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Jewish World Review Feb. 17, 2000 / 11 Adar I, 5760

Cal Thomas

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The GOP food fight --
LAST TUESDAY'S Republican presidential debate in South Carolina was held in a banquet hall. It was the proper location for a food fight. Normally people rent such places for wedding receptions, bar mitzvahs and fund-raising events. Maybe George Bush, John McCain and Alan Keyes should have been given cream pies to throw in each other's faces. Those other Three Stooges made a career out of it.

It was a waste of time and a turn-off for Bush and McCain to argue over their campaign ads and who had broken his promise first not to "go negative.'' Fortunately, Keyes stepped in like a stern parent tired of the children's squabbling. "Can I make a substantive remark?'' he asked. That seemed to shock them back to the realization that they are running for president of the United States, not chief pettiness officer.

On social issues, if presidential candidates are going to criticize universities for their policies, there is far more serious damage being done at many schools than whatever perceived harm may be caused by the interracial-dating ban at Bob Jones University. Coed dorms and unisex bathrooms, leftist curricula and the feminist-promoted "Vagina-Days'' -- which U.S. News and World Report columnist John Leo discovered are being celebrated at 154 U.S. campuses during the Valentine season -- are having a far greater impact on the intellectual, moral and social development of young people than a policy against interracial dating at an independent, taxpaying school where presumably only those who accept such beliefs wish to attend.

When financial issues were discussed, it was Bush who landed the most substantial blow. On taxes, Bush noted that it isn't the government's money. It's the people's money. McCain sounded like Clinton-Gore-Gephardt when he said, "Working families need tax cuts.'' He betrays the fundamental arrogance of central planners. They think government should decide who "needs'' to keep more of our money, not the people who earn it. Government will also decide what is a legitimate need and what is pure greed. To use the phrase "working families'' sounds as if there are some families that don't work and that their day consists of clipping bond coupons.

Bush is right about the ownership of money. It is a theme he needs to continue to hammer home. Who are politicians to judge the "needy'' when it comes to tax cuts? One size doesn't fit all. The American people should be telling government how much of our money we think it needs to do the job the people want done and how much of our money we intend to let government have. Government should not be telling us how much of our money it intends to
let us keep. That's why Bush should begin immediately highlighting the Republican equivalent of what Democrats did during the Reagan years. Remember those $600 toilet seats and costly hammers the Pentagon was buying at the time? Republicans need to start focusing on such waste and find a similarly provocative metaphor. They should ask taxpayers whether they want to continue to pour their hard-earned dollars down the rat hole of fraud and abuse, putting Democrats on the defensive.

Are we for the Socialist redistribution economic policies of the Clinton-Gore-Gephardt era, or are we for individual initiative and responsibility, with properly defined compassion for the truly needy, the era that Bush says he wants to usher in? With the media and other elites on the side of the redistributionists, Bush must repeat his message thousands of times until Election Day to be heard.

Food fighting just takes away time and energy from this paramount task.

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