Reading Cuomo's mind

William Safire

October 22, 1991|By William Safire

WHEN I was in Tokyo last month, they asked me what the possibility was that I would run for president. I told them that question was too easy.

If they had asked me, "Do you think there is a possibility that while the governor of New York is in Japan there will be an earthquake and a typhoon in two days?" I would have said, "Not likely." But of course -- there was an earthquake and a typhoon in those two days. So the unlikely sometimes happens.

But I can't get away with this cuteness routine forever. I've been saying I have no plans to run, and no plans to make plans, but now it's a year to Election Day and it's time to stop playing Hamlet and start playing for keeps.

Of course I'm running, and not just for the exercise; this thing gets more winnable every day.

The media are so naive. They phrase their questions in convoluted ways to be first to drag an announcement out of me, and they miss the opening of the campaign that's been going on for months in California.

That's where the nomination (and the election) will be won. It's the biggest state, plenty of ethnics and minorities, where I can win big. I want the California primary to be moved up early in the spring, so I can put the nomination on ice quickly and focus on Bush.

Of course, the president knows that, and wants me to lose a few Southern primaries, which is why his California Republicans are trying to keep their primary in June. That's the first skirmish of the campaign of '92, and the pundits, typically, are waiting around for a press release.

I like the Democrats now in the field running for running mates. Rockefeller or Gore might have been trouble, but these new guys are perfect for clearing out the political underbrush.

Harkin of Iowa, the old-line liberal, doesn't have a chance, but he has the best one-liner so far. "George Bush was born on third base and thinks he hit a triple." Great line, not only about Bush's rich childhood, but about taking credit for seven presidents' battle against communism. I'll give Harkin full credit, but I'm played semi-pro baseball and that gag belongs in my stump speech.

Clinton of Arkansas is the best organized, and he has his centrist message together. Him I like, and I need a Southern WASP, but he's another governor, and the damn gossipmongers will be all over him. Be a good campaign chairman, nice contrast to Sununu or Mosbacher.

My man is Sen. Bob Kerrey of Nebraska. Lost part of his leg winning the Medal of Honor -- untouchable. Can you just see my Kerrey up against Bush's Quayle? Let Bush try to wrap himself in the flag again; "My running mate, Senator Kerrey, who doesn't have to remind you that he won the Medal of Honor in Vietnam . . ."

Now about strategy. We'll jujitsu Bush on his claim to foreign policy experience: America doesn't need a president of the World, we need a president of the United States. And his foreign policy has been overrated: he totally misread the breakup of the Soviet Union, and after all the fuss about defeating Saddam Hussein, the dictator is getting more dangerous because George Bush choked up at the end.

I'll hit him with the "Dirty Dozen." Bush's veto of the unemployment insurance bill was one; his veto of the bipartisan civil rights bill will be two. The Democratic leadership should pass 10 more bills the people need and want -- health, housing, education -- let the no-man in the White House do his "dirty dozen vetoes." I'll pledge to sign those 12 bills on Inaugural Afternoon -- and I'll keep my promise, unlike Bush's phony no-tax promise.

Let him try his Dukakis stuff with me, sailing around New York harbor and whatnot -- he'll never know what hit him. George Bush stole $6 billion from the states this year, on top of being the slowest-growth president since Hoover. Are you better off than you were four years ago with "Mr. Veto" in the White House, paralyzed in the face of recession?

You think I'd sit tight like those bozos when Bush's hatchet men smeared Anita Hill? Not a chance. Americans like a scrapper, and just watch those polls turn around when I make my prime-time speech at the convention in New York, and when I get to him in those televised debates.

I can hardly wait. Then what am I waiting for?

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