Clicking on banner ads enables JWR to constantly improve
Jewish World Review March 6, 2000 / 29 Adar I, 5760

Chris Matthews

JWR's Pundits
World Editorial
Cartoon Showcase

Mallard Fillmore

Michael Barone
Mona Charen
Linda Chavez
David Corn
Ann Coulter
Greg Crosby
Larry Elder
Don Feder
Suzanne Fields
Paul Greenberg
Bob Greene
Betsy Hart
Nat Hentoff
David Horowitz
Arianna Huffington
Marianne Jennings
Michael Kelly
Mort Kondracke
Ch. Krauthammer
Lawrence Kudlow
Dr. Laura
John Leo
David Limbaugh
Michelle Malkin
Jackie Mason
Michael Medved
Kathleen Parker
Debbie Schlussel
Wes Pruden
Sam Schulman
Roger Simon
Tony Snow
Thomas Sowell
Cal Thomas
Jonathan S. Tobin
Ben Wattenberg
George Will
Bruce Williams
Walter Williams
Mort Zuckerman

Consumer Reports



McCain's appeal to 'Reagan Democrats' -- IN THE PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN of 1980, Ronald Reagan pulled a brilliant campaign stunt: He made himself a Catholic.

The transfiguration was political, not religious. Reagan didn't convert to the country's largest Christian denomination; he repositioned himself for the membership of a voting group that includes 25 percent of the country's electorate.

Reagan's gambit began with simple geography. He moved his campaign headquarters east and named as his new campaign manager a crusty New Yorker, future CIA director William Casey.

Reagan executed other cosmetic moves. Raised a non-ethnic Protestant, he began portraying himself as an Irish-American son of the great national melting pot. He had a picture taken of himself enjoying a draft beer at an Irish pub. He turned himself into the real-life George Gipp, that charismatic Notre Dame football hero he played in the movies alongside Pat O'Brien.

On Labor Day, 1980, Reagan completed the transition from Southern California success story to cultural Catholic. With the Statue of Liberty at his back, the Republican nominee donned the mantle of every ethnic group to make it through Ellis Island.

Jimmy Carter didn't stand a chance with this group, soon to be known as the "Reagan Democrats." When he competed with the Republican candidate at the traditional Al Smith Dinner, sponsored by New York's Catholics, he quickly discovered that Reagan was not just the winner of the white-tie laugh-a-thon but, worse yet, on the home team.

John McCain is now attempting the same number. Exploiting rival George Bush's Feb. 2 visit to Bob Jones University, he has painted the Texan as a pandering ally of anti-Catholic fanatics.

For three weeks Bush made it easy for McCain, refusing to apologize for starting his South Carolina campaign on a campus where Catholicism is dismissed as a "cult." He refused to admit that a symbolic visit meant to be a foothold locally had become a banana peel nationally.

Attempting to quiet things down, Gov. Bush wrote a letter of strong apology this past weekend to New York's Cardinal John O'Connor. He took the blame for not "disassociating" himself from the anti-Catholic sentiments of Bob Jones University.

Spotting weakness, McCain broadened his assault, lashing into Bush not just for the Bob Jones visit but for getting into political bed with the religious right in the first place.

"We are the party of Ronald Reagan, not Pat Robertson," he said in Virginia Beach. "My friends, I am a Reagan Republican who will defeat Al Gore. Unfortunately, Gov. Bush is a Pat Robertson Republican who will lose to Al Gore."

Dropped near the headquarters of the Christian Coalition, McCain's rhetorical bomb was for the benefit of Catholic voters in next Tuesday's primaries. His prime target: New York state, where Catholic discomfort with anti-Catholic bigotry is matched by an even sharper resentment toward the loud urban voices of racial anger and demand.

"Neither party should be defined by pandering to the outer reaches of American politics and the agents of intolerance," McCain said on Monday, "whether they be Louis Farrakhan or Al Sharpton on the left, or Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell on the right."

McCain's speech is a declaration of war. From here to Philadelphia, the Republican party will be divided between Catholics and the religious right.

Unless a victorious campaign can replace the right with voters from the center, it's hard to see either candidate leading a winning coalition in November.

JWR contributor Chris Matthews is the author of Hardball. and hosts a CNBC show of the same name. Send your comments to him by clicking here.


03/01/00: John McCain fits a hero's profile
02/28/00: Grading the American presidents
02/25/00: Clinton remains No. 1 issue
02/23/00: Will Ross Perot aid POW McCain?
02/18/00: McCain faces fury of GOP establishment
02/17/00: Citizen Springer
02/14/00: McCainia and the frisky independents
02/07/00: A prime-time primary for California
02/02/00: Clinton's final campaign: Take the blame
01/31/00: Which GOPer is willing to pay for his positions?
01/27/00: John McCain's gay radar
01/25/00: This time, candidates get 'authenticity' check
01/18/00: AIDS dooms 1 in 4 in tiny Swaziland
01/13/00: Complacency might be the campaign key
01/10/00: A choice, not an echo
01/06/00: The role of a lifetime
01/03/00: Dangers in Gore's dirty war
12/30/99: Churchill's fighting words saved the century
12/28/99: Candidate Gore's separation anxiety
12/17/99: Catch 22: Leading candidates don't lead
12/17/99: New Democratic leader on the horizon
12/15/99: Is Hillary clueless?
12/08/99: Taking Buchananism to the streets
12/03/99: Why are we so obsessed with 'spin'?
12/01/99: Donald Trump, 'Sinatra of Steel'
11/29/99: Why AlGore will be our next president
11/23/99: After the fall
11/17/99: Our conveniently forgetful president
11/15/99: Next president: Male, WASP, self-selected
11/10/99: Backroom Bill
11/08/99: Please don't feed the 'pander bears'
11/03/99: Battle of the Bubba clones
11/01/99: Pat Buchanan, kamikaze candidate
10/27/99: The year of the woman... voter
10/25/99: The Curse of the Bubba
10/21/99: GOP gives Clinton his finest hour
10/18/99: Clinton's last hurrah
10/13/99: Rough seas for Capt. Ventura
10/11/99: Gore targets Bradley's strength
10/06/99: Bradley's got the right Rx
10/04/99: Buchanan, Churchill and Hitler
09/30/99: Who'll spin political gold in Golden State Gore or Bradley?
09/27/99: Here's a millennial checklist for candidates
09/22/99: The biography battle
09/20/99: Buchanan's new book is a must-read
09/15/99: Don't rule out Beatty
09/13/99: The man with the sun on his face
09/08/99: W. vs. Jr. on dope and the draft
The FALN: Hillary's Willie Horton
08/26/99: Bill's guilt fuels Hill's race
08/25/99: The seemingly inexhaustible strength of America's free enterprise
08/23/99: GOP candidates are weak also-rans
08/16/99: Bubba on Bubba
08/11/99: Hillary's agonizing attempts to understand
08/09/99: With warm regards, Richard Nixon
08/04/99: Weicker: real third party is on the Left
08/02/99: Dubyah's last hangover
07/27/99: Ho, Ho, Ho Chi Minh; capitalism is gonna win

© 2000, NEA