This Kristol ball predicts a world without Democrats

ON THE POLITICAL SCENE

January 07, 1995|By JACK GERMOND & JULES WITCOVER

Early last year, a leading conservative Republican theorist advised his party to declare war on President Clinton's health care reforms by arguing there was no crisis.

And just prior to the Nov. 8 midterm elections, the same theorist urged the party to pull out the stops in openly obstructing the entire Clinton agenda, predicting that the strategy would bring big GOP gains.

In both endeavors, the advice paid off. Clinton's hopes for sweeping health care reform were buried.

And the Republican obstruction of other key aspects of the president's agenda, pursued on grounds that voters had had enough of intrusive government under an unpopular White House Democrat, helped produce the resounding GOP victory Nov. 8 that gave the party control of both houses of Congress for the first time in 40 years.

Now that same theorist, William Kristol, chairman of the conservative think tank he created called the Project for the Republican Future, is pushing yet another confrontational strategy.

In a memo to Republican leaders, Kristol is advising them to tailor their every action to winning the presidency in 1996.

"All GOP decisions this year should be made strictly in the context of -- even subordinated to -- that goal," says Kristol, who was chief of staff to former Vice President Dan Quayle.

Interpreting the Nov. 8 results unambiguously as proving that "the era of liberalism is now done and the Democratic Party dominance is over," Kristol argues that the Republicans in Congress must dismiss all thoughts of bipartisan compromise with the Democrats.

The Republicans should cooperate with them, he says, only when they are "prepared on occasion genuinely to move right' " -- that is, go along with the conservative tide.

Kristol, in his memo, dismisses the notion that the 1994 %o Republican sweep was either "a corrective, temporary lurch to the right" or that it marked "the full emergency of a Republican-dominated conservative era" that would permit the new Republican Congress to "go full speed ahead and do pretty much as it ideologically pleases."

Rather, he argues, the party must cement its 1994 gains over the next two years by delivering on its campaign promises, including the celebrated "Contract with America," and in so doing "reassuring voters that they made a correct, initial decision in RTC 1994" -- views also expressed by new House Speaker Newt Gingrich.

At the same time, Kristol urges the Republican leaders -- as he did in 1994 -- to keep pounding on President Clinton. While the Democratic administration "is flat on its intellectual and political back," Kristol writes, and "it's hard to see how the president can recover in time for 1996 . . . Clinton could again be a threat . . . [so] keeping him on his heels this year is the best way to prevent it . . . Mr. Clinton may indeed have become a political punching bag. That's no reason to stop punching him."

In this regard, Kristol continues to urge his party's leaders now in the majority in Congress to accentuate the negative against Clinton and the Democrats just as they did when they were in the minority.

"The case for conservatism is nowhere more pointed and devastating than when it is directed against current, systemic liberalism," he writes.

Gingrich took the right approach on a recent television interview show, Kristol says, when he responded to criticism of his controversial proposal for orphanages for inadequately cared-for children by demanding "that his critics defend an existing system in which infant children are discarded in garbage Dumpsters."

Says Kristol: "The architecture of existing, programmatic liberalism is strewn with Dumpsters. Put the spotlight on them. Make Democrats defend them. Remind people what it is they dislike about past and current government practice, and why, and then offer them our own, Republican, better way."

All this is hardly the tone set by Gingrich in his conciliatory swearing-in remarks to Democratic members of the House.

But it clearly is in harmony with the confrontational rhetoric and style that marked Gingrich's career in all the years before he became speaker.

If Kristol's advice is accepted by Republican conservatives in 1995 as it was in 1994, the new year in Congress is likely to be even more acrimonious that the old one was.

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