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Jewish World Review March 10, 2000 / 3 Adar II, 5760

Cal Thomas

Cal Thomas
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Gore's vulnerability and Bush's opportunity --
IN HIS VICTORY SPEECH Tuesday night, Al Gore hit on all of the familiar Democrat themes -- from education to "inclusion,'' to fixing Social Security and Medicare, to universal health care, which he would implement "step by step'' instead of the down-your-throat approach attempted by Hillary Rodham Clinton and rejected by a Democrat-majority Congress. But the question is, if such things are so important, why haven't Clinton-Gore done anything about them so far?

The military is weaker as career officers leave in droves and new recruits are increasingly hard to find. To the administration, diversity training appears to be more important than training people to fight a war. The Chinese aren't the only ones taking note of our military weakness and loss of resolve.

Gore's challenge to eliminate all 30- and 60-second ads, along with the soft money that pays for them, is an invitation to defeat for Bush. It would empower the big media to define Bush.

Bush returned to his "compassionate conservatism'' theme in his victory statement Tuesday night. While it can be argued, at least by conservatives, that the phrase is redundant, it plays well with the mushy moderates Bush must reach in order to win. Some might advise him to tone down religious imagery lest he be linked by Gore to the so-called "Religious Right.'' A better strategy is to elevate those who are not just talking about reform on radio and television, but transforming people's lives in the trenches.

Bush already has mentioned Prison Fellowship President Charles Colson, who heads a ministry that helps those in jail and the victims of their crimes. Bush can highlight some ex-cons whose lives have been changed, not by government but by G-d. In addition to his opposition to abortion, he can elevate the value of life by visiting centers for women where they and their babies are cared for before and after birth. Women can tell their own stories about the positive benefits of not playing G-d and allowing their children to be born.

Scholarship programs that transform the lives of the poor as they are freed from failing government schools should also be at the center of the Bush campaign. Is it right to doom children in a failed system that no amount of money can fix in order to placate the politically powerful teachers unions?

Gore is vulnerable and Bush has been hitting at his weak spots with increasing frequency and effectiveness. Campaign finance reform? Referring to the Buddhist temple fund-raiser, Gore says he's learned from his mistake and now knows how badly we need campaign finance reform. With that logic, Watergate might have been a learning experience for Richard Nixon. He should have been allowed to remain in office so we might have benefited from his remorse over lawbreaking. Haven't we learned anything from our toleration of Bill Clinton's lies?

Bush was running on all cylinders in that excellent Tuesday-night speech. Linking "Clinton-Gore'' as Democrats linked "Dole-Gingrich'' in 1996, Bush said, "For eight years, the Clinton-Gore administration has multiplied the missions of our military, while cutting its capabilities.'' He promised to rebuild not only the military's strength, but its prestige and the stature of our country. That is a direct hit at the moral laxness of Clinton-Gore. Gore is a co-conspirator because he subordinated whatever integrity he might have brought to his campaign by declaring Clinton one of our "greatest'' presidents. Not even liberal historians go that far.

Education? Clinton-Gore, said Bush, have talked about it for eight years, but it's been about bricks and mortar, not children who can't read. And why did both Clinton-Gore choose (the operative word) private schools for their children over public? Jimmy Carter sent his daughter to a public school.

Taxes? We have the "highest tax burden since World War II,'' said Bush. He called taxes "a tollgate on the road to the middle class'' and promised to make taxes an issue because of their negative impact on so many people.

The campaign will be the toughest challenge Bush has ever faced. He says the battle with John McCain has made him a better candidate. Will the battle with Al Gore produce the right stuff to make him president?

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