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Jewish World Review Jan. 24, 2000 /17 Shevat, 5760

Don Feder

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Forbes deserves right's support -- IF ANY REPUBLICAN presidential candidate deserves the right's support this year, it's Steve Forbes. The millionaire publisher is also our only chance to get a GOP nominee we can vote for without a heavy heart.

While most of the party establishment pays lip service to the right-to-life cause, Forbes is explicit and emphatic. "Life begins at conception. It should only end at natural death," the candidate declares.

Forbes pledges to appoint only pro-life judges ("It is a fundamental question of character and commitment"), pick a pro-life running mate, eliminate federal funding of abortion, and push parental consent laws and bans on partial-birth and gender-selection abortions.

How serious is he?

Two years ago on NBC's "Meet The Press," Forbes was asked to choose between enacting his signature flat tax or protecting the unborn. Without hesitating, he opted for the latter, explaining that without the right to life economic liberty is a meaningless abstraction.

Not that the free-market champion is neglecting the supply side. Calling Bush and McCain the "timid twins" of tax reduction, Forbes proposes a $648-billion, five-year tax-cutting/simplification plan, including a 17-percent flat tax.

With generous exemptions ($13,000-per adult), it would remove 20 million low-income Americans from the tax rolls. The average family of four would pay no taxes on their first $36,000 of income, for an annual savings of $1,662.

By not punishing productivity and success with high marginal rates, Forbes' plan would unleash a boom to make the 1990s seem like the doldrums of the Carter years.

Sounding like a Clinton clone, Sen. John McCain speaks of dedicating the surplus to shoring up Social Security.

Forbes would guarantee benefits to those already on the system as well as individuals 10 to 15 years from retirement. For the rest, he would allow them to invest part of their Social Security taxes (eventually the bulk) in something like a 401-K plan, thus saving the younger workers from the cruelest hoax ever perpetrated by a democratic government.

Steve rarely misses a chance to pump free-market solutions. On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, he noted that in King's times segregationists blocked school doors to keep black children out. Today, Democrats like Al Gore "stand in school doors to keep kids inside dangerous, failing schools, while accusing Republicans of not caring about the needs of minority children."

His answer? Anything and everything that promotes educational choice -- opportunity scholarships, vouchers, tuition tax credits, home schooling and educational savings accounts.

One only wishes that Forbes was as keen on sovereignty as he is on life and liberty.

While promising to revamp the Immigration and Naturalization Service to fight illegal immigration, the candidate does not support a reduction in excessively high levels of legal immigration.

Still, those who believe Forbes is the candidate of the Fortune 500 should listen to him on the Cuban embargo. "If lifting the embargo would help promote economic development and popular dissatisfaction against the current regime, why hasn't it happened with European and Canadian investments?"

On China, Forbes tries to accommodate both trade and human rights. However, he would "make it clear that we will defend Taiwan from a Chinese attack" and "deploy state-of-the-art missile defense systems."

Forbes isn't pretty, and he's sometimes wooden on the stump. No matter. His policy proposals are gorgeous and his rhetoric has the ring of sincerity.

For Forbes, today's Iowa caucuses are crucial. His magic formula is under-35/over-25. If he can hold Gov. George W. Bush to under 35 percent of the vote, and go over 25 percent himself, he will roar into New Hampshire with what Papa Bush used to call the Big Mo.

A Granite State victory, combined with the resources to stay competitive on Super Tuesday and beyond, would give Forbes a shot at the nomination.

If I could wave a magic wand and make one of the GOP contenders the next president, it would be charismatic constitutionalist Alan Keyes. If Bush or McCain is the Republican nominee, many conservatives will probably end up with Pat Buchanan, scourge of the New World Order.

But in terms of electing a passionate conservative who leaves no doubts about where he stands, it's Steve Forbes.

JWR contributing columnist Don Feder's latest book is Who's Afraid of the Religious Right. Comment on his column by clicking here.

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© 2000, Creators Syndicate