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Jewish World Review Aug. 16, 1999/ 4 Elul, 5759

David Limbaugh

David Limbaugh
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'W' stands for 'winner' -- THE OTHER NIGHT, I met George W. Bush in the living room of my mother's home. The brief time I spent with him gave me some insight into why he has become such a whirlwind force in Republican presidential politics this year.

W had just arrived in town for a fundraiser and stopped by my mother's house to visit my brother, Rush, who is here on vacation. After pictures were taken and pleasantries exchanged, we sat and discussed politics.

The first thing that struck me was that despite reports to the contrary, Bush has specific and thorough positions on the issues, some quite unique and innovative -- and all, conservative.

He would: rebuild our national defenses and restore fairness to the tax code; return educational sovereignty to the communities and oppose oppressive gun control legislation; push tort reform and greater accountability for criminal conduct; and replace the current regime of victimhood with an era of responsibility.

His "prosperity with a purpose" envisions leaving no one behind. But unlike Clinton Democrats he sees the solutions not in government, but the private sector. He is committed to expanding access to opportunity by dismantling bureaucracies and creating a climate where those who want to produce will be allowed to, and those who can't help themselves will be assisted.

When he explained "compassionate conservatism" I came to understand that it is in no way an apology for traditional conservatism. Quite the opposite. He's just tired of conservatives being painted as heartless and is determined to set the record straight, issue by issue. Plus, he's contributed a few additional "compassionate" ideas to the mix, such as advocating government partnership with faith-based institutions.

After hearing him speak, I'm convinced he isn't engaged in demagoguery; these are heartfelt convictions. He steadfastly refuses to write off any voters, even the most traditional Democratic constituencies. He promises to be in Gore's face, making him sweat for every vote his party has always taken for granted.

Whereas many politicians opportunistically emphasize race issues to pander to minority voters, Bush has a gleam in his eye when talking about racial politics.

With animation he tells the story of how he and John Kasich, shortly after Kasich dropped out of the race and endorsed him, walked through an inner-city Dallas neighborhood and talked to African-Americans about being made part of the American dream. And he was genuinely pumped up about it.

As Bush talked, he exuded passion, reminding me of the Jack Kemp of the early '80s -- sporting a contagious enthusiasm.

Everything about Bush bespoke a mature confidence and a refreshing optimism. He knows what he's about. I detected in him a Reaganesque quality that will enable him to bypass an inevitably hostile media and communicate directly to the people.

I also observed in him a number of seemingly contrasting personality traits.

  • He is obviously a member of an insider family, yet projects a decidedly outsider quality.

  • He could be considered a blueblood (a person of wealth), yet appears as someone who would be more comfortable drinking beer with the boys than wine with the elite. So his desire to assist the common man and minorities is not an act. (For you teetotalers, I'm talking personality traits here, not drinking. W doesn't drink anymore.)

  • He has a boyishly innocent quality about him -- yet he's rugged, a man's man.

  • He is being accused of not being sufficiently conservative, yet in the shrewd and prudent management of his campaign expenses, he's making his GOP opponents look like profligate spenders.

  • He is running with the momentum of a man who was born to be president, yet he truly didn't start out seeking this position; he's been swept up by a draft-W-movement that is in one sense bigger than him, but in another all about him.

Bush is a charismatic businessman with a unifying vision for America. And he intends to implement it. In his words, he "is a uniter, not a divider." Like a smart executive he knows his limitations, surrounds himself with brilliant (and right thinking) people, understands when to delegate but assumes final authority over his decisions.

The one word that most succinctly captures W is "winner." He's a winner, not just in terms of votes, but also personality. This is in sharp contrast to some of his opponents.

The Republican Party, which has been mired in defeatism since 1995, sorely needs a winner. And so does America. W is looking pretty good right now.

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.


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