Haunting George Bush's ghostwriters as they...


February 03, 1992

GHOSTS WERE haunting George Bush's ghostwriters as they craftedhis State of the Union speech. The most obvious: Barry Goldwater, the GOP's presidential loser in 1964 and "Mr. Conservative" to all GOP right-wingers.

Senator Goldwater's most famous line in his acceptance speech was: "Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice; moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue." The Bush takeoff: "Strength in the pursuit of peace is no vice; isolationism in the pursuit of security is no virtue." The target of this dig -- Pat Buchanan, Mr. Bush's opponent for the GOP nomination and a darling of current "Conservatives."

Another Goldwater line appeared in various guises. "In your heart you know he's right," was the 1964 GOP slogan. This time President Bush told Congress that, "In you hearts you want to put partisanship aside and get the job done." (Oh, yeah?) And then again: "I believe in my heart you will do what's right."

There was a whiff of John F. Kennedy when Mr. Bush declared: "And, now, members of Congress, let me tell you what you can do for your country." And of Franklin D. Roosevelt when, in his only direct attribution, Mr. Bush recalled that FDR considered welfare a "narcotic" and a "subtle destroyer" of the spirit.

Did we also detect literary allusions to novelist Thomas Wolfe, author of "Look Homeward Angel" and "Only the Dead Know Brooklyn"? From the Bush speech, note these two comments: "Now we can look homeward. . . " and "Only the dead have seen the end of conflict."

One Bush phrase stumped us. Talking about the end of the Cold War, he said: "The long drawn-out dread is over." Was this an original? Or did it come from somewhere?

* * * THERE'S NO accounting for the New York Stock Exchange. In the week when a supermarket tabloid called The Star hit the low road in prurient politics by paying Gennifer Flowers an undisclosed amount to disclose all on Bill Clinton, the stock of its parent company, Enquirer/Star Group Inc., dropped, from 20 1/4 to 19 7/8 .

Also, just after The Star emerged as an unlikely factor in presidential politics, the Enquirer/Star Group reported its third quarter profits had jumped from $288,000 in 1990 to $4.6 million in 1991 -- due to a new soap opera magazine and a British edition of the National Enquirer.

Just wait. If first quarter 1992 reflects what we suspect is a huge jump in The Star's sales, some people who wouldn't be caught dead being seen buying the brassy tabloid may be queuing up to buy its stock.

* * * POCKET CALENDARS, as distributed gratis by business or bank, are scarcer this year. One more facet of hard times? Say not so.

It is, after all, a bigger, costlier printing job, the year with 366 days.

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