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Jewish World Review / Nov. 6, 1998 /17 Mar-Cheshvan, 5759

Cal Thomas

Cal Thomas Hulk Hogan for president?


They failed to beat the point spread. They tried sitting on their lead. They were afraid, and fear struck them out. Or, if you prefer a wrestling analogy (which is now fashionable, given the victory of Jesse "The Body" Ventura in the Minnesota governor's race), some Republicans got body slammed.

Republicans incorrectly believed that the Clinton "scandal'' would make up for their timidity and refusal to confront the president's bad ideas with better ideas. Instead of an updated Contract With America, they came up with a non-strategy and a cave-in in California.
Ventura on election night
They thought that giving the president virtually everything he wanted in the budget bill and not allowing the government to shut down again would entice voters to increase Republican congressional majorities. It didn't.

To expand their congressional base, Republicans needed a positive agenda and a perception of vision. What happened to the GOP's bread-and-butter issues of tax cuts, smaller government, school choice and private retirement accounts? Republicans served up no-fat butter substitutes instead of the real stuff.

In sports, as in politics, momentum counts. While Republicans held the status quo in the Senate and maintained their majority by a slimmer margin in the House, they haven't had momentum since 1994. They quickly squandered it by moving too fast and proclaiming a "revolution.''

The biggest loser in this election is the so-called "Religious Right.'' The Christian Coalition's Randy Tate had boldly proclaimed this off-year contest as a referendum on the morality of Bill Clinton. If it was, it means most people either consider him moral, by the low standards of politics, or they don't care. Given its poor showing this year, the Christian Coalition will find it difficult to wield much power in 2000.

With so many early presidential primaries, their resources and personnel will be spread wafer-thin. Probably no pro-abortion candidate will be nominated, and the GOP is unlikely to select someone for whom this is a front-burner issue. It will do whatever is necessary to win back the White House. If the Christian Coalition wants to have real impact, it should contemplate what it means to be truly Christian and focus less on political coalitions. Why bring God down to "Caesar's'' level?

Congressional Republicans, if they want to regain their momentum, must immediately launch an ambitious program of substantial tax cuts and education opportunities patterned after the privately funded school-choice models now popular in several major cities. Properly crafted, school choice might break the chokehold Democrats have on the black vote.

If House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott cannot lead on these and other issues unique to Republicans, they should either step aside or be removed. House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt told me he doesn't think that will happen because "no one can raise money or put forth ideas for Republicans like Newt.'' What ideas? There weren't any from Republicans in this election. And money without ideas is like a sports car with no gas. Ideas drive politics, and while Republicans outspent Democrats, their ideological tank appears nearly empty.

Republicans should abandon their strategy to "get'' Bill Clinton. It hasn't worked and, barring some unlikely discovery by the House Judiciary Committee, Clinton is going to finish his second term. Republicans need to put together an agenda that doesn't mimic the Democrats' and that will keep Al Gore from becoming president while they hold on to Congress. As publisher and likely presidential candidate Steve Forbes noted: "Republicans should have learned by now that you must give people compelling reasons to vote for you. Mealy-mouthed rhetoric is no substitute for a muscular, substantive agenda.''

Mock Gov.-elect Jesse Ventura if you like, but look at his agenda. He wants to cut taxes ("give us our money back''), reduce the size and presence of government and improve education, not necessarily by spending more money on failing public schools. He's a libertarian, but he connected with people.

Perhaps Republicans need someone like Ventura to speak for them. Is Hulk Hogan available?


11/03/98: Clinton's greatest peril isn't Monica
10/30/98: Mother Teresa was right about killing
10/27/98: Clinton to Netanyahu: 'You're despicable'
10/21/98: A 'peace' agreement: Wye not?
10/19/98: Vanity Fair snubs some of the greatest women 'leaders'
10/14/98:The mean machine
10/09/98: Impeachment: an outside perspective
10/07/98: The corruption of the Secret Service
10/02/98: Land erosion in Israel
10/01/98: The race panel: lies in black and white
9/18/98: The Clinton strategy and the Clinton legacy
9/18/98: Stopping him before he sins again
9/15/98: Repenting when the end is near
9/11/98: Faithfully executing: Congress vs. the President
9/10/98: The degrees of separation between Dan Burton and Bill Clinton
9/08/98: Joe Lieberman and the Democrats' conscience
9/04/98: Clinton vs. Reagan and the struggle for power
9/02/98: If only Bubba had been a Boy Scout
8/31/98: Liberal clergy and the Lewinsky affair
8/27/98: Combating the terrorists among us
8/25/98: The president as 'Chicken Little'
8/20/98: That was no apology
8/18/98: Big government's crab grab
8/14/98:Untruths, half-truths and anything but the truth
8/12/98: Lying under oath: past and present impeachable offenses
8/10/98: Endangered species
8/04/98: In search of an unstained president
7/31/98: The UK is ahead of US in one area...
7/28/98: Murder near and far
7/21/98: Telling the truth about
homosexual behavior
7/17/98: One Nation? Indivisible?
7/14/98: Who cares about killing when the 'good times' are rolling?
7/10/98: George W. Bush: a different 'boomer'
7/08/98: My lunch with Roy Rogers
7/06/98: News unfit to print (or broadcast)
6/30/98: Smoke gets in their eyes
6/25/98: Sugar and Spice Girls
6/19/98: William Perry opposed
technology transfers to China
6/19/98: The Clinton hare vs.the Starr tortoise
6/17/98: The President's rocky road to China
6/15/98: Let the children go
6/9/98: Oregon: the new killing fields
6/5/98: Speaking plainly: the cover-up continues
6/2/98: Barry Goldwater: in our hearts
5/28/98:The Speaker's insightful remarks
5/26/98: As bad as it gets
5/25/98:Union dues and don'ts
5/21/98: Connecting those Chinese campaign contribution dots
5/19/98: Clinton on the couch
5/13/98: John Ashcroft: another Jimmy Carter?
5/8/98: Terms of dismemberment
5/5/98: Clinton's tangled Webb
4/30/98: Return of the Jedi
4/28/98: Desparately seeking Susan
4/23/98: RICO's threat to free-speech and expression
4/21/98: Educating children v. preserving an institution
4/19/98: Analyzing the birth of a possible new nation
4/14/98: What's fair about our tax system?
4/10/98: CBS: 'Touched by a perv'
4/8/98: Judge Wright's wrong reasoning on sexual harassment
4/2/98: How about helping American cities before African?
3/31/98:Revenge of the children
3/29/98: The Clinton strategy: delay, deceive, deny, and destroy
3/26/98: Moralist Gary Hart
3/23/98: CNN's century of (liberal) women
3/17/98: Dandy Dan
3/15/98: An imposed 'settlement' settles nothing
3/13/98: David Brock's Turnabout

©1998, Los Angeles Times Syndicate, Inc.