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Jewish World Review August 3, 2000 /2 Menachem-Av 5760

Morton Kondracke

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Convention must point Bush to center


http://www.jewishworldreview.com -- QUALITY APPOINTMENT though it was, Texas Gov. George W. Bush's selection of former Defense Secretary Dick Cheney as his running mate was a tilt to the right. The GOP convention needs to point back to the center.

Cheney is a policy heavyweight and a man of sober probity, but as Democrats have gleefully pointed out, his House voting record was far to the right of center.

Having rigidly opposed the Department of Education, sanctions against apartheid in South Africa, abortion even in cases of rape, increased funding for Head Start and all forms of gun control, Cheney offered Democrats rich opportunities for attacks on Bush.

And the Democrats took full advantage, staging events and opening up a slick Web site to expose and attack Cheney's 1980s opposition to various health programs, family leave legislation, labor and civil rights laws.

"He's a nice, charming guy," one Gore adviser said of Cheney. "But his record makes stark and clear the differences between Bush and us on the issues."

"The ideology that Cheney represents isn't that of the 'different kind of Republican' that Bush has been projecting, but the kind most of the country finds too far to the right."

The Gore adviser added,"It's been our belief from the beginning that Bush's compassionate conservatism is all facade and window dressing. Cheney reinforces the point."

Republicans did not seem prepared for the Democratic onslaught. As Jeffrey Birnbaum of Fortune magazine observed on Fox News Channel, "Cheney was in charge of vetting Bush's other vice presidential possibilities. Someone should have vetted him."

Cheney justified most of his votes by saying the country faced budget deficits at the time. He did not recant or even declare himself a convert to "compassionate conservatism."

The Bush campaign didn't seem fazed by Democratic attacks on Cheney, either, declaring them nothing more than examples of customary negativism on the part of Vice President Al Gore's campaign.

Judging by the Gallup poll taken after Cheney's appointment, Republicans were right not to worry. Bush's lead over Gore among likely voters jumped to 11 points.

Still, a new Pew Research Center poll indicates that, despite help from the media, Bush has yet to establish in the public's mind that he is a "different kind of Republican."

A joint study by Pew, the Project for Excellence in Journalism and the Committee of Concerned Journalists shows that Bush has received consistently more favorable coverage than Gore has, with 40 percent of stories reinforcing the Bush themes of bipartisanship, compassion, reform and "difference."

Yet, according to Pew, only 21 percent of voters think Bush's views are different from those of traditional GOP leaders, while 62 percent think they are the same.

Only 28 percent think he has tailored his appeal to reach out to nontraditional GOP voters. Rather, the dominant impression of Bush -- held by 54 percent of voters -- is that he has relied on his family connections to get ahead.

Cheney, having been Bush's father's defense secretary and the beneficiary of the former president's lobbying, presumably will only reinforce the impression that Bush is primarily his father's heir.

Perhaps significantly, in view of the Pew findings, the Bush-led Republican Party is going out of its way to run a conclave in Philadelphia, advertised as "not your father's convention."

The themes will be upbeat, not negative. Both the GOP platform and the speaker's platform in the convention hall have "had their edges rounded," according to Bush aides.

While retaining traditional GOP language on abortion, the policy platform goes out of its way to emphasize what Republicans will do for education and women's health. And the convention hall platform has been reduced to look like a living room on television.

Speakers will emphasize ethnic diversity, optimism and bipartisanship. There will be speeches and singing in Spanish. Jan Bullock, widow of former Texas Lt. Gov. Bob Bullock (D), is expected to deliver an emotional recounting of Bush and her husband's bond across party lines.

The convention theme, "Renewing America's Purpose. Together," sounds vague and gauzy, but Bush aides claim that by Thursday night, Americans will have a sense that Bush means to build a country with ends beyond economic well-being, including quality education and retirement security.

So, GOP atmospherics will be centrist, upbeat and forward-looking. Supposedly, there will be limited disparagement of Democrats, including Bill Clinton and Gore. Bush should get a bounce and may lead Gore by 15 to 20 points next week.

But elections are decided on policy as well as mood. So when Bush makes his acceptance speech on Thursday, he needs to say something about health policy, taxes and Social Security that will trump Democratic offerings and survive Democratic attacks.



JWR contributor Morton Kondracke is executive editor of Roll Call, the newspaper of Capitol Hill. Send your comments to him by clicking here.

Up

08/01/00: GOP Readies 'Debt Lockbox' As 2000 Strategy
07/27/00: Cheney adds heft to GOP ticket
07/25/00: Foreign, Defense Policy Deserves Full 2000 Debate
07/20/00: Truman Show: Gore Replays 1948, But Bush Isn't Dewey
07/18/00: Bush Must Fight Gore's Drug Plan As 'Bad Medicine'
07/13/00: Mexico's Election Supports U.S. Action On NAFTA, Bailout
07/10/00: Abortion is good for something --- just ask AlGore
07/06/00: Meet Steve Ricchetti, Bubba's secret weapon
06/30/00: AlGore is down, but is he out?
06/27/00: Social programs caught in election-year game of one-up
06/22/00: Congress Is Near Flunking a Test On School Reform
06/16/00: Doting on the grandparents
06/13/00: On Stem Cells, Bush Has Wrong Pro-Life Stance
06/08/00: Has Gore Caught Bush?
05/26/00: PNTR Vote Could Tell Which Party Fits 'New Economy'
05/23/00: The secret to winning the election: Economic programs
05/18/00: Gore should regroup
05/16/00: McCain's Support Is Tepid, But Lets Bush Focus on Gore
05/11/00: Voters need wonk training
05/09/00: Bush Could Score With Charge That Gore's Too Partisan
04/28/00: Reno's force aids Clinton, not Elian
04/25/00: Should Clinton be indicted?
04/24/00: Can Gore win on Bush tax cuts?
04/18/00: Levin's 'bridge' key to China trade?
04/11/00: Congress, U.S. Voters Still Aren't Ready For Campaign Reform
04/06/00: Bush, Gore Silent As Popular Culture Gets Ever Coarser
03/30/00: Is 2000 Like 1948, 1976 or 1960? Or Is This Unparalleled?
03/28/00: Will Bush, Gore Go for a Better Way To Pick Nominees?
03/23/00: Medicare cutbacks bleed hospitals
03/20/00: Chances Improve That China Trade Will Pass Congress
03/16/00: Lieberman as veep would help Gore
03/14/00: Can Bush, McCain Unite to Beat Gore?
03/09/00: Can GOP Forge Unity After Nasty McCain-Bush Race?
03/07/00: What accounts for McCain's excesses?
03/02/00: 'Debate' Proved Gore Is This Year's Best Gut-Fighter
02/29/00: Surprises! The 2000 GOP race is full of it
02/25/00: Voters want centrist in White House
02/23/00: Gore would hit McCain's record
02/15/00: Will negativity hurt McCain in S.C.?
02/10/00: How hard should Bush hit McCain?
02/08/00: Bush must retool his entire campaign
01/27/00: Could Gore beat Bush as Truman beat Dewey?
01/20/00: Big New Surplus Estimates Could Alter 2000 Politics
12/21/99: Bush improves, everyone panders
12/16/99: Prospects improve for campaign reform
12/14/99: Riots raise free trade as 2000 issue
12/10/99: Gore won GOP 'debate' in N.H.
12/07/99: Election pits Bush cuts vs. Medicare boost
12/03/99: Can race be a constructive issue in 2000?
11/19/99: White House race may be best in decades
11/16/99: Where is Bush on health care fight?
11/11/99: Will TV stop profiteering from politics?
11/09/99: Is GOP isolationist, or just partisan?
11/04/99: Gore, Bradley Run Opposite Races On Style, Substance
11/01/99: GOP, Clinton could reach deal swiftly
10/27/99: Bush to fight 'culture wars' -- positively
10/21/99: Porter, Mack: heroes on medical research
10/19/99: Gore scores among party big shots, but polls go South
10/14/99: Bush critiques could help GOP Congress
10/12/99: Congress can save health care from ruin
10/07/99: Will gun-control cause the GOP to shoot itself in the foot?
10/05/99: Gore moves: Desperate but necessary
10/01/99: Fox, Armstrong make case for NIH
09/28/99: Dems' race brightens Bush's chances
09/23/99: East Timor deflates `Clinton Doctrine'
09/21/99: Buchanan v. Bush? Yeah right
09/17/99: Candidates turn attention to poverty
09/15/99: Bush's education problem
09/09/99: Budget makes 2000 an `issues' election
09/07/99:Airport rage increases, with good reason
09/02/99: U.S. future up for grabs in 2000
08/31/99: U.S. Capitol needs visitor's center -- soon
08/24/99: Will 2000 be the year of the foreign crisis?
08/19/99: Neither party has upper hand for '99
08/17/99: Ford gets freedom medal one month early
08/12/99: There's time to catch Bush, say Gore aides
08/10/99: Rudy, Hillary try much-needed makeovers
08/09/99: GOP must launch new probe of Chinagate
08/02/99: Pols blow fiscal smoke on budget surplus
08/02/99: One campaign reform should pass: disclosure
07/27/99: Gore leads Bush in policy proposals

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