Bush sends a signal

July 20, 1999|By Cal Thomas

IS GEORGE W. Bush what some of his critics say he is -- a squishy, establishment Republican, whose heart is not in matters of the soul like abortion or in lowering taxes, shrinking government and toughening our foreign policy so our adversaries will again respect us?

Who better to answer that question than the governor himself?

Mr. Bush called from the road the other day. I ask him what signal can he send to anxious conservatives that he will not, if nominated and elected, disappoint them?

He begins by talking about his faith in Jesus, but for the moment I am less interested in how he's getting to heaven than in how he plans to get to Washington and what he intends to do there.

"The point is that people need to know where my heart is," said the governor.

What about the concerns of social conservatives over your pledge to have "no litmus test" on judges? He replies, "I think it's important to note that on abortion I have been consistent in my position ever since I've been governor. I've looked for ways to reduce abortion at the state level. We passed a good parental notification bill, one of the best in the nation.

"When it comes to the selection of judges, whether at the state or federal level, I believe it's important for people to know that I will put people on the bench who share a conservative philosophy and who strictly interpret the Constitution."

Concerned conservatives, he said, "need to focus on my record. I have cut taxes twice: $1 billion the first year; nearly $2 billion the second time. These were the largest tax cuts in state history.

In Mr. Bush's view, the federal government's basic priorities should to take care of the elderly and improve our defenses.

The governor said that "we need to reinvigorate the military in order to maintain the peace. Once the needs are met, we should pass back the money left over to the taxpayers and that's what I've done in Texas."

If China threatens to forcibly take over Taiwan, I ask the governor, should the United States commit military power to prevent that from happening? He gives a straightforward answer: "Yes. What you're asking is should we honor our defense pact (the Taiwan Relations Act) with Taiwan and the answer is yes."

Later, Mr. Bush calls back and adds, diplomatically, "It's important that all disputes over China and Taiwan be settled peacefully. The one-China policy has worked, allowing Taiwan to grow and maintain a strong market economy, which is a good example to Beijing." I liked the first answer better, but he admittedly is still learning the foreign-policy ropes. He'd better hurry.

Are these "signals" to social conservatives designed to reassure them while he seeks to avoid early labeling as "out of the mainstream"? It would seem so. That strategy is keeping him high in the polls and flush with money.

It's also worrying President Clinton who is already attacking him. That may be the best signal of all.

Cal Thomas is a syndicated columnist.

Pub Date: 7/20/99

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