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Jewish World Review Sept. 1, 2000/ 1 Elul, 5760


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Consumer Reports

You're not the incumbent, Dubyah -- George W. Bush's two-year quest for the presidency has hit its most perilous roadblock since he was shellacked by Sen. John McCain in the New Hampshire primary last February. The GOP nominee's strategists are foolishly trying to spin the media by insisting that the Governor's campaign is right on track; after all, they wanly explain, everyone knew that after Al Gore's Democratic convention polls would show a statistical dead heat.

Not only is this tactic a waste of time, but it's also nonsense. With the possible exception of millionaire Gore kingmaker Bob Shrum, every political analyst was fairly astonished at the "bounce" the Vice President received after his phony populist persona was unveiled on Aug. 17. Beat reporters and pundits, reassured that Gore wouldn't be buried in a landslide, now feel comfortable in reverting to their natural liberal slant; all that joshing around with Bush in the last three months was poll-driven fake conviviality. When the candidate was leading Gore by an artificial 17 points there were no articles about his garbled syntax; now that the Veep has temporarily surged, it's an issue, a question of gravitas. That's silly: Bush hasn't learned to speak in perfect prose over the summer; it's just a cheap shot directed at a candidate who has retreated to the complacent state that almost cost him the Republican nomination.

The Governor's Austin commandos would be wise to continue cordial relations with the media-unlike Gore in his dog days, who was frightened to hold a press conference-but they shouldn't be fooled that the Beltway faux-aristocrats are impartial. If you're a Republican in a close election, that's just a fact of life.

More importantly, Bush has to work harder and stop pretending he's an incumbent who's above the fray of down-and-dirty politics. Why is he running for president? If voters believe it's simply for White House perks or to avenge his father's loss to Bill Clinton in 1992, Gore will win. Decisively.

The Vice President's postconvention honeymoon might prove a welcome kick in the butt for Bush, much like McCain's early success last winter was. Despite all the socialist rubbish you read about the lack of difference between the two candidates, this election will be the most clear-cut since 1960.

Bush's candidacy is about the future; Gore is intent on preserving the Big Government status quo.


It's imperative that Bush seize the offensive and not let up until Nov. 7. He needs to demonstrate his true passion for the issues that divide him and Gore. Take education. While Gore wants to throw more money at teachers (and their unions), which will result in further functional illiteracy, Bush is steadfast in his commitment to an overhaul of the system that will help parents send their kids to private schools when those schools' public counterparts fail.

Gore's born-again populism is full of holes. He can't speak like Ralph Nader, and then accept massive amounts of corporate soft money. Gore lectures about the filth in Hollywood-his sanctions against Rep. Loretta Sanchez for scheduling a fundraiser at Hugh Hefner's Playboy mansion are typical of prevailing Democratic double standards-but sees the entertainment conglomerate's money as clean green. Sen. Joe Lieberman, whose stature as a man of integrity has been destroyed in just three short weeks, is in hock to the insurance and pharmaceutical industries in Connecticut. In fact, when a New York Times article last Sunday pointed out that "lobbyists say they are pleased with how he has promoted their agendas in Washington," Lieberman refused to comment.

Gore still refuses to acknowledge his role in the '96 fundraising scandals. The Vice President has, this past year, flip-flopped on issues more than even Bill or Hillary Clinton has. Bush must vigorously attack, in simple language, the deceptive disguises of his opponent. It's the Clinton-Gore administration that's responsible for the persecution of Microsoft and other entrepreneurial enterprises; that's an attack on the middle class and on anyone else who believes their dreams can be realized without the help of a patronizing Big Government.

In addition, when Gore and Lieberman attack Texas, the Governor should show the real anger that he's repressing when such misrepresentations are irresponsibly ticked off like items on a shopping list. He can explain the kind of mess he inherited from a Democrat in '94, and how in the past six years he's worked in a bipartisan fashion-a phrase not in Gore's vocabulary-to make substantial progress in the country's second largest state. When the Democrats and media ridicule the Bush-Cheney ticket as being captive of Big Oil, the GOP candidate must point out Gore's holdings in Occidental Petroleum, not to mention the sainted Sen. Albert Gore Sr.'s friendship with Armand Hammer, a Soviet agent.

It's crucial that Bush explain his tax plan in everyday language. In an era of surpluses it's a philosophical and moral imperative to cut taxes; it's also the single best thing a president can do to sustain the economy's growth. It's not the government's money, and it's dangerous to have so much excess cash sloshing around in Washington-politicians like Gore and Dick Gephardt will only use it on outdated entitlement programs and as chits to people who've supported Democrats. Gore's own tax cut plan is "targeted": in other words, he'll tell Americans how to save or spend money. Bush believes that the nation's citizens can do that for themselves.

Bush should close every single rally, debate and television appearance with the blunt message that now is the time, while the country is at peace and flush with prosperity, to reform what's wrong and outdated in the U.S. Like Social Security and Medicare. Like the defense system and tax code. Like the muddled foreign policy of the last eight years, under which countries are bombed for domestic political gain. Bush finally regained his equilibrium last Friday with a strong speech about the strategic importance of trade and interaction with Latin America-a nearby part of the world that's been neglected in the past. Finally, to those few Americans who haven't had their fill of a White House that's more like a frat house, Bush can gently remind voters that he'll restore dignity to the Oval Office.

Bush's election would be the most uplifting and progressive political event since John F. Kennedy defeated Nixon 40 years ago. But he has to earn the job first.

JWR contributor "Mugger" -- aka Russ Smith -- is the editor-in-chief and CEO of New York Press ( Send your comments to him by clicking here.

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© 2000, Russ Smith