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Jewish World Review June 21, 1999 /7Tamuz 5759

Tony Snow

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The first baby-boom grudge match -- HERE'S THE THING Americans most want in their next president: not Bill Clinton. Fortunately, that is precisely what they will get, even if Al Gore and George W. Bush headline the Y2K race.

A Gore-Bush match-up would give us the most intriguing personal clash since Nixon and Kennedy faced off in 1960 and the most ideological contest since the Reagan-Carter match-up in 1980. It would mark the first baby-boom grudge match after four elections in which the Republican candidate was an average of 20 years older than his Democratic counterpart. It also would pair men who were, in their own ways, groomed to become president -- something we haven't experienced as a nation since the early days of the Republic.

Bush and Gore are members of the political aristocracy, whether they like to admit it or not. Al Gore was raised in Washington and summered in Carthage, Tenn. -- although some of his times in Rocky Top country were more akin to boot camp than vacation time. Gore's father grew up poor but ambitious in Middle Tennessee and became a United States senator. He didn't want his boy to become uppity, so he assigned him such grueling tasks as chopping down a stand of trees with a hatchet and making use of a hillside plow. His mother was less demanding that way: She saw to it that her boy would learn how to socialize.

The family had lofty designs for their only begotten son. The Nashville Tennesseean proclaimed Junior's birth on Page 1, thus keeping a promise it had made to Senior. And in ensuing years, the younger Gore gained an introduction to the Washington elites. Visitors to the family apartment included President Kennedy; he once sat on then-Vice President Nixon's knee during a Senate session. His father found himself in the midst of pitched battles on civil rights (he was for them) and Vietnam (he was against).

Although George Bush wasn't overtly groomed for the presidency, as Gore was, he also divided time between his home state, Texas, and Washington, where his father held a succession of high-profile jobs, beginning with a congressional stint that overlapped briefly with the elder Gore's. He could not help but rub elbows with GOP glitterati -- or, for that matter, with key Democrats.

But whereas Gore was the dutiful son, Bush had a glimmer of the rebel. He followed tradition and attended Yale, but after getting rejected at the University of Texas Law school, he snuck off to Harvard to grab a business degree. Then, like his dad, he packed up a young family and headed to West Texas and the oil business.

He was cocky and ambitious. For a good stretch of time, he drank too much. He made a rash run for Congress in 1978 and got waxed. And even though he enjoyed a good life in the world of commerce, including a stretch as the principal owner of the Texas Rangers baseball franchise, the political bug had gotten hold of him. Hence, his pursuit of the Texas governorship and now the presidency.

Beyond backgrounds, Bush and Gore share a refreshing trait. Neither is good at the Clintonesque con. They don't deliver prepared speeches with any particular skill. They do better when speaking from the heart than when belching out poll-driven dreck. In his inaugural campaign trip, Bush kept to his talking points and seldom buried his face in a text. This allowed him to raise his head as he looked at crowds --- and smile.

Gore makes scripted cant sound like what it is. The most florid parts of his announcement speech fell like ashes from his mouth, and when the script called for podium-thumping passion, he screeched or affected a Jesse Jackson rasp. In contrast, he relaxed in an unrehearsed event in Iowa. Of course, there are plenty of differences. Gore is famously businesslike about his political work; Bush is more overtly combative. Better yet, the two provide a piquant ideological contrast. While both are searching for ways to look like the loving dad who occupies the center of the political spectrum, they disagree vividly on how to achieve the things both claim to want: economic growth, educational excellence, effective welfare, a durable retirement system, international credibility and a president Americans can look upon with at least a scintilla of admiration and pride.

And, of course, they are poles apart on abortion.

The Clinton years are a nightmare burnished by prosperity: We have served as co-dependents for the Big Creep longer than we care to admit, and now look at our watches (like the elder Bush at the fateful 1992 debate in Richmond, Va.) and hope it will end soon. Whereas Clinton entered politics in part to escape being white trash, Gore and Bush entered more in the spirit of carrying on the family business. Each lacks Clinton's gifts for political theater and electoral strategy. But they seem to have something we need more: senses of themselves. They are reliable, even in their faults. And if either one should get elected, voters won't have to worry about such grotesqueries as Monicas in the Oval Office and mini- wars inspired by public opinion research.


06/11/99: My exploratory committee
06/01/99: Sending the sheriff away from Dodge City
05/28/99: Rosie is the 'Queen' of WHAT!?
05/27/99: Stopping a dictator --- the EPA
05/14/99: Symbolism over substance
05/07/99: Why Kosovo is unique
04/30/99: A blithe acceptance of espionage
04/22/99: Snacking on life-splitting agony
04/15/99: Starr’s last stand?
04/12/99: Combining punishment and proselytism
04/05/99: Now that the ‘honorables’ have returned …
03/29/99: And the senators pressed on
03/25/99: Moronic meddling
03/22/99: Kangas, the Left’s ‘Foster’? More like a diligent nut
03/18/99: Does Forbes have a chance?
03/15/99: Team Clinton aren’t treasonists ...
03/11/99: Blackmun’s burden
03/08/99: The Lewinsky Principle
03/05/99: Buchanan & Ventura’s lure
03/01/99: Open season on women
02/25/99: The birth of political wisdom
02/22/99: Children of optimism
02/18/99: Wake up, Republicans!
02/16/99: Why we feel so good
02/11/99: What exactly does George W. stand for?
02/08/99: Run, GOPers, run?
02/04/99: The languid sigh of waves lapping ashore
02/01/99: Verbal vortex
01/28/99: To be a ‘sell-out’ or an unelectable pol --- that is the question
01/25/99: The apogee of a trend
01/21/99:What my 3-year-old taught me
01/17/99:Don't be fooled, folks
01/14/99: Must a pol be ‘baaaad’ in order to get elected?
01/12/99: Jumpin’ Jack (Kemp)
01/08/99 : Hot air in the Windy City

©1999, Creators Syndicate