A press of ideas for Bush victory

March 23, 2000|By William F. Buckley Jr.

JUST THE CORRECT heading was used in National Review's interrogatory to political pundits: "What Now?" The objective didn't need to be stressed: What now to bring victory for George W. Bush?

Author/editor Richard Brookhiser says: Don't bother to address problems just because they are problems, and you have the right idea about what to do about them. "Will W. support medical marijuana or ending our immigration policies?" No -- so cool it on such. "Stay on message, and stay home. Don't take foreign trips to show that you know where the Grecians live. Reporters will ambush you with questions (`How many nations share a border with Iceland?')."

From philosopher/author/Yale professor David Gelernter: "Everyone knows that Clinton-Gore is a moral tragedy; Bush's job is to say so in the right way. Americans are sick of being told how happy we are. These messages are demeaning, because they assume that happiness can be measured by polls and bought for cash. Bush should ask: Is America a better place to rear your children today than eight years ago?"

"Before talking about taxes, establish some premises. (`The budget is balanced because you've been sending in dump-truckloads of cash. This is your money, not Washington's!'). I assume McCain will be his running mate -- a bookend to the left to keep him from slouching. If Bush can diagnose America's moral condition in 20 words or less, he wins." Rush Limbaugh, radio host: "Don't move to the center. Don't champion campaign-finance reform. Campaign-finance reform shows up at 1 percent (in voter concerns). The Reagan base in the GOP is more excited and stirred up than at any time I remember in the nearly 12 years I have been doing my national show. It is Bush's responsibility to keep this fire burning in everyone."

Rob Long, National Review contributing editor: "Be active. Seize every possible opportunity to control the story of your campaign. Appear with a normal American family and show them how much they'd get back if your tax cut were put in place. It should always be about `what George W. Bush will do as president'; never `how George W. Bush responded to Gore's attack.' Be on the attack yourself, from now to November. Repeat after me: `Al Gore is a lying, race-baiting Eddie Haskell who will say and do anything to get elected, who flagrantly broke campaign-finance laws and now has the gall to give pious lectures about it.' Say this over and over and over again to yourself, and then have your spokesmen say it for you to the press."

Richard Lowry, editor of National Review: "Stand up straight. Your shrugging, stooping, aw-shucks body language betrays too much of the old Andover/Yale class clown. ... Promise never again to do Letterman."

Peggy Noonan, author, "The Case Against Hillary Clinton": "He must hit Gore every day the next few months over scandal, corruption, illegality and lying. He must hit Gore every day with well-researched assertions regarding Gore's radicalism on the environment."

John Podhoretz, author, columnist, New York Post: "Unless he is able to explain the virtues of his tax cut more eloquently than he has in the past, for example, the ruthless and unscrupulous Gore will make mincemeat of him in their face-to-face confrontations. The tax cut will become a central issue in the campaign, whether or not Bush now wants it to be -- so he is going to have to convince a skeptical public of its value in the face of media hostility and the Clinton-Gore two-step of attacking the Bush tax cut while offering a smaller Democratic version."

It is a little sad that so much emphasis needs progressively to be put on how a position is described. Are there enticing ways to describe how to fry an egg? Can you make a fried egg sound awful if you describe it as awfully fried, dangerously conceived, lacking in true flavor, biologically perilous?

The answer is, Yes. If you can do it to a fried egg, you can do it to a tax cut. Now, on to see whether the good Mr. Bush takes good advice.

William F. Buckley Jr. is a syndicated columnist.

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