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Jewish World Review May 24, 2000 /19 Iyar, 5760

Don Feder

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Bush leaves conservatives breathless -- I'M ONE OF THOSE CONSERVATIVES who, considering the alternative, is praying he'll be able, in good conscience, to vote for George Bush in November. So far, Bush is not making it easy.

Last week, the governor embraced the Clinton foreign policy agenda with an enthusiasm he never shows for conservative causes.

Bush boarded the first-class compartment of the New World Order Express by opposing legislation to establish modest congressional oversight of our Kosovo intervention.

Although it lost in the Senate, 40 Republicans supported the move. In the House, where a companion measure passed, 195 of the body's 213 Republicans were unmoved by the governor's plea.

Bush said the resolution to begin extricating America from the Kosovo quagmire, by cutting off funds for 5,900 U.S. troops in the province by July 1, 2001, was "legislative overreach" that would tie his hands as president.

So, the governor believes that as president he should be able to inject U.S. forces into trouble spots that bear no relation to our security concerns -- for years on end and at a cost of billions of dollars -- and Congress should have no say on the matter? Interesting.

Junior followed that up by urging Republicans to go along with the Peking Lame Duck's scheme to end our annual review of China's trade status. Bush endorsed the administration's pinch-me-I-must-be-dreaming position that giving the People's Republic a blank check on open trade will make the commies less aggressive, less repressive and generally a lot nicer.

The Republican candidate described trade relations with the Middle Kingdom as the work of "13 years and three administrations." Sorry, but I can't see Ronald Reagan severing trade from human rights and national security.

Pat Buchanan, the likely Reform Party nominee, notes that since 1993 our trade with China has allowed the communists to amass a $300 billion surplus, "money Beijing has used for the military buildup that now threatens Taiwan and the U.S. 7th Fleet."

Regarding foreign policy, a Bush presidency is shaping up to be every bit as detached from reality as four more years of Clinton-Gore.

Elsewhere, Bush is no more encouraging. After the right helped him defeat Sen. John McCain in the primaries, he returned to his compassion kick -- proposing $60 billion in new spending over five years, including a $5 billion literacy initiative (for what are we spending $250 billion annually on public education, if our schools can't even teach kids to read?) and $35 billion to help poor families buy health insurance.

Smart move, his supporters confide, he's co-opting traditional Democratic issues. And, in the process, he's leaving traditional Republican issues (anti-communism, a sensible foreign policy, limited government, fiscal restraint) for Buchanan and other third-party candidates to co-opt.

In April, Bush applied his TLC to the love that formerly dared not speak its name -- but now could shatter glass. The governor became the first likely Republican nominee to meet with a group of homosexual leaders. He said it made him a "better person" and welcomed "gay Americans" into his campaign.

At the same time, the candidate reiterated his opposition to gay marriage and support for allowing the Boy Scouts to bar homosexual leaders.

Pity he didn't explain how meeting with individuals dedicated to repealing 3,300 years of Judeo-Christian civilization made him a better person, or why his campaign should roll out the red carpet for those who would force a private organization to jettison its moral code.

Bush is counting on conservatives' revulsion with Clinton's criminal enterprise -- in progress for the past seven years -- and horror at the thought of Al Gore making three or four Supreme Court nominations (Chief Justice Laurence Tribe?) to keep them in line.

It may just work. But what establishment Republicans invariably forget is that they need more than conservatives' grudging assent.

In a voting booth, you can hold your nose and still pull the lever with the other hand. It's much harder to ring doorbells, make phone calls, distribute literature and write checks with your nostrils constricted due to an odor emanating from the campaign of the candidate you're forced to support.

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