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Jewish World Review August 9, 2000 / 8 Menachem-Av, 5760

David Limbaugh

David Limbaugh
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Consumer Reports

Bush: The pundits' enigma -- THERE IS SOMETHING about George W. Bush that simultaneously confounds pundits and appeals to swing voters. He doesn't fit the profile of the ordinary presidential candidate, which leaves pundits perplexed and the electorate impressed.

Think about it. How many columns have you seen either laboring to defend Bush's conservatism or attacking his professed compassion as fraudulent? Yet, the "mushy middle" doesn't seem to be too hung up on such questions.

There are basically two types of people who throw their hats into the political ring: those who crave the power that comes with elective office, such as Bill Clinton, and those who are driven by political ideology, such as Ronald Reagan. As to the ideological types, there's nothing very new about their beliefs -- politics is an old game.

Sure, every once in a while ideas come in new packaging, such as the supply-side movement of the Reagan-Kemp '80s, but tax cuts were nothing new. Arthur Laffer just came up with a user-friendly graph to explain the growth phenomenon. In the '90s, the so-called Third Way movements are touted as containing new ideas, but they are really little more than an admixture of conservative and liberal policies, usually heavily weighted toward the liberal side. Most Third Way movements, in fact, are the experiments of officious baby boomers-turned-politicians treating politics as their adult chemistry sets.

Unable to dissect "compassionate conservatism" and having no words in their political vocabulary to explain it, some befuddled analysts are beginning to describe Bush's unique approach to politics as Third Way as well. It is not.

I believe the key to understanding Bush is to realize that he doesn't fall neatly into either of the two types of candidates I've described. He doesn't lust for power, and he isn't particularly driven by ideology. Though he's been around politics all his life, his relationship with it has been more platonic than a love affair. So what makes him tick?

Well, just because Bush is not an ideologue doesn't mean he is without political beliefs grounded in ideology. For the most part, he is conservative, though not a purist. In his acceptance speech he earned the support of the base by affirming that he is for tax cuts, SDI, strengthening the military, protection of the unborn, partial privatization of Social Security, educational choice and abolishing the estate tax. He reinforced his belief in family and family values by his touching tribute to his parents. He has said his favorite Supreme Court judges are those stalwart models of conservatism and judicial restraint, Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia.

On the other hand, Bush talked about making prescription drugs a new entitlement. He has elsewhere declared that literacy is the new constitutional right. These are hardly conservative notions. So is Bush a fraud?

Many Democrats and media types would have us believe so. They hear Bush's expressions of compassion as fool's gold -- window dressing for the same old GOP politics of corporate greed. Sooner or later, they seem sure, he's going to trip up and expose himself for the avaricious preppy-legacy he is.

They're wrong. There's nothing odd about Bush reaching out to minorities. It's a function of his genuine concern for their welfare and his refusal to accept the conventional wisdom that they are unapproachable by Republicans. There's also nothing odd about Bush offering new programs (such as in education) that don't neatly fit into the conservative classification. It's not because he's dabbling in a third way of his own. Third Way politicians are policy wonks who eat, sleep and breathe politics. Not Bush. He's not playing with an adult chemistry set with a baby boomer-arrogance. He's just fairly new to the game of politics and has brought his energy, optimism and enthusiasm with him.

What ought to have Gore shaking in his boots is that the apolitical approach that Bush brings to politics involves a disarming quality that is going to make him powerfully hard to beat in November. Most swing voters will relate to Bush because they are not particularly driven by ideology, either. They are looking for a person who wants to make a difference and is refreshingly uncynical enough to believe he can. The wonkish Al Gore is going to have a much more difficult time speaking their language.

JWR contributor David Limbaugh is an attorney practicing in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, and a political analyst and commentator. Send your comments to him by clicking here.



08/07/00: GOP convention: Live or Memorex?
08/02/00: The first attack dog
07/31/00: The Cheney taint?
07/26/00: The anti-gun bogeyman
07/24/00: The raging culture war
07/19/00: Is Hillary 'Good for the Jews'?
07/17/00: How dare you, George?
07/12/00: Jacoby's raw deal
07/10/00: The perplexities of liberalism
07/05/00: Big Al and big oil
07/03/00: Partial-birth and total death
06/28/00: Some questions for you, Mr. Gore
06/26/00: Supreme Court assaults religious freedom
06/21/00: Waco: We are the jury
06/19/00: "Outrage" just doesn't quite cut it anymore!
06/14/00: Al Gore: Government's best friend
06/12/00: Say goodbye to medical privacy
06/07/00: Elian: Whose hands were tied?
06/05/00: Who, which, what is the real Al Gore?
06/01/00: Legacy-building idea for Clinton
05/30/00: Clinton: Above the law or not?
05/24/00: Not so fast, Hillary
05/22/00: Gore's risky, fear-mongering schemes
05/17/00: Can Bush risk pro-choice running mate?
05/15/00: Right to privacy, Clinton-style
05/10/00: Patrick Kennedy and his suit-happy fiddlers
05/08/00: Don't shoot Eddie Eagle
05/03/00: Congress caves to Clinton, again?
05/01/00: The resurrection of outrage
04/28/00: A picture of Bill Clinton's America
04/19/00: President Clinton: Teaching children responsibility
04/17/00: Elian, Marx and parental rights
04/12/00: Elian, freedom deserve a hearing
04/10/00:The fraying of America
04/05/00: Noonan: End Clintonism now
04/03/00: Bush: On going for the gold
03/29/00: Phantasma-Gore-ia
03/27/00: Treaties, triggers, tobacco and tyrants
03/22/00: Media to Bush: Go left, young man
03/20/00: Stop the insanity
03/15/00: OK Al Gore: Let's go negative
03/13/00: Deifying of the center
03/08/00: The media, the establishment and the people
03/01/00: McCain's coalition-busting daggers in GOP's heart
02/28/00: Bush's silver lining in McMichigan
02/24/00: A conservative firewall, after all
02/22/00: Bush or four more of Clinton-Gore?
02/16/00: Substance trumps process
02/14/00: The campaign finance reform mirage
02/09/00: President McCain: End of the GOP as we know it?
02/07/00: From New Hampshire to South Carolina
02/02/00: SDI must fly
01/31/00: Veep gores Bradley
01/26/00: The issues gap
01/24/00: GOP: Exit, stage left
01/20/00: Nationalizing congressional elections
01/18/00: Do voters really prefer straight talk?
01/12/00: Media's McCain efforts may backfire
01/10/00: Conservative racism myth
01/05/00: Just one more year of Clintonian politics
01/03/00: McMedia?
12/27/99: Al Gore: Bullish on government
12/22/99: Bradley's full-court press
12/20/99: Bush: Rendering unto Caesar
12/15/99: Beltway media bias
12/13/99: White House ambulance chasing
12/08/99: Clinton's labor pains
12/06/99:The lust for power
12/01/99: In defense of liberty
11/29/99: Are Republicans obsolete?
11/24/99: Say you're sorry, Mr. President
11/22/99: Architects of victory
11/17/99: Trump's tax on freedom
11/15/99: GOP caves again
11/10/99: Triangulation and 'The Third Way'
11/08/99: Sticks and stones
11/03/99: Keyes vs. media lapdogs
11/01/99: Signs of the times
10/27/99: The false charge of isolationism
10/25/99: A matter of freedom
10/20/99: Clinton's mini-meltdown
10/18/99: Senate GOP shows statesmanship
10/13/99: Senate must reject nuclear treaty
10/11/99: Bush bites feeding hand
10/06/99: Jesse accidentally opens door for Pat
10/04/99: Clinton and his media enablers
09/29/99: Reagan: Big-tent conservatism
09/27/99: The Clinton/Gore taint?
09/22/99: Have gun (tragedy), will travel
09/20/99: Hillary's blunders and bloopers
09/15/99: GOP must remain conservative
09/13/99:Time for Bush to take charge, please
09/10/99: Bush's education plan: Dubya confounds again
09/07/99: Pat, savior or spoiler?
09/02/99: Character doesn't matter?
08/30/99: Should we judge?
08/25/99: Dubyah's drug question: Not a hill to die on
08/23/99: Should Dubyah start buying soap ... for all that mud?
08/16/99: 'W' stands for 'winner'
08/11/99: The truth about tax cuts
08/09/99: Hillary: Threading the needle
08/04/99: What would you do?
08/02/99: No appeasement for China
07/30/99: Hate Crimes Bill: Cynical Symbolism
07/26/99: Itís the 'moderates', stupid
07/21/99: JFK Jr. and Diana: the pain of privilege
07/19/99: Smith, Bush and the GOP
07/14/99: GOP must be a party of ideas
07/12/99: Gore's gender gap
07/08/99: Clintonís faustian bargain: our justice
07/06/99: The key to Bush's $36 million
06/30/99: Gore: a soda in every fountain
06/28/99: 'Sacred wall' or religious barrier?
06/23/99: GOP must lead in foreign policy
06/21/99: Crumbs of compassion
06/16/99: Compassionate conservatism: face-lift or body transplant?
06/10/99: Victory in Kosovo? Now What?