republicans as cruel and heartless.

Though the Republican Congress had to drag Clinton kicking and screaming into signing a balanced budget, he blithely took credit for balancing the budget in his campaign.

It was the same with welfare reform. Though he had campaigned in 1992 to "end welfare as we know it," Clinton's original budget, submitted to the Democrat-controlled Congress, contained huge increases for welfare spending stretched out over five years. After Republicans assumed control of Congress in 1994, they sent two welfare-reform measures to the president. He vetoed both. Only with the pressure of an upcoming election did he finally sign on -- and then only because Dick Morris predicted that failure to do so could doom his re-election.

Still, reforming welfare and balancing the budget are always listed among the key accomplishments of the Clinton presidency. This is political larceny of a high order. And adding insult to injury was the Clinton tactic of name calling (also indulged by Vice President Gore). Republicans were hard-hearted and cruel. They were "mean-spirited." They chanted "Fee fi fo fum" on their way to work every day.

Will George W. be able to pull off a different kind of political jujitsu -- appropriating the Democrats' favorite term of self-praise while implementing conservative reforms? The great danger is obvious: The desire to be seen as "compassionate," while understandable, has weakened the principles and good sense of many a Republican.

So far, George W. has shown an agreeable allergy to taxes, a sensible commitment to missile defense and a commendable dedication to free trade. But on the issues that are loaded with mine fields -- abortion and affirmative action -- he has been so guarded that skeptics may well wonder how much beyond lip service they can expect from him.

But even skeptics have to acknowledge a raw political fact: George W. may well be the Republicans' Citibank -- too big to fail.

JWR contributor Mona Charen reads all of her mail. Let her know what you think by clicking here. Please bear in mind, though, that while all letters are read, due to the heavy amount of traffic, not all letters can be answered.


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06/21/99:Taking back our streets
06/16/99:Hide and seek
06/14/99: Impervious to the evidence
06/09/99: Unsung heroes
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05/24/99: Baby Hope continued
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05/13/99: Other high crimes
05/10/99:Three cheers for uniforms
05/05/99: Voucher opponents' worst nightmare
05/03/99: Lessons of Columbine High
04/28/99: Kevorkian is stopped
04/26/99: "Senseless tragedy"?
04/22/99: Hey, hey, ... Bubba
04/19/99: Why we are in Kosovo
04/15/99: Hooray for the NYPD
04/09/99: How to do something about taxes
04/06/99:Can the private sector handle foster care?
03/31/99: The Flower Child goes to war
03/29/99: Foreign-policy meltdown
03/25/99: 'Just doin' it'
03/22/99: Return of pay equity?
03/16/99: St. Hillary
03/10/99: Rodney King in perspective
03/08/99: Monica's story: No morals
03/04/99: Not home but library alone:
3/02/99: Tuning our racial sensitivities
2/27/99: Cease-fire in war between sexes?
2/23/99: Where were the religious voices?
2/19/99: Depends what you mean by "acting"
2/17/99: As Minn., goes so goes the nation?
2/09/99: Prepare for post-impeachment spin
2/03/99: Teaching morality
2/01/99: What did he say?
1/26/99: The truth about the Peace Process
1/22/99: The vulgar decade
1/19/99: Was Jefferson libeled by DNA?
1/13/99: The backlash picks up speed
1/11/99: Who invented politics of personal destruction?
1/07/99: Shall we dance?
1/05/99: Try him!
12/30/98: The price of virtue
12/28/98: The gift of giving
12/22/98: Party of shame, party of shamelessness
12/18/98: Wag the country
12/16/98: Is this impeachment constitutional?
12/14/98: Republicans find courage
12/09/98: Nappy Hair and other racial slurs
12/07/98: Stranger in a strange land
12/02/98: Dangerous ground
11/30/98: Involuntary fatherhood?
11/24/98: Lies, damned lies, and sex lies
11/18/98: Another victory for cowardice
11/16/98: Separatism plus welfarism equals a dead end
11/10/98: Did conservatism lose campaign '98?
11/06/98: Democrat venality, Republican timidity
11/04/98: Are girls being shortchanged?
11/02/98: Believe the children?
10/28/98: What 'Measure 58' would do
10/26/98: The officers are bailing out
10/20/98: Using Matthew Shepard's murder
10/19/98: The school voucher that saved a family
10/14/98: Are powerful women different?
10/09/98: Can just sex be impeachable?
10/07/98: Repeal Miranda
10/02/98: Understanding the polls
10/01/98: What school texts teach about marriage
9/28/98: Fear of choice
9/23/98: A fork in the road: Bubba's fate and ours
9/18/98: Christianity and the Holocaust
9/16/98: The national dirty joke
9/11/98: Are we in crisis?
9/09/98: Does Burton's sin let Clinton off the hook?
9/07/98: Liar's Poker
9/01/98: One, two, three
8/28/98: Fat and folly
8/25/98: When homework is a dirty word
8/21/98: The unravelling
8/18/98: The wages of dishonesty
8/17/98: Sex, honor and the presidency
8/12/98: Pro-choice extremist
8/10/98: Switch illuminates biology's role
8/05/98: The presumption of innocence and the American way
8/03/98: An American hero
7/29/98: Lock up those who need psychiatric care
7/24/98: Making the military more like us
7/22/98: The 'Net sex hoax... and us
7/20/98: Disappointed by Cosbys
7/15/98: Feelings, not morality, rule
7/10/98: Guns as the solution?
7/8/98: Teacher preacher
7/6/98: The China behind the headlines
7/1/98: What is the First Amendment for?
6/26/98: The Republican city
6/24/98: Poison pen
6/22/98: Clinton: inventing his own reality?
6/16/98: Senator mom?
6/12/98: Wisconsin: a trail blazer?
6/9/98: These girls say no to sex, yes to excellence
6/5/98: Lewinsky's ex-lawyer would feel right at home as Springer guest
6/2/98: English? Si; Republican? No!
5/29/98: The truth about women and work
5/27/98: Romance in the '90s
5/25/98:Taxing smokers for fun and profit
5/19/98: China's friend in the White House
5/15/98: Look out feminists: here comes the true backlash
5/12/98: The war process?
5/8/98: Where's daddy?
5/5/98: The joys of boys
5/1/98: Republicans move on education reform
4/28/98: Reagan was right
4/24/98: The key to Pol Pot
4/21/98: The patriot's channel
4/19/98: Child-care day can't replace mom
4/15/98: Tax time
4/10/98: Armey states obvious, gets clobbered
4/7/98: A nation complacent?
4/1/98: Bill Clinton's African adventure
3/27/98: Understanding Arkansas
3/24/98: Jerry Springer's America
3/20/98: A small step for persecuted minorities
3/17/98: Skeletons in every closet?
3/13/98: Clinton's idea of a fine judge
3/10/98: Better than nothing?
3/6/98: Of fingernails and freedom
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2/27/98: Dumb and Dumber
2/24/98: Reagan reduced poverty more than Clinton
2/20/98: Rally Round the United Nations?
2/17/98: In Denial
2/13/98: Reconsidering Theism
2/10/98: Waiting for the facts?
2/8/98: Cat got the GOP's tongue?
2/2/98: Does America care about immorality?
1/30/98: How to judge Clinton's denials
1/27/98: What If It's Just the Sex?
1/23/98: Bill Clinton, Acting Guilty
1/20/98: Arafat and the Holocaust Museum
1/16/98: Child Care or Feminist Agenda?
1/13/98: What We Really Think of Abortion
1/9/98: The Dead Era of Budget Deficits Rises Again?
1/6/98: "Understandable" Murder and Child Custody
1/2/98: Majoring in Sex
12/30/97: The Spirit of Kwanzaa
12/26/97: Food fights (Games children play)
12/23/97: Does Clinton's race panel listen to facts?
12/19/97: Welcome to the Judgeocracy, where the law school elite overrules majority rule
12/16/97: Do America's Jews support Netanyahu?

©1999, Creators Syndicate